Society has taught us that January is a month for setting and achieving new fitness goals—we expect our mind and body to work in tandem and create a routine that meets all our long-term wellness objectives. Come February, many experience fatigue from their once-inspirational New Year goals, and the term “February slump” sets in. Now entering March, nearly a full year into a global pandemic, creating and maintaining a fitness routine, for many, has never felt more challenging, but nevertheless, more important to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

As a certified personal trainer (CPT) and health coach with a master’s degree in sport and performance psychology (SPP), I understand first-hand that long-lasting fitness routines are not created overnight (i.e., do not magically cultivate at the beginning of a New Year) and are not one-size-fits-all. Creating a routine that fits your lifestyle should be a treasured journey, one that requires patience, and most importantly, a tailored, holistic approach to goal setting. 

I’ve outlined the three tips I’ve learned throughout my experience as a CPT and education in SPP that will help anyone take steps toward a balanced, long-lasting fitness routine to improve overall wellbeing. 

1. Set SMART goals

Setting goals and achieving them are two entirely different things. The way you set up and structure your goals will have a large impact on how attainable they become. SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, is an acronym I routinely refer to when establishing my objectives; it provides a roadmap to goal attainment.

While it is easy to say, “I want to drink the recommended amount of water each day,” it’s important to ask yourself: “how will I actually make that happen?” “What does it really take to do this?” I recommend picking one goal and running it through the SMART process. For example, if your goal is to increase hydration, then your SMART goal could be, “I will drink 90 ounces of liquids each day of the month and keep a daily hydration log to track my progress.” 

Even if the SMART acronym isn’t the best method for you, it is important to have guidelines and concrete actions in place that you can constantly refer to, in order to stay on track. 

2. Control the “controllables”

“Controllables” is a phrase often seen in sports and performance psychology literature but can be used by anyone who finds themselves stuck. When we focus only on those things within our control and let go of the rest, we are creating space for clarity and complete focus. 

Exercise and physical activity give us moments in our day where we can control how we move, and what we think. This mindfulness strategy can also be utilized at work. If you are looking to improve your presentation capabilities for meetings and focus on what you see, hear and feel—eliminate the distractions. 

Although this strategy is beneficial in all facets of life, it is especially important when creating a sustainable fitness routine because your body is one of the few things you have complete control over. The more you move on a regular basis, the more in touch you become with your body, and the more experience you gain in exerting that control. This results in an increased ability to guide yourself and your body toward achieving your fitness goals.

3. Take advantage of hitting the “reset” button every day

Every morning, we wake up and are given a new day to create whatever we would like for our lives. The goal is to leave any guilt, shame, blame and fear in yesterday and move into today with a clean slate and renewed spirit that moves people in the direction of personal and performance excellence. If you miss a workout from the day before—you wake up the next morning, hit your reset button, and choose to approach the day with a clean slate and positive attitude. 

As we grow into this habit and realize each day offers a chance to be our best selves, we create new neural pathways filled with positive outcomes that grow and develop over time.

The Takeaway

Above all, it is important to make sure you are establishing habits that benefit your mental, emotional and physical health. To do so, always have a system ready to reference, like SMART, that establishes actionable items; focus your time and energy only on things you have control over and don’t forget to hit “reset” each morning. In implementing these strategies to create a long-term fitness routine, you will begin to see an improvement in your daily routine and mental health.