Every year, your doctor admonishes you to make exercise a higher priority. You know you haven’t had a full, physical workout since sometime in the past four years. A muffin-top has overshadowed your belt. You get winded on that long walk from the couch to the kitchen, and there is no swimsuit season on the horizon. My friend, these are all signs that you’ve got to make some serious changes in your level of physical activity.
We’re not judging. Most of us at Exercises for Injuries have been where you are. None of us emerged from the womb teaching group fitness classes to the obstetrician on duty. We all have to begin by making exercise a priority and sticking to a regular, fitness regimen. It’s about valuing physical fitness and overall good health enough to forego that extra 30 minutes of sleep each morning in exchange for an invigorating run or a brisk walk. It’s about the strength gains, the increased energy and the fist bump from your cardiologist.
If you’ve resolved to make exercise a higher priority this year, then congratulations are in order. We’ve got some helpful tips on how to stick to your plan and keep moving.
1. Get Serious About Finding a Workout Partner
Working out isn’t always fun. It’s a rare morning when getting right up out of the warm bed for your spin class seems more appealing than rolling over and tapping snooze. If you’re the only person holding yourself accountable, it’s all too easy to justify a little more shut-eye.
The ideal solution for your lack of motivation is a workout partner. You’ve got to find one. The best workout partner is someone you like and would like to keep as your friend. You’re much more likely to keep your word and meet your friend at the gym at 6 a.m. if you value his or her companionship.
Getting a friend to commit to three or four regular workouts each week isn’t easy. Look for someone who has a similar work schedule as you have. Perhaps you have a friend at your office that would be willing to meet up.
Be honest when you’re trying to enlist your friend to exercise with you. Let him or her, know that you’ve been wanting to try out a certain fitness class and could use some accountability. Have all the details ready about the time and location so that you can make plans on the spot.
If you know you’ve obligated another person to get up bright and early and meet you at the gym, you’ll be so much more likely to get your keister out of bed too.
2. Find a Physical Activity That You Don’t Hate
Don’t sign up for a Zumba class if you don’t like to dance. Running isn’t for everyone. Don’t force yourself to workout in ways that don’t naturally fit your interests. There are so many ways to move your body that there’s no reason to force yourself to exercise in a way that doesn’t bring you at least a little bit of joy.
Do you like being outside? Then, don’t join a gym. Find a nearby mountain or hill to climb in the mornings. Look around for a wooded path with a trail you can hike. If you love being social and enjoy plenty of interaction with others, join a group fitness class. From kickboxing to tai chi at the park, you have plenty of options in group fitness. There’s bound to be a class that floats your boat.
The more you enjoy your workout, the more likely you are to continue doing it and thrive in your exercise goals.
3. Start slowly and Increase the Intensity and Frequency of Your Workouts Gradually
If you go from a straight-up sedentary lifestyle to four times a week at the local CrossFit gym, you’re setting yourself up for some sore muscles and several days of recovery. Even if you were an endurance athlete 10 years ago, you can’t jump back into exercise at full speed.
If you’re coming from an activity level of zero, start with brisk walks in the morning or after work. Set a timer for 20 minutes and make sure you keep moving until your timer goes off. Walk just three times a week at first, giving yourself one day on and one day off. If it feels like you could do more, don’t. Just stick with three days a week of low-intensity workouts for the first couple of weeks. After you’ve completed two weeks of consistent walks, every other day, you’re ready to increase your exercise intensity.
Your next step is to join a group fitness class, sign up for personal training sessions, look up a Pilates studio in your area or begin hiking small mountains near your home. In other words, step it up a bit. At first, especially if you’re new to an active lifestyle, add just one day a week of higher intensity workouts and on the rest of the days, take your brisk walks. Every other day, you’re still exercising, but only one day a week of the tough stuff. The next week, do the harder workout twice, and so on until you are doing higher intensity workouts every other day each week.
This gradual increase of intensity and frequency of your workouts will help you to stick with your regimen and enjoy your time exercising ― instead of feeling sore and wiped out after each hour at the gym.
4. Don’t Look for Reasons to Avoid the Gym
If you take your birthday off from workouts, never exercise on Mondays and skip the gym on National Ice Cream Day, exercise seems more like a chore than a priority. Don’t make excuses to miss a workout. Instead, reward yourself for the commitment you show when you go to the gym even though you have a headache, or you get up early to take your morning hike on Black Friday before the sales.
To make exercise a priority in your life, you’ve got to commit to it. If you’re wishy-washy and easily derailed, you will not succeed in your fitness goals.
5. Plan Your Workouts First Thing in the Morning or Right After Work
If you don’t mind getting up early, plan to hit the gym first thing in the morning. Take your work clothes with you. Shower and get ready for work in the locker room at your fitness center. If you’d rather exercise outside, do it near your home and right before you get ready to leave for work.
If you cherish sleep more than a flat stomach, it would be best for you to schedule your workouts right after work. Don’t go home first and change clothes. Rather, pack your gym clothes with you in the morning. Stop by the gym, pool or hiking trail on your way home from work and get it done.
For most people, it’s less of a hassle to plan workouts on your way into work or on your way home from the office. This is another way you can ensure that regular exercise will become more of a habit and less of a once-in-a-while happening.
6. Buy a Pedometer and Wear It
When you’re able to see your progress in numbers, you are so much more likely to stick with your workouts and keep moving. Pedometers and fitness trackers are inexpensive these days. You can order one online for $10 or less. Clip one of those onto your body and impress yourself with how much more moving you’re doing each day. Get one for your workout partner too and try to outdo each other.
7. Train for Something Big
If you’re new to exercise, or it’s been a while, consider training to walk a 5K race. To train for a 5K, you’ll increase your mileage by small amounts at each workout until you can walk 5 kilometers. If walking 5 kilometers comes easily, you might consider beginning to jog for half of the five kilometers. Then, increase your time jogging gradually until you can jog the entire distance.
If you’ve been exercising off and on for quite a while, consider training for something bigger like a half-marathon, a marathon or triathlon. If races aren’t your thing, train to climb a mountain or complete a challenging hike ― with a partner, of course. Give yourself a goal so that you stay motivated and your workouts don’t get boring and stale.
8. Pay for It
If you don’t like spending much money and have trouble shelling out cash unnecessarily, join a gym where you sign a contract to pay a monthly fee for the year. If you don’t like wasting money, you’ll get yourself to the gym just because you paid for it.
This approach will also work if you buy a three-month package with a personal trainer or pay for a certain number of group fitness classes at the community center. If you spend your hard-earned money on a gym membership or private instruction, you’re much more likely to show up and take advantage of the services for which you’ve paid.
9. Reward Yourself When You’ve Completed Your Workouts as Scheduled
Plan out your exercise regimen and write it on your calendar. When you’ve completed every workout you had planned for the month, do something fun. Take yourself to a nice dinner, buy a better pair of running shoes or schedule a day at the spa.
Especially in the beginning, it’s important to reward yourself for sticking to your convictions and completing your workouts successfully.
Make Exercise a Priority
You owe it to yourself and to the people you love to get active and healthy so that you can live your best life. Use a few or all of these nine tips for making exercise a higher priority this year. Keep moving.