Tips To Help You Stay On A Fitness Routine

by AnomalousArtist

Committing to an exercie regimen can be difficult...here are some tips to help you stay on track!

Growing up, it was inconceivable to me that I would ever be anything beyond a 98 lb weakling. As a self-described artist, every spare moment of my life was dedicated to creating things. It wasn't until I hit 30 I realized that it was important to have a well-rounded life...that your physical body needs as much stimulation as your mind does.

I resisted physical fitness in any form most of my life; in truth, I hated "moving" and much preferred staying in one place...if not at the desk where I was conjuring up some new artistic project then...in front of the TV! I never dreamed there would one day come a time when not only would I not be skipping my regular fitness routines...I wouldn't WANT to skip them, and would prefer them to watching TV!

17 years after I began working out I find it is a part of my life I would not want to live without. How can this possibly have happened?

If you're interested in starting a physical fitness regime or have had trouble staying on track in the past, I offer these tips that helped me when I was first starting out.

1) Start small

Don't try to do too much at first.  This is true with any habit or change.  Many people will make the mistake of expecting "results" from something right away, and advertisers are always suggesting this is possible or even likely. 

Take baby steps, take breaks and try to savor each moment of each day, regardless of what you're doing.  In fact, one common "trick" to beginning a new fitness routine is to do a little bit LESS than you feel like doing, initially.  Sometimes when people start exercising they are filled with such enthusiasm they work out too hard and end up hurting their muscles or wearing themselves out and then have to take long breaks afterward, ruining that momentum. 

Try stopping your routine about halfway through it, when you're most into it, and promising yourself to come back tomorrow and finish it off...you may find that you're so excited you actually look forward to coming back in the next day rather than dreading it.

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2) Make it a habit

People, like most animals, are creatures of habit.  With exceptions, we like to do things in cycles--get up at the same time, eat at the same time, go to bed at the same time.  Certain things, like getting up early in the morning to go to school or work, were not things that were "natural" initially but are now ingrained in our daily routines simply because we have done them every day for so long.

Similarly, a good habit can be started (or a bad one erased!) if you repeat something every day for a length of time (the length will vary by the person). Try putting on your shoes in a different order than you usually do for even a few days and it will seem awkward, but eventually you WOULD get used to the change if you kept doing it. 

Similarly, set your fitness routine at the same time every day (preferably when it's convenient of course!) and in a relatively short period of time you will feel strange if you are NOT attending the routine at the "usual" time.

The key here is consistency--you have to have a period of time where you don't lapse...it's best to choose a time when you don't have much going on so you can focus all your extra energies on hitting your goal.

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3) Get others involved

It's much easier to slack off on something when you are the only one involved, who cares if you skip/cheat/put something off, if it's just you? It's tougher if someone else is going to notice or care. 

Key to my starting a workout schedule that worked for me was telling all my friends about it.  They were all excited for me and invested in my success. 

Another idea in this line is exercising with a friend.  The upside is you can keep each other motivated, the downside is that friend might not always be available and you risk missing out if you are dependent on ONLY exercising with a friend, if that becomes part of the habit you've created.

4) Get a professional involved!

For me, hiring a trainer was probably the biggest factor in my sustaining a healthy, regular workout routine.  First, I was paying my trainer...every time I was at home thinking of the million other things I'd RATHER be doing than burning up my muscles in a smelly gym, I remembered the trainer was costing me money and not using him was WASTING my money. 

Second, since my trainer's job was...to train me!...if I didn't show up I was wasting his time and letting him down too.  Finally, having a trainer in the early stages of my working out was a way of ensuring I was doing everything properly.  My trainer taught me the best ways to work out in a routine geared especially for me, and helped me with diet suggestions, how often I should go to the gym and what parts of the body I should focus on, etc. 

My friend who is a horse lover calls such a person a "trail boss," (someone who guides you on a trail if you are riding with others on horses, she explained!), and I've found this sort of thing applicable in many different disciplines (including mental therapy).  You don't even necessarily have to pay for this type of person if you have a great friend with the knowledge and interest in helping you but a trainer will likely be more dedicated to your cause if there is money involved, of course!

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5) Make it "fun"

A lot of the reasons good habits (diet, positive thinking, hobbies) don't work out ultimately is because a human being generally  wants as much fun, and as little pain and "work," as possible.  It may seem silly to point this out but it's a basic, essential truth that is often ignored.  If something makes an individual happy, the person will continue to do it, if not, the person WON'T. 

It takes a little bit of self-trickery to really pull this off sometimes but it CAN work.  I use all sorts of mental games to stimulate myself  to keep up my physical health routines at times when I start to get tired of it, even now. 

While in a gym I tell myself it's a chance to people watch and perhaps even meet someone new and interesting. 

If you work out alone outside a gym environment and have access to some form of personal stereo set up like an iPod you can use the time to listen to music; my workout time has become my favorite time to listen to music nowadays and I look forward to it for that alone sometimes, when I'm not in a great mood or tired. 

I've seen people reading while on cardio machines...while I don’t personally believe that's the most effective way to involve your whole body in a cardio routine it seems to work for some and may give these people a lot of pleasure...and it IS getting the heart going.

One ridiculous "trick" I use--I don't like doing chest exercises but I DO like doing biceps and cardio...on "chest" day I tell myself, "but tomorrow I *get* to do biceps and/or cardio!"  and get an anticipatory feeling that gets me through an hour if I need it. It's silly, but it works for me!

Ultimately, my workout time becomes a sort of meditation hour for me, a time when I shut everything off and just focus on the task at hand, unencumbered by my phone, computer or any other distractions, and I ALWAYS feel better after my hour in the gym is over.

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6) Listen to what your body is telling you

Lots of people talk about "endorphins," the natural high that is supposedly released when you exercise, and I never really understood.  For me, at least before I was working out regularly, a "high" came from eating (usually too much) of something bad for me, or drinking something with alcohol in it or SOMETHING that wasn’t "good" for me.  I'm not sure why but it took me awhile to see how every time I worked out I felt better inside, physically AND mentally--I just wasn't listening to what my body was saying, at first, I guess.

In time, as the habit took hold, as my workout routines became a fixed part of my life and as I actually began to look FORWARD to exercise, I began to see the direct connection between moving my body around and feeling really good. 

Nowadays I'm more conscious of it and take advantage of the knowledge to feel as good as I can as often as I can...and I'm doing something healthy at the same time! 

7) Don't give up...

As with anything, trial and error is very human.  If you try something new and it doesn't work out, the tendency is to assume a failure was involved or that it is a sign that you can "never" change and never will be able to. 

Of course no one can have any idea what she or he is capable of until tested and there's ALWAYS room for change.  If you try a fitness routine and it doesn't work out today it may have not been the right time...try putting the idea aside until a better time when you're more ready...but remind yourself that it's just a temporary hiatus!  Don't let too much time pass.  Building momentum in your own mind is essential when beginning a new change, just keep thinking until you get to the right time and then...go for it! 

If nothing else, keep reminding yourself how much good you're doing and what a reward it is to your mind and body to get your blood pumping and keep your muscles active.  Many people (like myself) had bad experiences in gym class or sports growing up and came to associate physical fitness with unpleasant things.  Imagine turning it around and creating something very positive and really healthy.  I did, and I bet you could too...hopefully these tips have helped if you are thinking of starting a physical fitness plan of some kind...good luck and let me know how it goes!

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Updated: 07/25/2013, AnomalousArtist
 
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AnomalousArtist on 08/29/2014

Yeah, I agree totally--it doesn't have to be the gym, and it should be fun! I don't understand when people say they don't like "cardio," to me cardio is just like dancing and most people I know love dancing and can do it all night! Same with biking...nice to know you've found your niche :)

cazort on 08/18/2014

I think you give a lot of good advice here. I also used to think of myself as a nerdy weakling, more focused on books and computers and intellectual knowledge than on anything physical. But this wasn't entirely true. I think I had been conditioned by our culture to ignore my strengths, which included things like balance, flexibility, and spontaneous energy level.

I also think your advice about making exercise fun is important--I'd take it even farther. I love getting exercise but I don't ever really go to the gym. For me, I make exercise about other activities...like...I bike a lot, sometimes very vigorously, and I often make it as a way of running errands. For example, where I live it's very convenient for me to bike to the bank, a little too far to walk, so it's my preferred mode of getting there.

I also have gotten really into social dance, which is a very physical activity (with uptempo swing dance like fast lindy and charleston, it can also be very aerobic, with slower tempos like blues, it can be an incredible workout that especially works things like your core and quads, and does a great deal to refine balance). I also find that when I am dancing to music that I love, and dancing with people that I love being around, it's a really awesome experience, something I look forward to every week!

AnomalousArtist on 07/27/2013

Oh, that's a great idea, thanks for the tip!

Mira on 07/27/2013

Have you thought of posting another article with routines that work for you? You could include YouTube videos, etc. I looked at doing one myself, but unfortunately I don't know the English names for all the different exercises. But looking into it, I realized it would be fun to put together such a page.

AnomalousArtist on 07/27/2013

That sounds wonderful...walking is such a wonderful thing to do, isn't it? And *apparently* is uses all sorts of muscle groups and keeps your joints going and stuff...hooray! :) Yeah, someone once said to me, "Somehow you can make time for work...and you can't make time to take care of your physical body a little while each day?" Made me think, ha ha... Thanks for commenting!

Mira on 07/26/2013

Great advice. My favorite exercise is walking in the open air :). Not much cardio, I know, but I love walking, and each place brings so many elements of surprise during my walks. Also, I enjoy reading newspapers while I use my exercise bike. So yes, there are easy ways to incorporate exercise into our daily routine. Unfortunately, it's one more thing on our list and we think we can actually bypass it without suffering any consequences -- how wrong, ain't it?:)

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