How to keep the challenge going once the challenge ends

Completing any length challenge, whether it be 8 or 12 weeks, can be a great way to keep you focused on improving your exercise or dietary habits. The group support adds significantly to motivation and you have a set time frame to achieve your goals. But what happens when you lose the 4kg of fat mass, improve fitness, break your running time or lose that 5cm around your belly? How do you keep the fire to maintain these habits after the challenge is done?

The first step is setting yourself new goals now the challenge is coming to an end. New goals require intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. So rather than an external reward or recognition such as losing fat mass (extrinsic) you may now be more inclined to perform an activity because it you enjoy it (intrinsic) or it’s become habitual. Performing an exercise that you enjoy will make it more likely that you will continue to exercise once the challenge has ended. That is why it is important to find activities that you enjoy during the challenge that you may not have tried before. Use the challenge to drive intrinsic motivation to continue exercising.

One of the benefits of completing a challenge is the support network you develop during the challenge period. Having an exercise buddy to help you maintain your motivation once the challenge is over is also very important. You may be less likely to stop your activity as you don’t want to let your buddy down by missing a session and it’s a two-way street.

A challenge will also help you determine which parts of the program, be it the exercise or dietary component, was easiest to integrate into your routine. Even if you are unable to continue every habit changed in the challenge, you can at least try to maintain two or three positive changes.

Challenges can be a great way to help you try new things and change negative habits. Use the challenge as a starting point to set up long term healthier habits that will keep your motivational fire burning for longer!

Timothy Hanson  AEP ESSA
Exercise Physiologist

References

Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Phil Caruso (2016) Building Intrinsic Motivation – Why the ‘Why’ is so important in an exercise plan. Exercise Right https://exerciseright.com.au/building-intrinsic-motivation-why-the-why-is-so-important-in-an-exercise-plan/

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