New Year’s Resolution to get healthier gone awry? Or maybe you are struggling with ramping up your work out? We maybe know why.
Most of us know we need to start–or increase–our fitness efforts, but many of us have difficulties getting going, despite the known rewards. In addition to weight management, exercise improves your mood, increases energy, reduces stress, helps you sleep better, boosts self-esteem, supports hormonal balance and reduces risks of chronic diseases and conditions including heart attacks, osteoporosis and breast cancer. So why don’t we do it? This question is best answered with solutions rather than excuses. So, heed these seven tips for creating the best exercise plan for you.
Tip #1: Set a Goal and Measure Your Progress
Knowing what you are working toward will increase your effectiveness. As in everything else, what is measured and monitored gets done. Begin by setting an overall goal for your fitness plan. Be clear on what you want, for example, losing 25 pounds, training for a 10K or building enough endurance to be able to be comfortably active with your grandkids. The more specific you can be, the better. If your goal is to get fitter define what that means to you.
Tip #2: Know Yourself and Leverage Your Strengths and Passions
We all have different times of day when we feel most energetic and creative: Don’t resist your natural patterns. If you are forced to adopt new body rhythm patterns, you can do so over time, but it will take a little extra effort, so it may be harder to stick with. Follow your passions to keep exercising from feeling like a chore. Go back to things you loved as a child like bike riding or tennis, or take up a new activity you have always wanted to try like golf or rowing. If you love watching Dancing with the Stars, try a ballroom dance or Zumba class.
Tip #3: A Little Help from Your Friends
Studies show that people who join the gym with a buddy stick with their fitness efforts longer. It may be the accountability factor or the social factor, or most likely, both. If you decide to work out on your own–at a gym, in your home, or outside–try to engage a partner or friend to either join you or to hold you accountable. For example, if you join a gym, get a friend to join too; while you may not work out “together,” you can plan to go several times a week at the same time. If you decide to walk your neighborhood after work, find someone to join you. If you are using an exercise machine in your house and there is no way for someone to participate along with you, get creative. Find someone else that’s doing the same routine, and meet once a week to compare progress!
Tip #4: Schedule Your Workout
Life gets crazy at times and often the first thing to suffer is our workout time. Sometimes we feel selfish “indulging” in time for ourselves when there is so much else to do. Other times, people demand we prioritize other things. But taking care of yourself by working out ensures you will be around a lot longer to take care of others. And after you work out, release stress and improve your mood, you will be a better partner, parent or friend. So don’t let the workout slide. Schedule your workout just as you would a meeting or a dentist appointment. Mark the time in your calendar in ink and consider it unchangeable. If you think about everything you have to do in a day, there really is very little if anything more important than taking a little time to get or stay healthy. And you’ll feel so much better! Let it be known that you are unreachable during that time; you’ll find the world will still be waiting for you when you are done.
Tip #5: Find Your Motivation
When you are working out and feeling like you want to stop, or you are avoiding beginning your exercise, try to remember your initial goal and motivation for starting your fitness program. The more you focus clearly on that outcome, see it in your mind and feel how good it will feel to achieve that and be living that life, the easier it will be to find the strength to continue. Also remembering how good you feel when you’re done can help get you going. But there will be days even when that is not enough. When you are working out, it will be easier to push to new levels if you also draw on other motivation techniques. Find what works for you, whether it is just inspiring music, a bet with yourself or creating scenarios to encourage you to continue on.
Tip #6: Pace Yourself and Be Realistic
We often get excited upon starting a new plan and take on too much too soon. You didn’t gain that weight overnight: In most cases it was small choices each day that built up over time. An extra 500 calories a day would net 3500 extra calories per week or a gain of about 50 pounds in a year, assuming no change in exercise. You can’t lose more than a pound or two a week safely and keep it off long term. If you keep your food habits the same, to lose a pound a week, you’ll need to burn 500 extra calories a day. But physically, you can’t run an hour the first time out, nor can you serve and volley after your first tennis lesson. It takes time, but that’s OK. Making the commitment and sticking with it is what matters.
Tip #7: Change is Good
We tend to find something that works and stick with it. And while that’s good, our bodies quickly adapt to what we do regularly. Throwing something new at your body by varying your workout has many benefits physically, including helping you get stronger, faster and fitter. But it’s also good for the soul. Trying new things and being a little uncomfortable challenges us. Succeeding at them helps us grow, and builds confidence and self-esteem. Getting out of a training rut and mixing it up will keep you from burning out and will make your training fresh and new. And most of all, it keeps working out fun! And if it’s fun, you’ll stick with it longer.
Article excerpted from original by Inger Pols, New England Health Advisory