If you’re like most people, chances are you’ve started and stopped an exercise program on multiple occasions, for one reason or another. But why hasn’t it clicked? Why were you unable to keep going with your exercise program where others could? Why does it seem like diet and exercise always have to be such a roller coaster ride for you? Well, believe it or not, there are reasons why some people are able to stick through the tough times, and others merely walk away and fall back to where they started. To find out more about what it takes to see results in an exercise program, ask your physical therapist or schedule your Free Fitness Assessment with our Fitness Director today!
However, before we are able to achieve success, we must make exercise and a healthy lifestyle a habit. For many, this might be easier said than done. But there are things that can be done to help make it easier. The general saying is that it takes at least three weeks of consistent exercise to form a habit, so for the next three weeks, let’s use some of the following steps to help make exercise a part of our lifestyle!
Exercise is considered by many to be a luxury. It’s something for people who have money to afford a gym membership and time to work out. At least that’s what a lot of people seem to think (and let me tell you, this is not true). Because of this way of thinking, exercise is often one of the first things that is placed on the backburner when we are busy. But if you truly want to make exercise an integral part of your life, you need to prioritize it. Write it down in your schedule, and don’t cancel it for anything. Make it as much of a priority as you make your work meetings or job interviews. If you are able to place exercise on that scale, you will be able to achieve the consistency necessary to make it a long term habit. And exercise can never become a habit if you don’t prioritize it!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your body. Most people who jump into exercise routines start too quickly right from the beginning; jumping right into a seven day exercise routine and a strict diet. This all-in mentality often leads to people falling off the exercise bandwagon quickly after starting. This is what we call “roller coaster training” and it doesn’t work. Most fad diet plans such as the Atkins Diet employ this all or nothing principle, which is why most people who actually lose weight with a diet like this tend to put it back on shortly after they stop the diet (amongst other physiological reasons). The key to making exercise a habit and a lifestyle is to start with baby steps. Do exercises that you can handle. Start by just making some small changes to your diet. As you start to make improvements, keep taking more baby steps forward. It may not seem like much at first but I promise that you’ll look back six months from now and be impressed with the changes that you’ve experienced over that time.
Tell everyone what you’re doing
More true now than ever, we often cave to the pressure of our friends, especially now that we are on so many different social media sites. So let’s take advantage of this! If you just started an exercise program, tell everyone about it. Don’t be afraid! Let your close friends and family know about it. Post something on each of your social media accounts! The more people you tell, the more it will make you feel pressured to actually follow through with your program. Also, give your friends constant status updates about your progress, so that they know you are still putting in the effort. And make sure you have friends that will get on your case if they stop seeing your progress updates. Having close friends as external motivators are vital to having success with exercise and fitness. And if your friends could care less about your progress, you don’t necessarily have to ditch them, but find new friends that are more into being healthy and motivating each other!
Invest money into it
It’s easy to put things off when nothing is on the line. And if we try to exercise at home without putting any money into our efforts it’s very easy to skip a day, or two, or more. And it’s impossible to make progress that way. So put something on the line, something that is enough to motivate you to actually feel like you’d just be wasting your money if you didn’t follow through with it. So feel free to ask about our gym membership here at Comprehensive Physical Therapy Center, or you can ask about our Complimentary Fitness Assessment and you can look into our One-on-One Personal Training Services! Again, whatever you do, make sure you put enough into it to force yourself to follow through with it, don’t waste your money and use it as a motivator!
Find what you like
For most people, the thought of going out for a run bright and early in the morning, especially if the weather is nasty, is quite cringe-worthy. And I don’t blame you at all if you feel that way. You shouldn’t feel like you are forced to do something that you don’t like in order to get in shape. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are many forms of exercise, and you have to find which forms suit you the best! From running, to biking, to strength training, sports or hiking, there are a plethora of different styles of exercise to choose from. For more ideas, ask our fitness director during your complimentary fitness evaluation!
Find a partner
Struggling for motivation to exercise on your own? Find a willing partner! Studies have shown that working out with a partner not only leads to better results but it helps to keep you motivated to continue your program for longer! If you’re having a particularly bad day and aren’t really feeling like exercising, you’ll always have your partner there to push you into doing it, and the same can go for your partner if they aren’t feeling up to it! It’s also important for you to let your significant other know how important exercising is to you and that they need to be a positive motivator for you. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people fail at achieving their goals because their significant other could care less about exercising and eating healthy. Without that added motivation from the person closest to you, it can be hard to continue to have the drive to be healthy over the long haul (especially if they are the one that prepares your meals).
Track your progress!
What better way is there to keep your motivation high during an exercise program than seeing results? So track your progress on a daily basis. However, most people don’t track their results in the right way. When you start a weight loss program, you probably just track your progress by jumping on a scale and measuring your weight, don’t you? While that is one way of tracking your success, it can often be extremely misleading. Instead of just using your weight as the main determinant of success, ask someone close to you to take circumference measurements (neck, shoulders, chest, arms, waist, hips, thighs, calves). Also, ask a professional if they can test your body fat percentage for you, this will tell you how much lean muscle mass you have in your body as compared to fat mass. And track your progress with your exercises! Did you squat with 10 lb dumbbells last week and 15 lb dumbbells this week? That is progress! Check back each month to see how much progress you are making.
Understand when you’re actually making progress
Just as I stated in the previous section, your weight is not the only determinant of success. There are tons of ways that you may be making progress in your exercise program, and this can be different from person to person. Even if you are not losing weight like you wanted to, do your clothes fit different? Are you able to do things, such as walk up & down the stairs without pain, that you couldn’t before? Can you walk through the entire grocery store without being physically exhausted now? If so, you’re making progress! And these things are just as important as your weight loss, because they likely signify that you have added some muscle, while taking off some fat. If this is the case, your weight is just balancing itself out at the time being and it’s likely that if you continue your program your weight may be the next thing to improve! With every little bit of progress that you see, take that as a small victory, after a while you will have enough small victories to have achieved the big victory that you’ve wanted for so long!
Exercise at the same time of day, everyday
One of the best ways to get started with a habit is to make it into a routine. The best way to do that is to do it at the same time of the day, every day. Make it as integral of a part to your daily routine as your daily shower is (at least I hope that’s a part of your routine!). You are much more likely to stick with a routine if you keep things the same. If you start an exercise program and exercise in the morning one day, night time another day, and keep changing things, exercise will become more of a hassle than it needs to be and you might find other things to do with your time.
Here is one of the biggest problems in exercise! Everyone loves the idea of being fit, and of getting in shape. But the problem is that not too many people actually ever act upon that desire. Instead of starting today with your fitness plan, you put it off until tomorrow. When you put it off until tomorrow, pretty soon that becomes “well, I’ll do it next week”, and that becomes the next week, and so on. And it’s likely that by this point you may be even further behind than you were when you thought about getting started. So do it now! Start today! The sooner you start your fitness program, the sooner you will achieve your fitness goals! The more you put it off, not only will you have to wait longer to achieve your goals, but you are going to have to work twice as hard for every pound as you would if you would have just started right away!
It doesn’t matter how old you are, you are never too young or too old to start exercising. If you start exercising in your teens or twenties, you are setting yourself up for a great, healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life! Or even if you waited until now and you are in your seventies, eighties or nineties, it’s still not too late! Professionally supervised exercise has been shown to help individuals of older populations’ live longer, healthier and happier lives as they age! And don’t forget to schedule you Complimentary Fitness Assessment with us today!
So you started an exercise program and made it into a habit! Congrats! Feel free to reward yourself for your hard work! But make sure to only keep it to one cheat meal per week, and only reward yourself if you’ve been good with your diet and exercise program that week. Having a cheat meal as a reward when you haven’t been healthy completely defeats its purpose. Also, it is very okay to reward yourself once you hit specific milestones. Finally reach a goal weight? Reward yourself with one of your indulgences and then be sure to set another goal! Do this for any major goal that you have set for yourself and you will enjoy the indulgences that much more! Not to mention, cheat meals are vital to helping you keep your sanity while you embark on your exercise program.
- Mike Zimmer, Fitness and Wellness Director @ Comprehensvie Physical Therapy Center