Today’s guest post suggests some ways to help you stay on track with a new exercise regimen or any long-term health goal. Leave a comment at the end of the article, sharing with us which of these you’ve tried and which worked best for you. 

Anyone can start a new fitness routine or begin a healthy eating plan. That’s the easy part. The hard part is sticking to it when reality sets in. Living a fit and healthy lifestyle is hard, and it’s important to know how to keep yourself motivated to ensure year-round success.

Develop a plan and write it down

It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re aimless. Goals like “getting healthy” and “losing weight” sound nice, but they aren’t specific enough to provide measurable, realistic feedback. Build a smart, goal-oriented plan that focuses on specifics that can be measured. If you can see progress, you’re more likely to stick to whatever is causing the positive change in your life.

“You may also find it helps to keep an exercise diary,” suggests the Mayo Clinic. “Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterward. Recording your efforts and tracking your progress can help you work toward your goals, and remind you that you’re making progress.”

Find support in others

Some people have all the drive they need stored up inside them. They can wake up at 6am every morning and go for a run before work. They can fit a trip to the gym into their busy lives. They can say no to the free donuts in the conference room.

Many of us, however, have a hard time doing it alone. And there’s no reason you have to! One of the best ways to keep yourself motivated is to hold yourself accountable. If one day you’re struggling with working out and eating better simply for yourself, it’s nice to have the support and accountability of others to fall back on. If this sounds like you, group exercise classes might be the way to go. There are also diet support groups you can join.

“Group exercise offers a variety of benefits you might miss out on if you choose to work out on your own. Some of the benefits include exposure to a social and fun environment, a safe and effectively designed workout, a consistent exercise schedule, an accountability factor for participating in exercise, and a workout that requires no prior exercise knowledge or experience,” says the American College of Sports Medicine.

Not a people person? No worries. You can also use your canine friends as motivation as well. Your dog is healthier when they receive daily, or at least very frequents walks and playtime. If you don’t have a dog of your own, join a dog walking or pet sitting service, and get paid to exercise while you play with other people’s dogs.

Don’t be afraid of rewards

As human beings, we like to be rewarded when we do good things. Call it what you will, but if we don’t feel like we’re being compensated for our sacrifices, we get bitter.

One of the worst things you can get bitter about is your own health plan. If you don’t allow yourself some rewards for all of your hard work you will get burnt out. Do not think about rewards on a daily, workout-to-workout basis. No, you can’t eat a whole pint of ice cream because you spent an hour on the treadmill. If you want to see fitness results, you have to stick to a set of goals year-round. But don’t deny yourself life’s little pleasure every once in awhile. Relax. Except in the most rare of circumstances, a couple of beers or a piece of chocolate cake isn’t going to kill you. And it could give your brain’s reward center the boost it needs to keep you going on your fitness path.

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