It’s kind of a running joke among trainers, the gym is packed the first week of January with members finding new motivation to be healthier in the New Year. Without fail, by Valentine’s Day it is back to normal until swimsuit season approaches and the influx happens again. Even trainers aren’t exempt from this phenomena.

Having well intended motivation is a great start! We all need it. Then life gets in the way. We get tired, busy, or real life sets in. We lose momentum.

What do you do when the motivation to be a healthier, stronger, more fit version of you is lost? Here are a few practical things I have found effective over the years of coaching clients.

1. Go Back to Your Why

Start with your why. Why do you want to be healthier, more fit? Once you name that why (or 5 or 10), write down why it’s important to you? These are the first two questions I ask my clients when they start and ask them to revisit every week.

Staying healthy is challenging in today’s influx of technology that keeps us seated and stationary, endless amounts of processed food, and, well, everyone is always too busy. If you stay mindful of your why it will help you push through when life’s demands dominate your attention. Your why will help you make better choices in how you spend your time and say no to temptation.

2. Your Program Is Too Aggressive or Restrictive

One of the biggest reasons I see people fall off their fitness program is because it was too much change all at once or they get injured from starting off too aggressively. You will have some rare outliers, but I find that is mostly because they had a very strong “why” to start with. Scary bloodwork or a major life change is a constant motivator.

The majority of us need something that is doable and works with our daily responsibilities, not against it. In the end, there will have to be some compromises, but starting small and from a point of success will be the biggest player for a lifetime of health and keeping up momentum.

3. Discipline Will Always Win When Motivation Fails

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” — Hebrews 12:11

Practicing and learning discipline will “produce a harvest.” Learning discipline takes time, but it’s worth it. Notice I said learning, we aren’t born with discipline, but it is something we practice. There is no 30 day program that will change your life, it takes months, even years to develop good health practices and fitness (depending on where you start).

Start simple and specific, like exercising 20 minutes 4 days per week. The more specific we are the more it will become a habit that we regularly practice. Set a specific time every day for a realistic duration and frequency.

4. Join a Community or Gym Challenge

When challenges are designed appropriately these can be very effective. The community and accountability around a challenge can have a tremendous effect. Finding one that is not overly restrictive, yet long enough (more than 30 days) to build good habits is a great way to keep up the motivation.

5. Hire a Coach or Trainer

In the end, we all need some help. I have been training professional to recreational athletes for more than 12 years, I have a degree in exercise science, multiple certifications, and I have a coach.

Just like I seek out and pay someone to cut my hair, I do the same for my training. There is no Youtube video in the world that will teach me how to cut my own hair well. I need a knowledgeable resource, the right program, and, most importantly, accountability when life gets in the way.