New year, new me - right?
If only it was as simple as setting an intention.
New year fitness goals may be easy to write down but they're tough to keep up. This has never been truer than right now. COVID-19 has closed the gyms and made group exercise, even outdoors, impossible. Our free time now competes with home working, home-schooling, added social care responsibilities and navigating our way through a global pandemic.
There's a virus out there and its entire reason-for-being is to climb inside your lungs and spread to other people. It's hardly surprising that your fitness resolutions might be a little harder to achieve this year.
New Year, New Gym Membership
According to a recent YouGov survey, only 26% of British people kept all their resolutions in 2020. It also found that health and fitness goals (taking more exercise, losing weight and improving diet) were the most popular resolutions that people made. The new year is often the clarion call for beginners and lapsed members to start exercising. 12% of gym members sign up in January but regular attendance by these newbies usually drops off by February.
It's not enough to pay for the membership or just to buy the indoor bike. You have to do the work. Part of the problem is that January is probably the WORST time to sign-up for fitness goals. The weather is terrible, the nights are long, you're still paying Christmas off and now you're stuck in a national lockdown.
One thing you can do to increase your chances of achieving your fitness resolutions is to stop relying on motivation. Motivation is great in the short-term. Motivation is the enthusiasm you've been bottling up since you demolished that cheese board on New Year's Day. You feel pumped and ready to sign that twelve-month gym contract, buy those new running shoes, jump on that treadmill or indoor bike. But motivation isn't enough.
The Conversation writes that we shouldn't confuse motivation with discipline. You might feel motivated to join an indoor cycling class because you want to get solid abs, lose weight, or improve your health but that's not enough to make you turn up and keep doing the classes. Discipline does that. Discipline means going even when you don't want to, even when you've had an awful day and even when it's raining outside. If motivation is the bouncy cheerleader, discipline is the wizened ex-marine with a whistle and a stick.
Discipline is important because that's what turns exercise into a habit. Habits are easier to maintain and they make it easier to achieve long-term goals. You want to make exercise as normal as brushing your teeth in the morning or walking your dog before bed, but it takes time. It takes an average of 66 days to turn something into a habit but for some people, this is as few as 18 or as many as 250. What's important isn't so much the number but that healthy exercise habits don't form by accident; they're made by discipline.
Reward Your Workouts
One way of making discipline easier (and habit more likely) is to use incentives. Incentives are rewards for physical exercise. For example, the RE:GEN uses digital currency to reward users both for the exercise they do and for the clean-energy they create. Other rewards could be buying a new pair of running shoes when you reach your first half-marathon distance or buying yourself a new book when you complete 10 classes.
Without incentives, some people may find it difficult to maintain discipline. Which is understandable as physical fitness doesn't improve overnight. You could be waiting for months to see noticeable changes in your body shape or endurance. Incentives can help bridge the gap between where motivation ends and habit forms. Using rewards makes discipline more palatable.
We use incentives to reward positive behaviour patterns all the time. Children get a star for playing nicely or doing well in class. Good employees get bonuses, promotions or raises. Tap your loyalty card in a store and you're rewarded with points or vouchers against future purchases; 9 stamps on a coffee card gets you a free cappuccino…
Rewards can help keep us on track even when we can't yet see the benefits we're working towards. One study, published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine found that using financial rewards to incentivise exercise can work in the short-term. And that's when you need it most.
Team Incentives Can Help Fitness Goals
Research by the University of Pennsylvania shows that team-based incentives can help, too. It found that collaboration rather than competition made it easier for people to exercise more. We're seeing it more often now within corporate settings.
For example, colleagues working together to complete endurance or fitness challenges for charity. Often these are done on static pieces of gym equipment clocking up enough indoor cycling miles to ride to the moon or completing a virtual ride from Birmingham to Beijing.
Individuals can still be rewarded for their efforts but the focus on sharing a fitness experience can help increase discipline in those who would otherwise struggle alone. It's worth talking to the members in your team or your friendship groups to see if your fitness resolution aligns with something they'd like to do.
If you prefer the competitive edge, you can race against each other and strangers, too. Use your RE:GEN bike with a turbo-trainer to connect to Zwift and enjoy immersive simulated rides and races. But we're not all in corporate or business teams, and we don't always have friends and family members that share our fitness ambitions, either.
Fortunately, we do live in the age of the internet. Create a community in your own image or join someone else's. You'll see a lot on TV about at-home exercise equipment that allows you to connect to live-stream and pre-recorded classes. They're impressive but often expensive, so know that there are plenty of Peloton alternatives out there. The RE:GEN rewards you for working toward and meeting your fitness goals. Compete against others, of course, but get comfortable competing against yourself because that's where progress is made. Our bike builds workouts for you depending on the required calorie burn or the time available to exercise.
Exercising to Retain Rewards, Not to Earn Them
And if it turns out that earning rewards isn't enough, then reverse it. Several scientific studies have looked at how loss-framed incentives can be powerful motivators. Using loss-framing as an incentive means that a user loses something when they don't exercise, rather than gaining something when they do.
Health Insurer Vitality has used this to encourage healthier lifestyle choices amongst its members. It sold Apple Watches to customers at a very reduced price. If the user kept up a regular exercise routine, they kept the watch and paid nothing else. If they failed to exercise or missed exercise goals, they had to pay more for it.
The company saw a noticeable increase in the physical activity of its participants.
Another example of this is paying for exercise classes upfront when you know you'll lose money by not going. Similarly, subscribers to the Energym app can significantly reduce monthly subscription fees by exercising, only paying full price if they don't exercise sufficiently.
Motivation will only get you started. It's why the gyms are full in January but half-emptied in February, and it's why people regret buying expensive bikes they never use. Stay disciplined using incentives and rewards and work at your goals until they become a habit.
Personal Power Like Never Before.
The Energym RE:GEN is the world's first smart fitness bike that captures and converts your workout into clean, useable, electrical energy that you can use. This electrical power is stored inside a portable battery, the Ohm.Discover the RE:GEN