Hello, friends! I’m Rachel Gainer of rachelrebuilt.com, personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist here at Simple as That. Summer freedom is splendid, but there’s something truly powerful about the onset of fall and the return to routine. Did you know habits are most flexible during times of transition? That makes back-to-school the ideal time to chase new goals and start new routines that keep you healthy, happy, and energized throughout the year. Today, I’m sharing five tips to make healthy habits stick when you’re just getting started or coming back after a little break.
How to Create Healthy Habits
TIP 1: Revisit the big picture
When you’re down in the trenches, focusing on food and fitness and trying to make big lifestyle changes, it’s easy to get trapped in an all-or-nothing mentality. But health is a life-long pursuit. Schedule time to step back and ask yourself: Where do I want to be in one year? Am I moving in the right direction? What’s working? What needs to change? Then make micro-adjustments to move you closer to your goal.
TIP 2: Set specific, measurable goals
Your “big picture goal” is an idea of how you want your life to change over the next year. But to get there, you’ll need to set concrete, actionable micro-goals that you can track and measure. For example: “Drink 50 oz. of water before lunch.” Focus on just one or two micro-goals at a time. Add more as you build confidence and consistency. Be persistent, not perfect. Don’t sabotage a whole day because you miss one goal.
TIP 3: Establish a baseline, and record progress
You live in your body and look in the mirror every day. No matter how much progress you make, you will acclimate to the changes, adopting a new “normal.” This makes it easy to get discouraged, because you can’t recall how you looked or felt when you started. No matter how awkward you feel: take progress pictures, record body measurements, perform a fitness test (like the one below), or keep a fitness journal for thoughts and feelings. Refer to these concrete records whenever you begin to doubt yourself. I’ve created a simple Measurements & Fitness Test Tracking Sheet to help you get started. Visit my website to download your free copy.
TIP 4: Create an accountability system
Find a simple way to hold yourself accountable. Make it easy to follow through by checking off daily actions or awarding yourself a star. (I love a gold star!) These methods work great for those who are internally motivated. But if you find it easier to follow through when other people are counting on you, look for an accountabilibuddy to cheer you on and challenge you to push beyond your current limits. Choose someone who will be compassionate when you stumble but who also believes in your potential and expects you to follow through.
TIP 5: Pinpoint barriers to success
There will be days when your motivation and will power fail. Days when you want to eat your feelings or skip your workouts. In a moment of strength, take time to write down your weaknesses, triggers, and old habits. Be honest but kind to yourself. Make an action plan for each potential obstacle. For example: “When I want to eat for emotional reasons, I will take a 5-minutes walk or write my feelings in my journal, giving myself time to clear my head.” Then put that plan into action, and refine as needed.
Fitness Test Instructions
Fitness is more than pounds, percentages, and inches. It’s also increased strength, endurance, and speed. You can use a fitness test to establish a baseline and set some performance-based goals.
This fitness test includes nine simple exercises and a one-mile run. Perform each exercise for 1 min, giving maximum effort. You should be breathing hard and feeling exhausted after each exercise. Rest 1 min between each exercise (trust me, you’ll need it). Then rest 10 min before running 1 mile (either outside or on a treadmill). You may substitute another distance-based cardio option, like biking, rowing, or elliptical. Just be consistent test to test.
Perform this test again in about four weeks, and track how your numbers are improving and how much stronger you feel. You can use my free Measurements & Fitness Test Tracking Sheet to help you record your progress.
To finish up your fitness test, run one mile on the treadmill or outside and record your time. Retest every four weeks, while following a regular fitness routine. Don’t forget to grab my free Measurements & Fitness Test Tracking Sheet to help you track your progress.