Exercising regularly is surely one of the most commonly made New Year's resolutions. And surely one of the most commonly broken..... but what happens when its now almost June and all those resolutions went out the window and spring is upon us and you aren't where you wanted or thought you would be. You had every intention to get that body by summer or lose a few to fit back into summer clothes... whatever your reason, here you are and those goals haven't been met.
First, I am going to start by saying you need to let those "should have" and/or beat yourself up thoughts go and focus on the NOW. We can't control what we haven't done in the past 4 or so months, so stop dwelling in it and move forward. At the same time though, don't just sit there and say "screw it" either.
Everybody who has fitness and or weight loss goals have to start somewhere, it doesn't matter what time of year you start as long as you do it. If you've resolved and failed, ad resolved and failed again to start working out consistently or get on plan eating healthily, it can be a discouraging cycle.
Fitness or just a healthier lifestyle doesn't have to be an impossible task, you just need the right approach and some key tools to help you along the way.
1. DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY DOING!
When it come to exercise, people tend to think that for it to work, it has to be unpleasant. They think exercise is like eating brussels sprouts; you may not like the taste, but you've got to get them down because they are good for you. Eventually, your dislike for their chose regimen overpowers your will, and you stop working out altogether. Now don't get me wrong here or misunderstand me.... working out will involve some discomfort, and some exercises are more or less effective than others, but ALL exercise is good for you, any exercise is better than none, and if you choose the right form of it--the right form for you--it can in fact hurt so good and be a source of great pleasure.
Lots of people will say you should weight lift, you should do cross-fit, you should run. These people mean well. They likely enjoy those activities and have gotten results from them and want you to experience the same. BUT if you don't like what they think you "should" be doing, you're not going to do it. Instead of "should-ing" on yourself by exercising the way some person told you to, find something that YOU enjoy doing. It might take a little experimentation and time but worth it. Maybe try something that is out of your comfort zone, you might surprise yourself. Maybe you like to dance, but then you're horrible at it and afraid of what others might think.... get out of your box and try it. You might surprise yourself. Maybe you always wanted to weight train, but don't know anything about how, then hire a Personal Training and learn. Maybe you like surfing but don't live near a beach... guess what there are classes right here in Michigan that has surfboard fitness classes. There are literately classes or Trainers for every type of fitness that you might enjoy.
Bottom line: if you want to make exercise a habit, start off by picking an activity you enjoy. If you do that, you'll be 90% there to becoming a person who exercises religiously.
2. PUT YOUR TRAINING SCHEDULE ON YOUR CALENDAR!
Besides picking an activity that they don’t enjoy doing, the other thing that keeps people from regularly exercising is not setting aside time for it on their calendar. For these folks, exercise is one of those things that they’ll get to . . . if they have time for it. But, of course, they never do, because something else always comes up.
If you want time to exercise, you have to make time for it. And the best way to do that is to schedule your workouts on your calendar and treat them like doctor’s appointments. Just as you’d tell someone you were busy if they wanted to do something at the same time you were scheduled to see a doc, you’re going to inform people you’re busy when they ask you to do something during your workout “appointment.”
3. JUST GET MOVING, EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT!
The hardest part of working out for a lot of folks is simply getting started. Often times, you just don't feel like exercising. You don't feel like getting out of bed or off the couch. You don't feel like leaving the house. The pull is strong.
Fortunately, one of the great truisms of life, is that if you take action without feeling like it, the feelings will follow. If you don't feel like working out, but you get after it anyway, you'll almost always get into the flow and start to enjoy it.
Of course, this sets up a catch-22: you'll feel like working out if you start working out, but how do you start if you don't feel like it?
Try making a deal with yourself. Decide that all you have to do is go the gym and work out for 10 minutes; if after 10 minutes you don't want to do anymore, then you can go home. It's an easy deal to commit to. Of course, what happens 9x out of 10 is that once you're there, and moving your body, you get into an exercise-positive mindset and want to continue on.
4. AIM FOR CONSISTENCY
A key to making something a habit is putting together a chain of successes, which is, at least at first, rarely or never broken. To lay down an new groove in your life, you've got to etch away at it without interruption.
So always err on the side of doing something, even when circumstances prevent you from doing a "perfect" workout. I get asked this question a lot...what do I do if I don't have time for what is considered a full workout? You don't have to be in the gym for 60-90 minutes to get results or reap the benefits. Anything is better than nothing. Feeling just a little sick? Still work out, but go a little easier. Have a crazy busy day? Still workout, but make it a little shorter. Traveling? Still work out, even if you have to improvise with the equipment available or lack there of. Sluggish and grouchy and can't get into the mode to exercise? Still move, however slowly, through your planned workout.
Even if 9 times out of 10 when you start a workout without feeling like it, you end up getting into it, there's still that one time where you don't. Try to at least go through the motions anyway. Sometimes you might surprise yourself.
While I will say, of course, listen to your body, and be sure you're recovering correctly, but also don't take an all-or-nothing approach to your workouts. When conditions aren't perfect, it's better to continue the habit and do something, than to decide it's all a wash and do nothing at all.
5. EXERCISE FOR SOMETHING
Motivation research shows that when we have a clear purpose for a task, we're more likely to do that task regularly. So have a why for your workouts. It could be something high-minded like being ready for emergencies or living a long time for your kids and/or grand-kids, but it could also be something vain like just wanting to look good with your shirt off. Whatever it is, write it down and refer to it every single day. When you don't feel like going to the gym, read your purpose to remind yourself of why you're trying to exercise regularly.
For me, competitions served as a big motivator for training. Signing up for a barbell meet gave me something very concrete and date-specific to train for, and knowing that I will be performing lifts in front of lots of people lit a fire up my butt to keep me training. Since then, my purpose has changed, and for a lot of you competitions aren't what you're aiming for, but your purpose might start out as one thing and change over time. Maybe what you thought in the beginning of your training was to just get a six pack abs, but then morphed into maybe more of a mental health "I need this to survive" frame of mind. Whatever you want to work towards, find it and don't give up. Maybe you want to run a 5k or an obstacle race a few months from now. Your goal might not be to win the race, but just not look like you just walked off the street.
6. GET ACCOUNTABILITY
Lastly I will say this.....Accountability in ALL aspects of health is one of the most important thing you can do. This not only goes for exercise but for any habit you are trying to change and break.
In all my years in this industry, those who have someone to count on for accountability are FAR more successful than those trying to do it on their own. This could be a Personal Trainer, or it could be just a friend. I am telling you its a game changer.
Getting a personal trainer was that game changer for me and my training. Butch, my mentor, changed my life. Even as a Personal Trainer myself, I needed him. The Feedback on my lifts, that accountability factor played a huge role in my compliance with the program I was following. I never wanted to let him down by wussing out on a session.
If you want to take the accountability up a level, then put some stakes on the line. Pay for a Trainer is one way to do this. Knowing you're putting your money in a metaphorical paper shredder every time you miss a session can motivate you not to miss a workout.
Or, set up a wager with a friend that says if you miss more than two workouts in a row, you have to pay him/her in some form you agree upon. The amount needs to be large enough so that it hurts if you fail to meet your end of the bargain.
Making exercise a habit doesn't need to be hard. Find something you enjoy, plan for it, prioritize it and point it towards a purpose. Soon you will find yourself become the kind of person who finds it difficult NOT to exercise.