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How to stay motivated on your new year fitness journey

A woman and a young girl bending to touch their toes in a living room

Many of us say we want to get fitter as part of our new years resolutions, but keeping up the motivation is easier said than done.

With the festive season now a distant memory, many of us have swapped turkey and mince pies for kettlebells and treadmills as we attempt to live healthier in 2023. January always begins with our best fitness intentions but how do we keep motivated beyond the initial post-Christmas effort?

In the latest Experts in Sport podcast, a regular series hosted by Loughborough University’s Martin Foster (Applied Sport Management Lead), we welcome Dr Ian Taylor (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Loughborough University) to discuss how to keep our gym wear from gathering dust.

“If we look at how motivation works, we know quite a lot about that,” explains Dr Taylor.

“The fundamentals tell us that if something is pleasurable, you’re more likely to do it. If it’s not pleasurable, you’re less likely to do it.”

Dr Taylor also talks about how our goals must be adaptable, and by breaking these down into smaller more manageable aspects requiring lower effort, can prove beneficial.

“It’s obviously very difficult to stay motivated, otherwise people would do it all the time. But there are a few things people can do. The first is goals, what you set and how they’re set…if you’re new to exercise in the new year, small goals and low effort is a great place to start.”

Dr Taylor also believes that having alternative plans in place, should your usual schedule go awry, is worth accounting for.

“Think, if it’s raining outside, I’ll do this instead, if all the treadmills at the gym are taken, what am I going to do,” he explains.

“By planning alternatives beforehand, you’re moving the effort away from the exercise session, so it becomes a lot easier. When you get to that idea, it then requires less mental effort and you’re more likely to do it.”

The advantages of immediate effects over long-term effects are also discussed, as well as the best times of day to exercise and the importance of selecting the right form of exercise for you.

Dr Taylor also talks about the importance of reaching a new change of identity to become an ‘exerciser’:

“Becoming and identifying as an exerciser should happen as a natural process over time by simply doing the behaviour for long enough. It should naturally develop. What you must do is focus on the short-term strategies to keep you in the exercise environment…again, keeping effort as low as possible.”

Listen to the full episode online, on iTunesSpotify, and TuneIn.

The Experts in Sport podcast is a regular series that brings together experts from across Loughborough University with external thought leaders to discuss the latest research and hot topics in sport and academia with new episodes launched regularly. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesSpotify, and TuneIn to receive an alert once new episodes are published.