If you have tried many times to stick to some kind of workout routine, but always find yourself falling off the workout wagon, you’re not alone. You and I and thousands of people start working out with the best intentions – getting healthier, losing weight – and end up only sticking to the routine for a short time. Recently, I realized I’ve been sticking to my current workout longer then I’ve stuck to any before. Here are some of the techniques that I heard from various sources and adopted to keep me on the straight and narrow. Maybe they’ll be of some use to you, too.
Make it a lifestyle change. Two seemingly divergent philosophies have definitely helped me stick with my workout. The first is that this is not a short term, weight loss thing, but a new change, a permanent change, in lifestyle. When I started this latest workout routine, I had to change my mindset from “I’ll do this for a while so I can drop a few pounds” to “I won’t go back to an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle.” And this has worked for me. I have a new version of “normal” now. I’m one of those people- those people who work out! It’s weird! But that small mental change in self-perception has definitely helped me stay committed. And it’s definitely help, also, to see exercise as a healthy choice, not just something to help me look a little better. It makes the whole thing more important (though, of course, I’m not against reaping any appearance-related benefits that might come my way…)
Take it one workout at a time. On the other hand, it really helps to take things one workout at a time. It may sound a little “12 Step” -ish, but it makes sense to me. If you start out saying “I’ll workout almost every day for the rest of my life” it’s a huge task, and especially if you don’t really like working out, it may turn you off to the whole idea right away. It’s just too much! But if you get up in the morning and say “Today I’m going to the gym”, it’s a small, manageable goal. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment when the goal is met. Pretty soon, all those individual workouts will add up to months and you’ll never even know it. Don’t worry about how you’re going to handle the gym three Thursdays from now: just go to the gym today.
Set goals and chart your progress. One of the best work out motivators for me has been watching my own progress. I started out slowly, but each week, I have seen some kind of forward movement: I can hit the treadmill longer, walk at a higher elevation or faster (or even run…), I’ve lost x number of pounds, etc. Seeing how your workouts pay off over time, even short time, can really spur a you on to keep going back. “Wow, it really works!” And if you’re at all competitive with yourself, you will probably want to keep going back to see if you can break past last week’s goals. Set goals, even daily goals, and go for them. Just make sure the goals are reasonable: running five miles three days after you get on a treadmill for the first time ever, for example, is not going to help you much.
Switch it up. Experts often advise that changing up your workout can keep you from getting bored and giving up. As a creature of habit who likes to keep things simple, I didn’t think this would be a problem for me, but it was. I was getting a little less interested in going to the gym each day for the same old exercising. So I switched it up some, added a new element, and I felt better about it. I also changed the music I listen to and got some new workout clothes. Even these little changes can offer a psychological boost. For instance, when I made a new mix cd and was excited to go to the gym just so I could hear it. Adding new things to your work out can help you keep going, long term.
Be on the record. Another thing that keeps me going to the work out is the fact other people know I do it. I personally don’t get motivated by people, like personal trainers, cheering me on or even pushing me drill sergeant style. I prefer to go by an internal voice that makes me keep going. However, even so, it does help me to know that my family and friends know I’ve committed to living a healthier life. This is helpful in two ways. First, their encouragement and occasional compliments help me by providing positive reinforcement. I want to keep that coming! Second, I know if I were to stop going all of a sudden, a few of them would ask me what happened. Knowing that you’re being watched, even from a distance, by people who want what’s best for you, and that those people won’t totally let you off the hook for quitting, is a good motivator.
Good luck making the change from not exercising regularly to making it part of your life. To me, it’s definitely gotten easier each week and I’m feeling healthier all the time. I hope you have the same results.