Top tips for getting back on track with your new year health and fitness resolutions

luke denham sports therapist

Luke Denham
Clinic Lead Practitioner
Sports Therapist

For many people the start of a new year marks the end of an over-indulgent festive break and might involve some new health and fitness goals. Whether it be to lose a bit of weight, hit a new training personal best, or just generally look after yourself a little better. The new year fills you with motivation, it empowers you to achieve your goals, and this is awesome. Unfortunately, it is around about now that this newfound energy and motivation can start to drop a little.

If this feels like you, I aim to show you some ways to keep your motivation high. Whether it be through self-reflection, goal setting or understanding how far you’ve come, there are lots of tips and tricks to help keep you on track.

Why did you start your journey in the first place?

Firstly, it is important to reflect and look back at why you started in the first place. What was your motivator? Understanding this can relight the fire that kickstarted your journey. Maybe you wanted to drop some weight for an event later in the year, or maybe you’ve started to work towards a fitness goal with some friends? Dropping off your routine a little is natural, it is so hard to be 100% on it all the time, but refocusing on why you set yourself a goal to begin with is a great way of reengaging. Use that feeling of wanting to achieve something to fuel your motivation, reenergise your desire to smash your targets, remind yourself of why it all started and jump back on the road to progress.

What have you achieved so far? Where did you start and how far have you come?

Another great way of keeping motivated is looking at what you feel you’ve achieved already. Without getting too sciency, how is it that you think you’ve changed? Maybe that flight of stairs is a little easier than it was a week ago, or getting out of bed in the morning is less painful. Do you have more energy at work? Are you sleeping better? Sometimes looking for change from day to day is not so obvious, but looking back to where you started can be a great way of seeing how far you’ve come in a relatively short space of time.

As musculoskeletal therapists we talk about this a lot in our pain and injury sessions. Many of our patients live with daily pain and this makes it hard to see change and improvement in the moment, yet looking back over a longer period can be very beneficial. No matter the size of the progress, it should be celebrated. Try using this tool next time you feel a little stuck or plateaued.

What have you learned so far?

Maybe you are beginning to learn things about yourself. Did you try a new class that you originally thought you might have hated but ended up loving? Have you realised that a 6am alarm for a walk is not actually so bad? Tailoring your journey depending on your likes and dislikes is super important, so taking a bit of time to look at what has worked well for you up to this point is key.

What have you loved?

Recognising motivators is a great way to keep on track, and it is important to remember them when you feel a bit ‘off’. Whether it be a certain type of class, a particular new exercise or skill, a great running route or time spent with a new workout buddy, remember them and use them on days when you motivation may be a little low. It is normal for us to have things we enjoy doing more than others, so keep a few in your back pocket for when you want to do something that is going to lift you up.

The importance of goal setting

It is natural for motivation to drop if you don’t feel like you’re achieving anything, especially if your goal isn’t a clear vision at the end of a mapped path. Writing down a few things you want to achieve along the way can keep you on track by helping you realise the progress you’re making. The goal can be anything but make it something that can be done. Using the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) principle of goal setting is a great way to hit your targets and feel great about it.

As a sports therapist, here is my take on what has changed so far

Believe it or not, even after 4-6 weeks of a new fitness or training routine there will have been many physiological and psychological changes. Knowing and understanding what they are can be a great motivator for keeping on track:

Physiological changes

  • Increase in VO2 max (the volume of oxygen your body uses while exercising as hard as you can) – leading to improved fitness and reduction in fatigue.
  • Increase in cardiac output – helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
  • Decreased heart rate – leading to more efficient heart function.
  • Improved joint health – regular physical activity can keep the muscles around joints strong, replenishes lubrication to joint cartilage and reduces stiffness and pain.
  • Improved flexibility – muscles, and the body’s soft tissues respond well to regular use and loading, improving elasticity and joint mobility.

Psychological changes

Improved levels of feel-good chemicals – the levels of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, stress hormones and endorphins, change when you exercise. These are commonly referred to as feel-good chemicals/hormones, and exercise can help to improve and regulate their levels.
Improved sleep – regular exercise can help you sleep better, and good sleep helps you manage your mood and recover better.

Improved self-esteem – exercise can improve your sense of control, coping ability and self-esteem. People who exercise regularly often report how good achieving a goal makes them feel.
Improved sense of feeling good – exercise can distract you from negative thoughts and provide opportunities to try new experiences. It offers an opportunity to socialise and get social support if you exercise with others.

Consistency is Key

It is important to recognise that different adaptations occur in different timeframes, and therefore to see long term, sustained benefits, we must continue to exercise and look after ourselves regularly. Unfortunately, being super consistent with a new plan for 4-weeks will yes, be beneficial, but it won’t be enough to create positive long-term change… It is very much a marathon, not a sprint!

As a result, it is important to recognise that during this time, things may happen that get in the way of your ability to be consistent. There will always be factors within a journey that you have no control over such as family emergencies, injuries, and changes at work etc. It is important to understand and appreciate these, and learning how you process them can be a great way of not letting things throw you off. There are plenty of frustrations and obstacles when it comes to starting something new, so being able to rationalise and move on from bumps in the road is so important for keeping control of the uncontrollable. By doing this, you will stay on track to smash those goals.

Exercise has a hugely positive impact on our physical and mental health, the evidence is clear to see, and it is important for us to look after ourselves, in whatever way is best. Find a passion – a hobby or exercise that excites you, so you stick with it and remain consistent.

How can we help?

As we have discussed, lots of things can get in the way of your progress. As sports therapists, physios, osteos and exercise professionals this is how we can help:

  • We can review previous injuries and any problems as they arise, adjusting your training as needed.
  • We can review your program – ensuring suitability, making sure it stands the best possible chance of taking you to your goals.
  • We can help to keep you accountable – checking in and monitoring progress.
  • We can serve as a friendly face or a buddy. Having someone to talk to about frustrations can be a simple way of offloading and getting back to it. We are in your corner, lean on us an ask us questions.

Should you have any questions or need anything at all please just contact us or give us a call, one of our friendly practitioners will be only too happy to help.