Today officially marks 21 days until January 1, which means it’s the perfect time to make sure your new fitness habit becomes second nature by 2014. Here’s how to get a head start on success (and a healthy new year).
Start with some inspiration
Success starts with a healthy dose of inspiration, so seek it out. The enthusiasm a spike of encouragement can give you is the strongest within three days whether you listen to a great TED Talk or watch Usain Bolt set a world record, so make the most of this time period to jump start your habit while it appears simple and worthwhile. To keep it going, reading a chapter of Lance Armstrong’s memoir before bed is great, but so is following a particularly vocal and upbeat role model on Twitter—Steph Curry comes to mind.
Push through moments of weakness
After the inspiration wears off and reality starts setting in over the course of the first two weeks, you may notice that the fight to avoid fried foods or to arrive at the gym at the break of dawn is, well, tough. That’s a good thing. Every time you notice yourself bargaining for a break, take a moment to reflect on the situation: remember, you’ll feel worse if you sit out on today’s painful leg workout. Successful habit formation requires you to fight through around three of these hurdles; thankfully, they get easier every time. However, giving into your old habits will make it that much harder to stay on your path to good health.
Make it your new normal
After two weeks of overcoming obstacles and dodging old habits, you’ll notice that your new routine is starting to feel like business as usual—but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. You may start looking for results that aren’t there yet, or, even worse, prematurely start feeling complacent by your unrivaled and early success. In both cases, it’s all about your state of mind. When you’re feeling discouraged, focus on the positive aspects of your new regimen, not least that you’re actually sticking to your resolution (not many people can make this claim). If you’re feeling like the exception to the rule of hard work, give yourself a reality check and research ways to take your workout to the next level—the results can be as humbling as they are inspirational.
The intangible benefits
Unlike the throngs of bandwagoners who show up at the gym on January 1, you’ll be able to throw a knowing glance at the cute receptionist—”Ugh, tourists, am I right?”—and go in for a high five with the geriatric who’s entirely way too old to keep getting completely nude in the shower. It’s your right—you’ve been going to the gym for the last 21 days. You already know the location of the squat rack, because this is your territory. Oh, and would you look at that: it’s almost time to renew your monthly membership. How time flies when you’re getting a head start on your New Year’s resolutions.