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Every time the new year rolls around, fitness beginners and veterans alike burst into the gym full of resolutions and the motivation to accomplish them. But what goes up must come down, right?
When we make big promises to ourselves in January, we don’t always factor in day-to-day life, which often gets in the way of workouts, healthy eating, and, most importantly, time for ourselves.
“Adrenaline and that initial spark only keep the fire burning for so long,” says Aaptiv trainer Ceasar F. Barajas. “Eventually we start feeling fatigued from all of our hard work in the gym and out of it.”
According to Barajas, if you’re not making time for yourself, burnout will happen. “There’s no possible way you can maintain any routine or relationship—at work, socially, with your family—if you’re not maintaining your own relationship with yourself,” he says. “It all boils down to that: Either you commit to taking care of you or everything else around you suffers—and so do you.”
We asked Barajas to share some of his best advice for avoiding mental slumps and staying focused amidst crazy schedules and ambitious resolutions.
1. Don’t focus on the numbers.
It’s easy to focus on pounds, miles, and reps. But Barajas says not to. “We take the numbers too seriously,” he says. “We always say things like, ‘I need to lose 10 pounds,’ or, ‘I’ve got a wedding in Tulum in a month, and I need to look good in a swimsuit.’”
Rather than focusing on short-term goals, Barajas recommends looking further down the line. “Make it a habit—something that becomes part of who you are,” he says. “It’s about settling into routines that will keep you feeling great come March, April, May, and so on.”
2. Remember fitness is a practice.
You’ve probably heard about yoga practices and how it takes daily sessions to improve and better understand the movements. Well, that’s actually true of all workouts.
“Fitness is a practice,” Barajas says. “Humans want instant gratification, so when we’re not immediately great at something or we struggle at first, it’s frustrating and discouraging.”
That frustration can affect our motivation over time, which can cause us to fall into a slump. But, Barajas says, remembering that exercise requires dedicated and regular practice can help change our approach and how we see progress.
“So you’re not very good at burpees?” Barajas says. “Practice. Hate thrusters? Practice. Are you working on your push-ups or just giving up after a bad set? Are you practicing your planks?”
Everything takes time, and once you’ve mastered one element of exercise, then you move on to new and different goals.
3. Be more mindful.
Mindfulness is an area of wellness that gets a bad rep. Many people incorrectly assume they don’t have the time or patience to meditate or be mindful. But mindfulness can actually work as a major motivating force before, during, and after your workouts.
“Even as active as I am, I still need to motivate myself to get to my workouts,” Barajas says. “But I think about how I’ll feel if I skip it—and I don’t mean guilty, I mean physically and mentally how I’ll feel.”
He recommends actively thinking about how exercise will directly benefit you. “Take a meditative approach to fitness and be mindful of how each movement you’re doing will affect you and how you physically and mentally feel,” Barajas says. “When you’re directly connecting exercise with your well-being, you’re more likely to, first of all, get to the gym, and, second, stick with it and form those habits.”
4. Find time to meditate.
You probably saw this coming. But it’s true. Meditation and mindfulness are incredibly beneficial for combating negative feelings and mental slumps, as well as encouraging personal reflection, stress relief, and even enhanced workouts. And it’s much easier than it seems.
“Most people hear meditation, and they think that means sitting in lotus pose on top of a mountain,” Barajas says. “But there are walking meditations, shower meditations, commuting meditations, and so on.”
It’s easy to fall back on the lack-of-time excuse, but finding a few minutes to meditate isn’t that difficult. “If you get up in the morning and you take five conscious breaths, that’s meditating,” he says. “My own personal meditation happens every day on the subway when I’m on my way to work or to teach a class because we’re underground, there’s no reception, and it’s dark. So for a few minutes every day, I just sit and meditate.”
5. Stop saying, “I don’t have…”
The wonderful thing about resolutions is they come from a place of wanting to be better. Barajas explains that while we’re perfectly capable of achieving the goals we set for ourselves, we don’t give ourselves enough credit.
“We set ourselves up for failure by saying things like, ‘I don’t have,’ instead of, ‘I have it,’” he explains. “You do have time, you do have strength, you do have support, but you need to actively remind yourself of that. That’s goal-setting 101.”