Want to be in the top 20 percent of women? Just don't drop off in February. If you hang in there, you're far more likely to achieve your health goals for the whole year.
As much as I admire the female species, I am neither a woman nor a health expert. So it's a bit amusing to be asked to write an Insights post for POPSUGAR. Here's my two cents.
Despite my apparent lack of qualifications, what I do have is data from our iPhone app, Everest, which, since launching last January, has already helped hundreds of thousands of people capture their journey and receive encouragement as they pursue personal goals of various kinds.
Let's begin with this: the majority of our users, between 55 and 60 percent, are women! Depending on how you spin that fun fact, you might conclude that women are more interested in self-improvement than men, which, at least anecdotally, rings true and actually explains quite a lot. Sorry, guys. Way to go, ladies.
Of those women, however, a huge percentage of them drop off in February. In our first year, we retained about 42 percent of our January cohort after 30 days. In other words, about 58 percent dropped off some time in early-to-mid-February.
Our first response was, "Oh no, that's our fault! Let's make the product better so that they stay!" That's still the plan, of course, but unfortunately, it's not just us — this is true across the entire industry. Gyms, for example, report that over 80 percent of their customers drop off by the second week in February.
As this realization has dawned on us, we've shifted our focus as an organization from January to February. February is now the most important month of the year for us. In January, there's change and progress. But in February, the momentum slows, and things go back to normal. That is the problem. If we can reverse this, it will change the trajectory of the whole year. If, somehow, we can inspire people to stick with it through February, then we'll have defeated the dragon.
The irony of February's importance is not lost on us. February? It's such an ordinary month. It's the Tuesday of the year, if you will. Perhaps the only thing more ordinary than that might be the second Tuesday of February. That's like the Tuesday of the Tuesday of the Tuesday of the year.
So we decided that we'd make it special. We declared Feb. 11, 2014, to be the very first Extraordinary Day in history. Here's the message we shared to commemorate the occasion:
In honor of the ordinary people who, on this ordinary day, decided to follow through on the extraordinary promises they made to themselves on New Year's Day. In so doing, they themselves became extraordinary.
If you'd like to read our full post about it, it's here.
OK, that's WHY sticking through February's important. But, HOW?
- Start simple, start small
a. When most people start a fitness program, they're excited, so they become overly ambitious. Instead of starting with simple and achievable goals, they run before they can crawl: let's run a marathon by Feb. 28! Then they train too hard, which is hard to sustain, so they lose steam. It's much easier
if you start with the smallest step possible, accomplish it, and celebrate! Build the momentum.
2. Make it enjoyable, fun, pleasurable
a. One of our mottos is, "the only workout we're doing is the one you look forward to," because if you associate workouts with pain or with boredom, you're less likely to sustain them. But if you make the activity itself a joy and think of it like a child thinks about recess in grade school, then you'll make it a permanent part of your routine.
3. Find deeper meaning
a. Almost everyone starts a workout plan for either one of two reasons: vanity or pain. They've come to a place in their life where they say "I need to change." Those reasons are good, because they get you going, but they can't sustain you, so you have to help people find deeper meaning. That can come from connecting with other people while they work out, connecting with nature, or some other intrinsic motivation.
If you're interested in putting these steps into practice, an easy place to start is to accept one of the awesome step-by-step health challenges on Everest from our partner Naked Juice: http://everest.com/nakedjuice.
Remember: February's the month that counts. Keep going! Soon it will be March, it will be Spring, and everything will be coming up roses.