APU Health & Fitness Original

Finding the Drive to Build New Post-Pandemic Healthy Habits

Following a year like 2020, when our lives in so many cases were upended completely, it’s easy to think that we need new motivation to rebuild a healthy lifestyle. How will we find the drive to build new habits in a post-pandemic world? How can we get a jump-start to get back to our normal, and maybe even to a better normal?

One of the most often-asked questions of professionals in the fitness industry is “How do you stay motivated to keep up your healthy habits?” While this question seems useful and one that may produce some high-quality healthy habit tips, there are more important things to address first. Before worrying about motivation, try addressing the following questions.

What Are My Primary Reasons for Getting Healthy?

Knowing why you are pursuing a lifestyle change is step one to building a routine that will produce motivation. Without a compass to direct your steps, your motivation will wane any time there might be distractions or seemingly more fun options. 

Take some time to write a fresh journal. Ask yourself what you want your new healthy lifestyle to look like. To begin with, consider the big reasons for changing your lifestyle. Start with current reasons and then look to the future.

One reason I stay healthy is I want to be a fit grandma one day who can hike and play with children as well as with my contemporaries. I’m decades away from this, but it’s still a valued goal that drives my lifestyle today. 

Be sure to identify several big reasons. Not every “why” will resonate with you each day, so it’s important to have multiple layers of goals and reasons to be healthy. Once you’ve worked through these reasons, write them all down on one page so you can revisit them daily with your morning coffee.

What Does My Perfect Healthy Lifestyle Look Like?

Once you’ve nailed down your current “whys” for changing your behavior, it’s important to identify how to address your lifestyle in order to start making incremental improvements. One great way to do this is to envision a “day in the life….”

What would a day in your life look like if you were living the lifestyle you desire? What time would you wake up? What would be the cornerstone habits you would enjoy each day? 

Consider what this perfect day would look like and identify the key steps to making it happen. Then, work from this list to attack each small new habit one at a time until you become that person.

This exercise is similar to understanding your reasons for becoming healthy, but it brings more concrete and tangible ideas for daily implementation. 

What Are Some Healthy Habits I Can Commit to Right Now?

The results are clear: Extreme dieting and exercise routines are not what build a lifelong healthy lifestyle. This time, to prepare to build a new lifestyle you love and is sustainable, consider what healthy habits you can commit to now. You’ve identified what your best day would look like, and potentially isolated some of the habits that seem doable. Now it’s time to implement them.

Choose one or two new habits each month, and commit to them and only them. Similar to building a foundation of a house, if this portion is rushed, the whole structure has the potential to come crashing down one day. Alternatively, with a firm foundation of daily habits, you will build a lifestyle that can withstand future “storms.”

Consider asking yourself, “What are some habits I can commit to for the rest of my life?” While these may change throughout your lifetime, it’s important to remember your long-term goals and revisit the “whys” that you created in step one. 

Some of you may be wondering why it’s important to consider the long term if you just have a short-term goal. The answer – or rather the question – is, do you want to lose 10 pounds in the next month, or do you want to lose 10 pounds and never have to lose them again? You can reach such goals more quickly, but they won’t be sustainable. You’ll be fighting to keep your outcomes instead of resting in a new lifestyle. Remember, the process to reach a goal is the process you’ll need to maintain that goal. 

Create good healthy habits and realistic daily changes in your lifestyle so they become automatic, and you’ll be enjoying a true healthy lifestyle instead of following arbitrary rules.

Dr. Herrenbruck is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sports & Health Sciences. She earned her Ph.D. in exercise physiology from the University of Kentucky and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Her research interests focus on skeletal muscle physiology, and she has a passion for discussing the convergence of science and healthy living.

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