Full disclosure up front: I am not a naturally athletic person. I suck at sports, and the thought of going for a run makes me break out into a sweat. But whilst I would love to be able to spend my after-work life on the couch watching Netflix, my expanding mid-section means that I have to commit some time to working out.
Up until recently, I had always had a gym membership, and maintained some level of fitness. But two years ago, fitness well and truly fell off my agenda. I was dealing with 70-hour work weeks, was exhausted, and I just wanted to get through my days. I felt more stressed having a gym membership and not using it, so I got rid of it. And at the time, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.
I have since changed jobs, and recently I have felt ready to commit myself to the gym again. So I signed up for a 28-day challenge — four training sessions a week, plus six small, protein-rich meals a day.
The first two weeks of the challenge went well — I ate well, attended all my sessions, and whilst I was sore, I was managing. I even managed to order salad every time I had to eat out! But right at the end of that second week, we received some bad news, and it highlighted to me just how easily my motivation can be tested. With the bad news came stress — not just emotional stress, but potentially some financial stress. And that whole day, whilst we talked through the problem, I was craving sugar. I would have given anything to eat a block of chocolate that day!
Good news: I didn’t! But it made me realize how similar getting fit is to getting your finances under control.
1. Expect it to be hard. Unfortunately, you don’t just wake up one day at your goal weight and level of fitness. You have to work (hard!) at it. The same goes for your finances. There is a lot of hard work in tracking your spending, eliminating unnecessary costs and curtailing your spending habits.
2. Recognize triggers. I realize I am an emotional eater and spender. On bad days, nothing would make me happier than to go shopping and eat a McChicken. I am trying to figure out what sets me off, and train myself to have new reactions. For example, when I feel overwhelmed or stressed, I focus on my breathing or going for a walk.
3. Set your goals. I have always been a goal-oriented person. This focus on goals has allowed me to get fit for my wedding and save easily for holidays. If I don’t have a clear goal, I just drift. With my gym challenge, I set myself the goal of attending all four training sessions per week and following the diet 90% of the time. With my finances the hubby and I have to set ourselves savings goals — to pay for a renovation up front, or a set amount for a holiday. When we set goals, we succeed.
4. Know that “diets” lead to failure. If my mindset is a diet, I will always fail. Fitness and finance goals need to be about making changes that are sustainable so that you are benefitting for the future, and not just this moment in time. Short term fixes, like a juice cleanse or a spending fast, might provide a quick fix to a problem, but are they a long-term solution?
5. Switch it up. If it isn’t working for you, find something that does. My first foray back into fitness failed. The gym I was at was full of VERY fit people, and I just could not keep up. I was battling muscle soreness, injuries after sessions, and feeling inadequate, as I couldn’t match these fit people. Instead of calling it a failure, I just found a gym that worked for me. Just like I never accept that my current mortgage, insurances or bank offers are necessarily the best. If there is a better deal to be had — go for it!
6. Keep yourself accountable. One thing I love about this new gym is how they keep you accountable throughout the challenge: I get two text messages a day from different trainers and there is also an active Facebook group. Sure, the messages can be considered overkill but every time I see one it reminds me of what I am doing and why. I also get a daily reminder from my Pocketbook app about how much money was spent the day before. By putting it right in my face, where I can’t ignore it, I am being kept accountable.
7. Get the help you need. I wouldn’t pretend to be a fitness guru any more than I would pretend to be a finance guru. In this 28-day challenge, I am relying on experts to push me to make the changes I need to make. For my finances, I have a mortgage broker and a financial planner to help me out. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get the help you need to ensure the greatest chance of success.
By day, Sarah is a mild-mannered marketer from Melbourne, Australia. By night she enjoys long walks in the park with her puppy Bessie and bad TV with her husband Ben.
Image via Unsplash