You Just Conquered a Fitness Challenge—Now What?

August 25, 2015
How to <em>stay</em> in the best shape of your life.

There's nothing quite like that feeling that comes with completing a 30-day squat program or a two-week challenge at a local fitness studio...until you realize that you no longer have that routine to keep you on track.

"I think the biggest mistake or challenge that people face after finishing a challenge is—they're really excited, they do a challenge, they're inspired, they made these healthy changes, and as soon it's over, there's a loss of momentum," says Chelsea Gentry Polanco, lead Flybarre instructor at Flywheel Sports and a coach during a recent two-week challenge the brand hosted. "As soon as it's over, you lose this accountability." But that doesn't mean all of the hard work you've put in has to go to waste. "I think it's important to realize that, within your own self, you have the capacity to keep that momentum going," says Gentry Polanco. Her secret? Putting a lot of the same factors that kept you so motivated during the challenge to work in your everyday life. Here's how:

1. Schedule Your Workouts Ahead of Time
When you're doing a fitness challenge, you know you're going to have to incorporate specific sweat sessions or exercises into your routine—so you end up planning out when exactly you'll do them. But you don't need to be mid-challenge to use this tactic. "You can apply that skill to your life so it's not just for a challenge," says Gentry Polanco.

RELATED: Lose Belly Fat—For Good

2. Don't Fall Into the All-or-Nothing Mentality
If for some reason you miss a workout or exercise during a challenge—or stick to your pre-planned routine but feel kind of blah about your performance on a particular day—you don't just abandon the program altogether. You get back on track the next day. Similarly, while it's great to make a game plan for yourself (see above), you shouldn't beat yourself up if you don't follow it to a tee. "Everyone struggles with being able to make time for all of the things life throws at you," says Gentry Polanco. "Just because you don't take four classes doesn't meant that the two you take can't be really important or you can't find other ways in your lifestyle to be active." Remember: It's about long-term consistency, not perfection.

RELATED: 8 Random Things Everyone Thinks During a Group Fitness Class

3. Create a Fit Community for Yourself
One of the most amazing things about fitness challenges is that you have other people doing them with you, so you get to be part of a sweat-loving group, whether it's virtual or in person. Finding a way to keep up that sense of companionship after you crush your challenge will help you keep your head in the fitness game. "Inviting friends to come join you in your workout builds accountability and also inspires them," says Gentry Polanco. Can't convince any of your buds to tag along with you to the gym? Try checking out a site like Meetup.com to find other fit-minded people near you. Or at the very least, make some small talk with people you run into on the mat or near the elliptical. "You might not exchange phone numbers, but you definitely can exchange that camaraderie and excitement to be working out together," says Gentry Polanco. As an added bonus, you'll have people to laugh at inside exercise-related jokes with. We personally can't stop cracking up over this video about what it would be like if everyone talked like fitness instructors:

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Bottom line? Maintaining your results after a fitness challenge is all about being in the right mindset. A fitness challenge may be for two weeks or two months, but leading a fit and healthy lifestyle is forever. "A challenge gives you that starting point," says Gentry Polanco. "It gives you accountability and specific targets, but it's important not to just look at those changes as temporary. ... Give yourself permission to make it a part of your life."

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