Trying to get into an exercise habit, but finding you’re more in the habit of making excuses? You can break out of that pattern with these tips from fitness experts on staying motivated and sticking to your fitness routine. Our Fitness Together trainers and studio owners recommend these three strategies to help you stay inspired to work out regularly.
1. Keep your eye on the prize.
You must have a very strong “why” you are doing it. Always connect to that “why,” especially when things get tough or you get busy. If your goal is to get back into your favorite jeans, hang them on the outside of your closet where you’ll see them every morning when you wake up. For an extra nudge, pin up an old photo of yourself wearing them.
Or, if you’re working toward a health goal such as lowering your blood pressure or relieving chronic back pain, mark your improvements on a chart posted on the fridge. Or tape a photo on your bathroom mirror of someone who’s achieved a goal you’re striving toward. Think fit, healthy-looking people your age playing tennis, climbing a mountain, training for a triathlon, running a 5K, or skiing with their kids!
2. Schedule a consistent workout time.
Set a regular time that fits into your daily and weekly schedule, and prioritize it just like you would a meeting with your boss or a top client.
Think of it this way: Skipping out on your commitment to take good care of yourself means sooner or later you’ll start feeling depleted and run-down, with nothing left to give to those who count on you. Sticking to your fitness regimen not only helps keep you healthy, but also refills your well of physical and mental energy. So you’re more likely to be there and be “on” in your job, relationships, family and others who matter to you.
3. Use the power of a pro to keep you on track.
You’re much less likely to be a no-show for your workout when someone’s waiting for you at the gym, track, pool, court …. Agree on a time and place to work out with a trainer. When someone’s there, waiting, and holding you accountable to your exercise commitment, it’s a mighty motivator.
Scheduling sessions with a personal trainer creates an especially powerful incentive to work out: You’ll feel a natural desire to make your trainer proud, and to respect the time commitment he or she blocked out to work with you. That’s powerful inspiration when you’re mulling whether to pull the sheets back over your head or pull on those gym shoes!
Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Convinced you “can’t” run a marathon, or sprint at level 10 on that treadmill? … Are you sure about that?
Even if you have a physical challenge or condition that limits you in some way, most of us also create false boundaries for ourselves — “no-can-do’s” that are only in our heads. And more and more studies are showing that the thing you think you can’t do just might be the one thing you MUST do to light a fire under your workout results.
Breaking through these false limits can also lead you to be more consistent about your workout regimen.
“Intensity is by far the most important factor affecting increases in, and maintenance of, cardio fitness,” notes Jeffrey M. Janot, PhD, technical editor of the IDEA Fitness Journal. “Although we do not know the exact level of intensity that provides optimal health and fitness benefits, we know the optimal range and that it is directly related to exercise program adherence. You may not enjoy an exercise program if you get sore or injured because the intensity is too high. On the other hand, you can grow bored with a program if intensity is below the optimal range and you aren’t improving.”
Why push your limits in your workout regimen?
The body is wired to adapt to routine. Once your body gets used to a routine of walking 2 miles a day, for example, you’ll likely see less or slower weight loss than when you first began that routine. Extensive research has shown that to keep seeing results from an exercise routine, it’s essential to continually include intervals of higher stress and demand on the muscles and cardiovascular system.
Many people work out only hard enough to maintain their existing weight and physique. Going outside your comfort zone includes adding some intense workout challenges to build muscle and get stronger, faster, leaner. That doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or work out 6 hours a day to lose weight or reach your goals. The point is to keep adding new challenges and different ways of pushing past your limits for speed, distance, weight you can heft, etc.
Why don't more people go "outside the lines" with their workouts?
Challenging yourself is uncomfortable by nature. It’s normal to feel a sense of fear or angst when you think about pushing beyond the places where you usually stop, ease up, or take a break. Common fears include whether you can handle an intense “burn” in your muscles and not get injured; or feeling embarrassed about getting out of breath, or even sweating more than you’re used to.
Can a trainer help you break through that fear — without yelling at you?
Yes! A great personal trainer should confidently instill in you the belief that you can do this.
“We know they can, even though you might not know it yet,” says Russ Yeager, owner of three Fitness Together studios north of Atlanta. “The empowerment our clients gain once they actually do it is awesome. We recently helped a client who at first could barely get through a workout and was very self-conscious. She’s now lost 50 pounds and did a 3.5 mile hike with a straight-up climb at the end!” You or your personal trainer can determine your optimal cardio exercise intensity range via a number of methods including percent of maximum heart rate, the “talk test,” or rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Whether you’re training for a triathlon, hitting a weight loss plateau or ready to give up on ever having toned upper arms, one-on-one training can help you go where your mind has never let you go before.