As Peloton fans can attest, the mantra to live by is "progress not perfection." Take a cue from the brand's head instructor and see how her habit-tracking ideas can help you inch your way toward success.
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Credit: Peloton

During a recent family trip to the Bahamas, ​​Robin Arzón, head instructor and vice president of fitness programming at Peloton, says she had a moment of clarity — one that illustrated the problem with New Year's resolutions and goals as she sees it. While working out with her sister, she noticed a set of monkey bars, she explains. "When you're on the monkey bars, you're reaching slightly for that next rung," she says. "You're not launching yourself from the first one [only to] land your face in the sand."

It's this kind of "new year, new you" pressure that has so many people catapulting themselves into new fitness routines, diet changes, and lifestyle shifts, often all at once — aka trying to transverse the entire set of monkey bars in one big leap. While Arzón wears many hats herself — an ultramarathoner, author, and new mom — she says she's not an advocate for tackling too many goals at the same time. "Sweeping change is absolutely possible," she says. "I've witnessed it. I've done it, but it's a lot harder. Break down that figurative reach of the monkey bars into steps so that it's challenging, but it doesn't feel like you're launching yourself off a cliff." (Related: Robin Arzón Shares How a Near-Death Experience Inspired Her to Become a Trainer)

Still, this doesn't mean personal development or self-work isn't worth your effort. It's just a matter of utilizing a few key strategies that help you manage your expectations and outcomes — and it all comes back to habit tracking, says Arzón.

Would You Benefit from a Habit Tracker?

"Habit tracking is defining what your finish line looks like and then creating markers and processes along the way to do check-ins," she says. "And that can be anything from a literal finish line to [checking in] on how your self-care routine or your workout routine is going."

Arzón says she finds that many people who are successful with habit tracking have two schools of thought in common. First is the idea to place "consistency over intensity," which basically means that "little-by-little amounts to a lot," she says. "It matters more what you're willing to do 10,000 times than what you're willing to do once or twice. I would rather someone take small, iterative steps than try to make sweeping changes, and I think that that's where [people] get tripped up. And consistency begets consistency — once you start feeling that self-generated momentum, that's a direct way of getting unstuck and taking back the narrative."

Second, successful habit tracking often includes a willingness to interrogate, examine, and navigate obstacles, says Arzón. "The second really crucial piece is analyzing the roadblocks that are keeping you from consistency when you notice yourself falling off," she says. "You have to have honest conversations with yourself."

When it comes to actually keeping track of her healthy habits, Arzón prefers to do things old-school. "I like putting pen to paper; I'm a big journal person," she says. "I journal most mornings — sometimes just a brain dump for two minutes. But that's my gut-check. I have one for weight training where I analyze how I'm feeling, what I want to do, where I want to go, on a weekly or monthly basis. And then I have one for mental health. Like, 'how am I speaking to myself? What stories am I telling? How am I dreaming?' I do think the process of journaling and then sometimes being able to revisit where you were at a given point in time is helpful." (Related: The Benefits of Journaling and How to Get the Most Out of Your Practice)

Arzón says she sometimes jots down thoughts in the Notes app on her phone, as well. And while she uses an Apple Watch to track fitness metrics and health stats, she's been outspoken in the past about the potential pitfalls of obsessing over numbers. "I like to focus on 'process goals' rather than 'outcome goals,'" says Arzón. "Process goals keep things in the realm of what you can dictate and what you can control. I can control my commitment. I can control my effort."

She also emphasizes the importance of how you frame your goals and habits. "Watch your words and how you're characterizing not only the finish line but also the journey to get there," says Arzón. "I don't think that a number on the scale is inherently a bad thing, but what story are you telling around that number? A distance for a marathon is not inherently a bad thing, but what does the process look like? What story are you telling around that number? Metrics are important, data points help — but they should be bolstering you to feel that forward momentum rather than feeling like you're under the weight of somebody else's definition of success."

Feeling re-energized to take another crack at your 2022 hopes and dreams — even if that's just to feel more at peace with whatever this year brings? Here, Arzón shares some of her other tried-and-true tips for successful habit tracking that can be applied to any goal.

Robin Arzón's Habit-Tracking Ideas and Best Practices

Get specific and intentional.

Goals are great, but Arzón says the magic is in the details. "I love using a tracker for how many times you showed up to [something]" she says. "What was the goal? Was it three workouts a week? Was it two yoga classes a week plus three rides? Get specific and prescriptive — that's going to be more useful than [setting a goal of] 'getting fit.'" Then take it to the next level to target any barriers preventing you from reaching those micro-goals. "Be honest with yourself about where you're going to need to pick it up," says Arzón.

Put your goals in plain sight.

Whether you type them on your phone, write them on the calendar, or scribble them in lipstick across the bathroom mirror, your intentions should be clear and easily seen. That way, your habits will always be at the forefront of your mind. "You have the time for what you make time for," says Arzón. "So schedule it, make your goals visible — put something in your phone or where you grab your toothbrush." (A vision board, which is something Arzón's teammate Kendall Toole knows well, is another great way to keep your goals front and center.)

Invest time now to save time later.

While putting in consistent work naturally requires some sacrifices, you don't have to spend a ton of time on your goals to have a big payoff, says Arzón. "When we get a delivery of produce, I try my darndest to immediately put it away, set it up, clean some things, cut some stuff, and then it's there [to use]," she says. "I never want to do that, but usually it takes less than 10 minutes — we're not talking about two hours of food prep. But if I take those extra 10 minutes, I'm setting myself up to save potentially hours during that week." So, consider how you're investing now for your future self, she adds.

Stack new habits onto existing, healthy ones.

Arzón says she recently made a simple, "two-second" modification to an already established healthy morning routine just by adding AG1 by Athletic Greens (Buy It, $99, athleticgreens.com), a powder supplement with 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole-food nutrients, to her breakfast smoothie. (FTR, Arzón is a spokesperson and investor in the nutrition supplement brand.) "It's one of those things that [once] it becomes a staple, you'll know when it's missing," she says. "It's habit stacking — I knew I was already making a smoothie every morning, so I was like, 'okay, I'm going to add [AG1], so I [only] have to worry about putting in X amount of [other] ingredients."

This habit-tweaking mentality is how she integrates other positive behaviors into her life, too. "I'll use my HyperIce products when I'm doing something else," she says. "Recently, it's been when I'm feeding my daughter dinner; I'll use [the Hypervolt (Buy It, $249, amazon.com)] on my legs. I'm trying to be realistic with the pockets of time that already exist and how I can layer something on rather than adding something additional to my day or my routine."

Prioritize rest and recovery.

Anyone who's taken one of Arzón's brutal Tabata classes on Peloton knows she loves breaking a sweat, but she's also a big believer in getting adequate physical and mental rest. "You can only hustle as hard as you're willing to give your body an ability to recover," she says. "I partnered with AG1 and Hyperice because I take [recovery] super seriously. It takes confidence to take a rest day." Proper rest is just as important to your overall training regimen as your workouts, not to mention necessary for your mental health and wellbeing, says Arzón.

"I challenge folks to listen to their bodies and bend so they don't break," she explains. "You have to listen to yourself for long enough to know what your body actually needs." What's more, the physical adaptations you're likely after can happen only when you give your muscles the necessary time to heal and come back stronger, she explains. "Rest days are a good thing," says Arzón. "You get stronger after rest days."

Know when to step back — and when to push forward.

"It's important to acknowledge that sometimes you need to pivot," says Arzón. "And sometimes that includes changing your mind about a goal or an objective, the process to get to that objective, or the timeline for that objective. Pivoting with a purpose is different than quitting." It all comes down to having another honest conversation with yourself. Ask yourself, "is it a pivot or is it you simply not showing up for yourself and then calling it something more palatable?" says Arzón. "That nuance really does matter."