It seems we were setting resolutions only a few short weeks ago, but as March quickly approaches it’s been almost two months since New Year’s Day. If you set fitness or health related goals for 2012, hopefully you’ve stuck with it so far and are reaping the benefits! If you haven’t or you’re starting to lose steam, that’s ok. Tomorrow is a new day, and you can use your experiences to figure out what worked well for you and what needs tweaking in your program. Here are some tips to help keep you motivated and get back on track to reaching your goals!
- Mix it up: Fitness programs often fail because participants do the same workout routine every time they go to the gym. Not only does it become boring but your body becomes more efficient at the movements it’s performing and you end up burning less calories than when you first began. If you use the treadmill every time, try an elliptical, stair climber, or a rower. Mixing in intervals is an engaging way to increase the intensity and there are endless ways in which you can modify the work and recovery periods to change the workout.
Progression is key in resistance training. Advance the exercises to more difficult ones (provided you’ve mastered the basics) and keep increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting. Even small amounts and changes can add up to big results.
- Measure your progress: Peter Drucker said “what gets measured, gets managed.” A powerful statement. Looking at yourself in the mirror everyday you might not see the changes that are happening to your body. Depending on your goal, keeping track of measurements such as body weight, body fat percent, circumferences, or maximal weight lifted can be extremely motivating once you see the numbers start to change.
If your goal was to exercise to feel better, ask yourself what that really means to you. Does that mean more energy, enhanced endurance, improved sleep, or fitting into your clothes better? Whatever it might be, find a way to measure it to get a good idea of what works for you. For example, at the end of each day rate how energized you felt on a scale of 1-10 to make your progress more objective.
- Remind yourself why you’re doing it: Do whatever it takes to remind yourself on a daily basis of the importance of your goal. Write out your goal several times and tape it to different objects around your house or in the car. List the reasons behind your goal too and tape those to the fridge or save them as your desktop background if you use your computer frequently. Dig deep to find compelling reasons that will help you thwart excuses. Do you really want to lose 20 pounds so that you can fit into your high school jeans or is it something more than that? These little reminders can help you make smart choices that lead to long term gratification over short term convenience or satisfaction.
- Don’t let roadblocks stop you: Sure, you probably got sick over the winter which challenged your consistency or went on vacation and didn’t exercise as usual. These are normal parts of life so don’t see them as reasons to quit or start again next year. Your body will thank you if you can get back into the swing of things as soon as possible! Don’t beat yourself up for missing a few days or weeks even, just do what you can the next day. Something is always better than nothing!
Also, keeping a diet and exercise journal can really help to identify your most common roadblocks. It’s great to be aware of these because you can plan around them next time or think of alternatives. For example, maybe you notice that each time you go home after work to change into your workout clothes you don’t make it to the gym. As an alternative, you could pack your gear the night before and head straight to the fitness center.
- Seek professional guidance: When you’re not sure what exercises you should be doing, how many sets vs. repetitions, or if you’re even doing the exercises correctly it’s a great time to hire a qualified personal trainer to help educate you and evaluate your routine. In a few short sessions they can have you ready to go on an effective and successful fitness program. If that’s not an option you could also enlist in a program like we offer at the LVO YMCA called Activtrax. It takes the personal information you input and will give you a general fitness routine. You can even access it online and use their software to track your workouts.
Now let me ask you! For those of you that exercise regularly, what tips do you have that keep you motivated and consistent with your fitness routine?
In good health,
Ryan Healy, BS, NSCA-CSCS