Most people make New Year’s Resolutions to exercise more. And usually in February – the make it or break it month – quitting workouts and fitness goals becomes the standard. Don’t let this happen to you. Your workouts can begin to improve their effectiveness, and likeliness to happen, with simple and meaningful changes.
Find a system that works for you. I’ve found that I can run regularly on my own, but trying to develop and complete core exercises is difficult for me if I’m left to my own devices. So I signed up for my employer’s wellness classes. Now I’m able to attend an instructed class and manage my workout routines realistically.
Schedule time. Putting your workout time in your schedule improves your chances to regularly complete your workout. You may have to be creative to make it work. In the summer, I get up an hour early four days a week to run. In the winter, I schedule three days a week to run after work and one weekend day. During my work day, I use my lunch hour to attend my workout class and eat a packed, healthy lunch at my desk after I’m finished. You have time in your schedule to make it happen, you just need to make it.
Set realistic goals. You are not going to go from zero to hero overnight. It takes time and effort to reach your end goal, but it’s very achievable if you set realistic goals. Want to attend workout classes four times a week? Start by scheduling two distinct times for this month, then next month add one to two more classes. Want to run a 5K? Try the “Couch to 5K” program to give you realistic goals to make your workout plan happen. When I started running, I could barely make it 25% of one lap, but I kept trying. Now, 18 months later, I can run 5 miles regularly.
Show up. When you adjust your mindset to become “I will show up,” you significantly improve your chances for success. Sure, you may be tired, too busy or don’t feel like working out. You can do it; just show up. The day I’m writing this, it’s 34 degrees and rainy outside. I still need one more run this week. Guess what? I’m going to be cold and rainy for about an hour today while I go running. Not my favorite, but I’ve committed myself to showing up.
Track your progress. It’s more fun to see your accomplishments and makes you more excited to continue. I’d recommend something simple like a pedometer and gold stars, total cost about $8. I wear a pedometer daily, making every extra step worth it. This is to my benefit since I make multiple trips on our stairs at home for forgotten items. I’ve got my calendar with a gold star for every workout I complete. I used to collect my “Stars” for treats (like new songs for my iPhone or new shoes!) but I don’t even need these rewards now–I’m in the workout mindset. Using these easy methods will make your progress visible and encourage your success.
Do one extra rep. In each workout class I take, I try to do one extra rep of all exercises. I also try to start my rep just before the instructor says “begin” and continue after “relax.” I know these steps are very small, but it helps me in two areas. First, I’m building my strength just a little bit more each day. And most importantly, I’m holding true to my commitment: “I’m showing up to workout, I’m not here for a vacation. I want a workout.” Yes, there are days that I’m exhausted, or too busy or I don’t feel like working out. But my mind’s been made up. When I’m in the gym, I’m there to workout and I’m going to do what is asked of me and just a tiny bit more.
Reward yourself. Committing to a workout program will balance your mind & body, reduce your stress, and improve your life. And if that isn’t reward enough, I suggest finding small rewards that will encourage you to keep going. You might treat yourself to new iPhone songs, new shoes, a movie or a good book. My favorite reward is a long, hot shower. And on days like today, it might be the reward that helps drive me to success.