6 Tips for Sticking to Your Fitness Plan (the Healthy Way)

Hi friends! Although I’m a couple days late for a “love day” post, I’m a believer in trying to show love every day. And guess who needs love more than you think? Guess who is neglected more than you think? YOU. We can be really hard on ourselves sometimes – trying to balance family, work, our exercise plans, diet, and hobbies. I learned a big lesson this weekend while I was at my pilates teacher training. I’m not perfect. Sounds obvious, right? But when was the last time you really looked at what you do to push yourself to do your best? And do you show yourself some love in the process?

Let’s use running as an example. You miss your tempo run because you had a late meeting. The next day, you miss your speed work because you don’t want to get out of bed and your running buddy is sick. On the third day you feel guilty and cranky, so you proclaim that this has been a horrible week and you might as well start again next week. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter anyway because you will never be able to run a 20 minute 5K, so there’s no the point of trying. As you can see, pretty soon your negative thoughts are not only spiraling out of control, but are controlling your behavior!

In another installment of a grueling (but fun) pilates teacher training session this weekend, I was getting frustrated with myself. I was teaching a student and could see that their form was off. I demonstrated, gave them verbal and tactile cues, but still no change. It turns out there was a whole lot more going on with their movement than I could see. I was too focused on one aspect of the move, and could not see the big picture. Every move we do in pilates has a purpose, every move radiates from the center, and there the big picture behind every movement sequence. Once I asked myself the purpose of the exercise, looked at my client form from the center out, and then took a step back to look at the big picture, I got it. I immediately understood why my client was having the problem, and what I needed to do to correct it.

So let’s step back now and look at the big picture, the purpose of it all, and let’s start from the center. In pilates, all movement radiates outward from the center. Developing a strong and stable center is absolutely crucial in performing the movement. In your fitness plan, the center starts with you. This means that you can’t be successful in your training without having a healthy outlook about your training, being able to see the purpose of why you’re doing it and making sure you see the big picture of it all.

So what do you do? How do you stick to your fitness plan, and show yourself some love in the process?

6 Tips for Sticking to Your Fitness Plan:  

Believe you can do it: One of the most valuable things I learned about our beliefs from Anne Bishop from Body Brain Connect, is that your belief about whether you can do something, will actually impact your ability to do it. This deep connection between what your mind thinks and what you can actually do shows that in a sense, you set your own limits. Other  research about the body-brain connection shows that a patient’s belief about their health or diagnosis makes a difference to their actual health. For example, a patient’s fear or deep pessimism actually alters how their body responds to a disease. On the other hand, when you believe you can perform a certain movement, for example,  your body perceives the movement better, and you get a better outcome. Yogis are not born knowing how to do headstands, and pilates enthusiasts are not doing Teasers in their playpens – these people work hard on their craft, and so do you. You can do it. Haven’t ran a 10K before? That’s ok. Just increase your mileage by 10% each week and slowly add distance to your long runs to build up the endurance. Can’t do a Teaser? That’s ok. Focus on doing the Teaser prep with good form and your body will get strong enough to do the full Teaser before you know it.  Believe you can do it, and your body will learn the movement better.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Competition is good; it can push you to work harder and do better. But we often let competition overwhelm us to the point that we give up or injure ourselves. There will always be people that are better than you at something. That’s ok, focus on your body, your goal, your plan for the day. If the person next to you is holding plank for 5 minutes straight, hold your plank as long as you can while keeping proper form. If your hips are dipping, you’re arching your back, and your fingers are turning white from gripping the mat, STOP. You can do more harm than good to your body. Have competition push you, but not into injury.

Find inspiration: Whether it’s a song that will make you run faster, a podcast that will get you out of bed in the morning, a quote on someone’s twitter, find what moves you. If I like something, I want to learn everything I can about it. If you love running, read Runners World, join a running group, train for a race, or simply make a good playlist. Look for information, and stay curious.

Just go: Debating whether to take your bike out for a spin? Even a 20 minute fast-paced ride will increase your circulation, speed up your metabolism, and elevate your mood. You may even keep going for 20 or 40 more minutes once you are out there. How many times have you regretted going to pilates class when you were tired, or were upset at yourself for running a couple of miles after a stressful day? I would venture to say not many. Put your shoes on and go, you can always turn around and come home. The reality is that you usually don’t once you get yourself out the door.

Have fun with it: Try a new class. It’s really easy to get in a rut, and get bored with our fitness routines. Getting creative doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a ton of time researching and making complicated plans. Just sign up for a new class once a week to change up your routine. If you’re a runner, taking a pilates class once a week can help you run more efficiently, with better form and greater endurance. Or go on a trail you haven’t memorized; you will be surprised how the little things can get you back in love with your sport.

Give yourself a break when you need it: Sometimes overtraining can cause not only physical (injuries), but mental exhaustion. Taking rest days is important. Give your body time to recover at least once a week, and I promise it will reward you with better results. If you can’t stay still on your rest day, take a walk or stretch. At the same time, schedule your workout days and try to stay consistent – don’t take really long breaks (unless you are injured, then by all means PLEASE do so).

Remember, Every day is a new day and an opportunity to start over. People generally have better outlooks on life in the mornings (yes, it is true). Whether we realize it or not, we actually wake up with a sense of renewal and hope for the day. Don’t get down on yourself if you are not perfect. Treat yourself with love and kindness while sticking to the plan and you will see results.

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    My name is Maria and I live in California. I love teaching high-energy Pilates classes, going on long runs, and making connections with all of you! Hope you find a few useful articles, fitness tips, and recipes while you're here.

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