Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Part II of Getting Started With an Exercise Routine: How to Stick With It

To be successful, first read Part I of this series! Remember to JUST DO IT, but to take it slow! Also, I would like to recommend an article that I just read in Shape magazine. It is in the March 2010 issue on page 42 and it is entitled "running out of excuses". It is just a short article about a woman who took baby-steps as she started a running program. I found it motivational; and there are plenty of other great articles in the magazine as well!

So getting back to the issue at can you stick to this new plan? For many years, scientists have studied the behaviors of people who exercise and those who do not. They found that many factors contribute to one’s success or failure. Here are a few tips or suggested topics to consider when starting up your routine.

It is generally accepted that people who exercise for intrinsic reasons, are usually the ones who stick with it. This means, you exercise because you want to, not because you feel like you’re being judged if you don’t or because your spouse wants you to. Beyond this, exercising because it makes you feel good, lifts your mood, keeps you healthy, or gives you general enjoyment are also characteristics of people who stick to an exercise routine. So take a minute and ask yourself why you want to exercise. What will it do for you? What do you want it to do for you? What kind of results are you hoping to achieve. When you ask yourself the previous questions, if you find that your motivation is not intrinsic, start trying to brainstorm ways that exercise can benefit your life rather than someone else’s happiness.

After taking a little look into why you want to exercise and how it will benefit you, let’s make some goals! This is really the fun part, in my opinion. Achieving your goals can be so uplifting and keeps you moving. Your initial goals should be short-term and attainable, but should also be challenging. Remember, your goal doesn’t have to include running a 5K or swimming in some event. They can be of that nature, but it may just be something like, “I will be able to walk from my house to the Smith’s house without having to take a break by the beginning of next month.” Your goal(s) should focus on what YOU want to achieve.

Now, let’s talk about what happens down the road. Maybe you have accomplished a goal or two and then you stumble upon a road block that derails your progress. When you are embarking on a new exercise regimen, you hate to think that your plans may fall apart one day and your progress is halted. However, you are really better off to go ahead and start brainstorming about these possible events and how you will handle them. Accepting that they will happen and that you can come out on the other side with your exercise plan intact will help you to continue with your new lifestyle.

For example, let’s say you have an exciting vacation planned. You and your spouse are going to St. Lucia to enjoy some R&R on the beach. Before you go, you pack all of your workout clothes with the best intentions of exercising the whole time. When you arrive, you eat, drink, relax, and repeat all week long. The whole way home you are mad at yourself for never slipping on your workout shoes and think about what a failure you are. Now, you come back to reality and you’re a little tired on your first day back at work, so you skip your work out. Before you know it, you have skipped the entire week. Each day that goes by makes you little less likely to hit the gym. What if you had planned to just give yourself a break while on vacation? What if you told yourself that you had been working diligently and this was your week off? Then, you could have planned how you would ease yourself back into your exercise routine when you returned. For instance, you could have remembered that last time you went on vacation, you were tired when you returned. So, instead of planning to exercise at the level that you were before you left, what if you planned to walk on your lunch break for 10-15 minutes? Then the next day, go back to your routine if you’re up to it, or allow yourself a few more days of that short walk. By only expecting a little from yourself when you return, you’re making the likelihood of following through so much better! Also, by not expecting yourself to pound the pavement on your vacation your thoughts shift from “failure” to “planned break from exercise”. Of course, you don’t have to take a break if you don’t want to, but the idea is that we need to be realistic with goals and expectations. If we are more realistic, we are more likely to exercise rather than to call ourselves failures and continue to sit on the couch!

I don't want the idea to be conveyed that we shouldn't expect much from ourselves either. Keep in mind that there is a balance, as there is with everything. Aim high and push the limits, but also be realistic and give yourself a break sometimes. We can't expect ourselves to be perfect all of the time, but it is important to challenge yourself too. Happy exercising!

...stay tuned for Part III: Getting started with strength training...
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  1. This is a very refreshing angle. I like the vacation strategy and and thought shifting ideas. This was a very helpful article for me, and I plan to use these strategies.
    As a side note; I have never been a smoker, but I talk to a lot of them in my job. One thing I always suggest to them before their quit date is to formulate a strategy for how they will manage their first crisis and feel the urge for a smoke. Without a firm plan in place, all to often they will succumb to the temptation, pick up the cigarette and start it all over again. Same with exercise...without a plan in place, it is too easy to just skip the walk.

  2. Along the line of continuing with the exercise routine, I was told that you also need to take extended breaks at times. For example, most people bike during the spring to fall timeframe and use the winter months to do a different kind of training. Being a runner, I have to force a break at times. They say there is not an off season for running, since when the weather gets too bad they move indoors. But I try to take that time to do some strength training or elliptical machines.

  3. -Erin'sMom: Exactly, we all do better with plans and accepting that we will encounter road blocks. As soon as we realize that, we do better at coming back on the other side of the road block.
    -Matt: That is a great idea to do some cross-training. It is certainly beneficial and important. As for the off season, I agree with that too, but it doesn't mean you have to totally count it out. Just do less of it and don't aim to push yourself as hard as you normally would.