How to Keep Up Resolution Motivation

If yours is dwindling, try these tips from sports psychologist Marla Zucker.
Morning workout

Morning workout photo via istock.com/Geber86

Remember that resolution you made in the optimistic glow of January? If you’ve actually stuck to it, more power to you—but research shows you’re in the minority. By some estimates, less than 10 percent of resolutioners actually achieve what they set out to do.

But don’t admit defeat yet. We asked Marla Zucker, a sports psychologist at Boston Sport and Performance Psychology, how to renew motivation and meet your fitness goals.

1. Buy new workout clothes.

Yes, this sounds like a joke, but there’s actually research to back it up. A study from 2012 measured how participants’ attention improved when they were told they were wearing a doctor’s lab coat, versus a painter’s coat. Researchers concluded that clothes can influence behavior based on the garments’ symbolic meaning, which Zucker says can also apply to workout clothes.

“Gym clothes can help to put the wearer in the frame of mind to go work out and work hard,” Zucker says. “Unlike buying a new sweater, gym clothes mean something about the wearer—they are part of the person’s identity as someone who trains and works out, and having this identity makes it more important to our sense of self that we stick with the behaviors that go along with it.”

Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to splurge on a new pair of sneakers or leggings?

2. Enjoy the activities you do.

It’s one thing to internally groan when your workout calendar says it’s leg day. It’s another to dislike the workout so much that you don’t even want to begin.

“You are much more likely to stick to something if you enjoy it, or at least parts of it, than if you dread it,” Zucker says. “Doing an activity for the intrinsic enjoyment of that activity is much easier to stick to than doing an activity just because we value the outcome or results of doing that activity.” Find your sport, whether it’s cycling, Zumba, running, or aerial yoga.

3. Make SMART goals.

By that we mean goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to go to the gym three times a week. Are there specific exercises you’re doing while you’re there? How are you tracking your progress—pounds lost or strength gained? When do you want to see results?

“Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds, gain strength, sleep better, feel more energized—whatever your goals, know what they are and why they are important to you,” Zucker says. “You are more likely to stay motivated if you can track your progress and see the actual changes you were hoping for.”

4. Be held accountable.

You made your resolution, now commit to it. Sign a gym contract, or have your family and friends remind you when you need to keep going. “Finding workout buddies can not only make your exercise more fun, but can also make you stick to your commitments—if not to the exercise, then to your friends,” Zucker says.

If you need a monetary incentive, try Pact, an app which pays and fines you based on how well you adhere to your pact to stay healthy. Consider pledging to attend a certain class at the gym if you need that extra boost. “Sometimes the open format of a gym or regular gym classes is not enough structure to overcome excuses,” Zucker says.