Do’s and Don’ts of Rewarding Success

Go For Gold!

From a young age, you are rewarded with success. You get stickers for potty training, trophies when your team wins, and you get to go out for ice cream if you do well on a test. Rewards are often used to enforce good behavior. This can directly apply to fitness. You can reward yourself for good lifestyle habits that will get you to your goal. It is a great way to keep motivation high, as long as you avoid the common mistakes that are made with rewards. Here are 5 “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of rewarding your fitness success.


Set weekly, monthly, and biannual goals. You can increase motivation for the longer goals by making your biannual rewards larger and even more desirable than the weekly reward. Setting goals in smaller increments helps to keep motivation up because it gives you something specific to achieve every week, instead of one end goal somewhere in the future.


Reward success with food. This will only enforce the habits that you are trying to break. You’ve probably heard of a “cheat day”. Cheat days are just an excuse to not follow your plan for a day. You can stay on track all week and then, in one cheat day, ruin your entire week’s progress by eating too many calories. This is why you should NOT reward your good behavior with the very habit that you are working on breaking.


Be specific. Just as you need to be specific with your plan to get to your goal, a specific reward will give you something to look forward to. Instead of saying, “I will reward myself with something nice for eating my calorie number everyday,” say, “I will reward myself with a facial for eating my calorie number everyday this week.”


Set goals that you know you will not achieve. Your body can only burn so many calories in a day. In order to lose 10 pounds in one month, you would need to lose 2.5 pounds per week. This would mean a calorie deficit of 8,750 each week, or 1,250 per day. This means that you would need to eat 1,250 calories less than you’re burning every day. An average female only burns about 1,800 calories per day. So, in order to lose 10 pounds in one month, the average female would have to consume 550 calories per day. This is absolutely unrealistic and unhealthy. Consult a professional to learn what is realistic for your timeline when goal setting.


Choose rewards that you genuinely want. I know that this sounds like a give in, but if your reward is something that will bring you joy, it will help keep you motivated to keep going. Rewards that are only mildly rewarding, may lose their appeal as your motivation starts to dwindle. For example, the more your cravings increase when you are losing weight, the less valuable that manicure may seem. You may become more inclined to give in to the craving and put off your reward if it isn’t something that you truly desire.

Rewarding Your Progress

Rewarding success in a fitness program is an excellent way to encourage adherence to the program. When you have been working so hard day in and day out to follow your plan, it is nice to reward your progress. Just make sure that you follow these key rules. DO set goals in increments, be specific, and choose rewards that you genuinely want. Don’t reward success with food, or set goals that are unrealistic.


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