Jump-start your fitness program today

The new year, when everyone makes goals they attempt to keep, especially in fitness, is always a common fitness discussion. However, do not wait for a specific time of year – get started anytime. Maybe you already have a fitness program, but have a difficult time sticking with it. Have you ever started a fitness program and then quit? If you answered yes, you’re not alone.

Many people start programs and then stop when they get too sore, too bored, or results come too slowly. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, the following tips can help keep you motivated.

Set Goals
Start with simple yet realistic goals and then progress to longer-range goals. If you are striving to win Mr. or Ms. Olympia you will not do it in a year. You must make your goals achievable – it’s easy to get frustrated and give up if your goals are too ambitious. For a beginner, a short-term goal might be to walk five minutes once or twice a day to establish a comfortable tolerance level. The intermediate goal could be to gradually work up to 20 minutes three or four times a week. A long-term goal might be to complete a 10-kilometer (10K) race after you complete 12 weeks of training.

If you want to simply maintain at the beginning level, you need to exercise 30 minutes per day 6 days per week. However, if you want to lose weight, you need to double that amount to 60 minutes per day.

Start Slowly
Common mistakes are starting a fitness program and doing to much aerobic workout or too heavy a weight load when lifting weights, i.e., too high an intensity and trying to progress too quickly. It is often not until the next day that you discover you’ve overdone it, and the resulting extreme soreness and stiffness can be very discouraging and is one of the main reasons many new fitness buffs simply quit the program. It is better to progress slowly than to push too hard and be forced to abandon your program because of pain or injury.

Choose Activities to Fit you Lifestyle
Are you a loner or a groupie, i.e., do you prefer to exercise alone or in groups? If you prefer solitude, walking or biking may be more to your liking. You might also enjoy noncompetitive activities such as in-line skating or working out at a health club listening to your headsets. If group activities appeal to you, consider enrolling in an kickboxing, yoga, aerobic dance or water aerobics class, or joining a league or team for volleyball or softball. Walk or bike with a group of friends.

Add Variety
Constantly vary your activities to prevent boredom. For example, try alternating walking and bicycling with swimming or a low-impact aerobic class. On days when the weather is pleasant, do your flexibility or stretching exercises outside or jog around the park. Consider joining a health club to broaden your access to different forms of exercise and meet new people with similar interests.

Have Fun
You will be much more likely to stick with an exercise program if you having fun. Thus, it is important to choose exercises you like to do. If you find you are not enjoying your workout, try something different. Exercise should not be drudgery.

Fit Exercise into Your Day
If it seems hard to find time to exercise, look for opportunities throughout your day to slip in some physical activity. Do some pushups or in-place squats several times per day at your desk. Go for a walk during lunch or while you may be waiting to pick a friend or child up from a lesson. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Have a walking lunch with a friend. Pedal a stationary bike while you watch TV at night. There is no end to possibilities. Be creative.

Mind Your Health
Many people have specific problems that make certain exercises difficult to either do or enjoy. People with chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, or high blood pressure can benefit from regular exercise. Have you started a fitness program because your doctor recommended it? Are you thinking about dropping out? If you are, make a list of all the benefits you’ll gain by continuing your fitness program and the risks of dropping out. You will likely find yourself motivated. Also, research has proven that almost all chronic conditions are improved by exercise. However, please consult with you physician before beginning an exercise program.

Seek Support
Tell all your friends what you are doing and enlist their help. Exercise with a friend or make new friends who like to exercise by joining a group or taking a class at your local gym or health club. Invite a friend or co-worker to join you when you exercise. Try to get others involved with you and you will have your own support group.

Track Your Progress
Test yourself constantly, just as you would if you were taking a class of any kind at school or college. Assess your fitness level at regular intervals. How fast did you run that last timed mile? Can you improve the time? You should record what you did each time you exercise, how long you did it, and how you felt during and after your exercise. Recording your efforts will help you achieve your goals and reminds you that you are making progress.

Reward Yourself
Work on developing an internal reward that comes from feelings of accomplishment, self-esteem and control of your own behavior. Doing so will help you achieve a better self discipline. After an exercise session, take a few minutes to sit down and relax. Reflect on what you have just accomplished. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise.

External rewards can also help keep you motivated. When you reach a longer-range goal, consider treating yourself. The treat can be a new set of workout clothes, vacation trip to some exotic isle, a food splurge, almost anything that gives you that euphoric feeling from accomplishing something special for yourself.

Be Flexible
If you’re traveling or you’re especially busy, adapt your exercises to accommodate your schedule. Doing so will help you stay motivated. If you develop a cold or the flu, don’t worry if you take a day or two off. Do not beat yourself up because you temporarily cannot exercise. After all, you did not voluntarily seek the flu or cold. The important thing is to get back on track when you feel better.

So what are you waiting for? The only excuse for not staying fit is a poor one. Set your goals, make it fun and pat yourself on the back from time to time. Have a happy and healthy day.

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