If you have made the decision to get fit, congratulations are in order, but unfortunately making the decision is only half the battle. Keeping motivated is the single most difficult part of the road to fitness, and often a lack of motivation can lead to us slipping right back into the same old, unhealthy habits. So how can you convince yourself to stay on the right track for longer than a week or two? Unfortunately, the reward of fitness usually does not have a strong enough pull in itself — if it did, we wouldn’t have gotten out of shape in the first place. You need something more concrete to keep yourself in line and headed toward your goals.
Setting yourself up to participate in future amateur athletic events can be a great way to get fit while holding yourself accountable. Running, cycling, swimming, tennis, and bodybuilding are all single-person events in which you can find competitions local to you. Likewise, there are team and partner sports with regular competition leagues that you can join at any time. So once you’ve chosen an activity, it’s a great idea to sign up for an event as soon as you can, to give yourself something concrete to work toward.
Be ambitious with your goal, but also be realistic. If you have never run before in your life and get winded going up a flight of stairs, it probably doesn’t make sense to sign up for a marathon that’s happening in three months’ time. It’s great that you’re excited about learning to run, but be warned that nothing kills a dream faster than realizing after you commit that you have taken on more than you can handle. It’s a much better idea to sign up for something like a local 5k fun run, and see how you get on with that. It’s still going to be a goal you’ll have to work hard for, but if it’s something you’ll definitely be able to achieve, then that will give you the confidence to move on to more challenging things in the future.
The more you get yourself entangled in your event, the better. Just signing up for something can be enough sometimes, but if you’re really worried about giving up, then it’s time to jump in feet-first. Get people to sponsor you for charity, and tell as many people as possible about what you’re doing, to increase the chances that people ask you about it on a daily basis. If you’ve signed up for a team sport, that’s much easier, because your team is counting on you to be there for every single practice and game, and they’ll keep you in line. Also, team sports often seem more like fun than hard work, so that’s likely to make you want to come back as well, even though the exercise is pretty strenuous.
Accountability is a great way to pressure yourself into doing something you might otherwise give up on. Fitness is notorious for attracting people who quit within a week or two, because they feel the benefits of sticking with it are not worth the effort they have to put in. But if you have a concrete date and a lot of people counting on you, you’d be surprised just how much you’re capable of accomplishing, and how proud you’ll feel after you’ve reached your goal.