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It’s been three weeks of early morning workouts and reheating Tupperware containers of chicken and broccoli, and you’re over it. Rather than giving up, here are some expert-backed strategies to help you keep your new year’s fitness resolution.

According to finder.com, 79 per cent of Australians committed to a new year’s resolution in 2020. More than half of those resolutions (53 per cent) are related to losing weight or stepping up a fitness regime to get in shape. But research by the University of Pennsylvania suggests that only 8 per cent of people who make new year’s resolutions achieve them.Is there a secret to staying motivated?

Motivation gets you started; discipline keeps you going

Cameron Paulinich, a personal trainer and founder of Sydney personal training studio CP Fitness, says motivation is unreliable: it is an emotional state that can’t last forever. After a few weeks of grinding at the new routine, your motivation will begin to wane. And that’s where discipline must take over.

“Discipline requires consistency, even when it’s hard or boring,” says Paulinich. “If you remain disciplined, your routine will, in time, become a habit – which makes things easier because you don’t have to think or battle at every step. Discipline also leads to a great sense of personal achievement and can improve your mental strength.”

Paulinich says you are more likely to stay on track if you reward yourself by ticking off small wins: six to eight hours of sleep per night, five serves of vegetables per day, two litres of water, and one hour of movement. Having a partner, friend or team to set and track the same goals with you can spark healthy competition and hold you accountable.

Master the habit science

Wendy Wood, a Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Southern California, writes on The Conversation that most resolutions fail to address the “crux of behavioural change”. That is, overcoming old habits. 

Wood explains that contexts like the time of day (3pm slump – hello chocolate biscuits) or location (at the beach, time for an ice cream?) can become a habitual trigger for certain desires. To overcome the desire, you can create what Wood refers to as “friction”. Physical distance is one way to create friction – such as by removing unhealthy food from your kitchen. The friction puts a block between you and the habit (you will need to make a trip to the shops to purchase junk food) so you are more likely to overcome the desire. 

Reducing friction to achieve goals will also be important. US researchers from marketing consultant company Dstillery drew GPS data from the mobile phones of 7.5 million people with gym memberships in 2017. Those who had to travel less than six kilometres to their gym went five or more times a month. However, those who had to travel around 8.5 kilometres only used their membership about once per month. 

Learn the tricks of the trade

Ben Lucas, a personal trainer of more than 15 years and the founder and director of Flow Athletic training centre in Sydney, has a few tried-and-tested methods he recommends to clients starting out on a new fitness journey. Most of these either create or reduce friction to help his clients conquer lapses in motivation. Here’s what Lucas recommends:

  1. Exercise in the morning before work, so there is less chance of you cancelling if something urgent comes up.
  2. Ensure you have healthy food in your house and throw out all the junk, so you aren’t tempted when hungry.
  3. Prepare your own lunch rather than buying out – you’ll save money and know exactly what’s in it.
  4. Train with a friend. The accountability means you are both more likely to show up.