The new year seems to bring with it endless possibilities. You vow to begin and stick with an exercise plan, and you’re extremely motivated…for now. By the end of January, however, you’re probably ready to throw in the towel if you haven’t already. Sound familiar?
Many people repeat this scenario year after year, and it’s not because they don’t have good intentions. The problem is that we live in an on-demand society. When we don’t see improvement quickly, it’s difficult to stay motivated.
Contrary to what you may see on TV or read on the Internet, there are no shortcuts to fitness, although there are some ways to keep on track and make this year the one you get in shape.
- Be realistic and set attainable goals. Saying that you’re going to exercise seven days a week when you haven’t exercised in 20 years is hardly a feasible goal. Aim for shorter sessions four to five days a week, or longer sessions three days a week, depending on your schedule. Start slowly and progress when you feel that a weight or exercise is easy enough for you to feel comfortable increasing weight, time or distance.
- Make it convenient. If you’re usually exhausted after work, it’s going to be easier to use that as an excuse to skip an exercise session, so try exercising in the morning. If you’re time pressed, you’re not going to drive to the gym or a class, so you may want to try walking or using a DVD. If you have only 20 minutes a day to exercise, then use that 20 minutes. You may think that it’s not worth the effort, but 20 minutes is better than no exercise, and you may actually find that you can find more time in the future.
- Find exercise that is enjoyable. If you hate doing something, there’s no way that you’re going to stick with it. Why should you do something that you hate, anyway? People often ask me what I believe to be the best exercise, and I tell them that it’s the one that they will do. There are tons of options. Classes are a fun way to introduce you to exercise. You may prefer gentle, calming yoga or the fun party-like atmosphere of Zumba. There are even combo classes like Piloxing. (Pilates, boxing and dance). Learn about fitness classes offered at Good Shepherd here .
- Change your routine. If you’re bored with an exercise, chances are that your body is too. Your body acclimates to an exercise within six to eight weeks, which means that in order to keep making progress, you have to change things by increasing your time or speed, or by trying a different modality of exercise. Track your progress. In order to see what works and what doesn’t work for you, and to see improvement, it’s helpful to keep a log of your workouts. It also helps you to be consistent.
- Take a break. There are going to be days when you just don’t feel like exercising. Use that time to give your body a rest and recover from your workouts. In order to decrease the chance of injury, it is just as important to rest as it is to be consistent with exercise.
- Don’t rely on exercise alone for weight loss. Losing weight, one of the most common goals in the new year, does not happen by exercise alone. Exercise builds muscle and trains your body to burn fat more efficiently, but you still need to consume fewer calories than you’re using in order to lose pounds.
- Be your own best friend. Exercise helps with weight loss and control, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, decreasing depression, preventing cardiac disease and improving stress management, among other benefits. Remember not to be too critical of yourself; you should be proud of having the courage to start an exercise program.
Follow these tips and hopefully you’ll be getting in the best shape of your life in 2012. Happy New Year!