How many articles have you read about weight loss? It seems every time we turn around we’re confronted by another headline promising amazing results.
Eat nothing but radishes and rare, Tibetan quack mushrooms to effortlessly lose weight.*
Discover the ancient limb amputation technique that makes weight loss simple and permanent.*
New laser treatment destroys brain and liver cells, but it will make you thin!*
*Disclaimer: possibly made up headlines
Whether you want to start an exercise routine to lose weight, reduce stress, or become healthier in general, it’s human nature to hold out hope for a magic bullet. Let’s face it, many people would rather be trapped with a herd of rabid possums than head to the gym. Or maybe that’s just me.
In case you’ve given up hope of ever finding long-term success, I’m here to tell you that it can be done – if you put in the time and work.
I know. I said a bad word.
But hear me out on this.
Establishing a regular exercise routine is not dependent on how much free time you have or even how fit or knowledgeable you are right now. You can be successful by setting small, specific goals and being mentally prepared. I’m talking about making exercise a habit.
How can you do this? Read on to find out.
Starting a regular exercise routine is a big decision. What’s more, if you don’t feel ready to start, chances are you won’t have a lot of success. The good news is, you can do some simple things to increase the likelihood you will keep up your routine for years to come.
Is one of these issues holding you back?
You don’t know where or how to start.
It may feel overwhelming, or you may not have the knowledge you need to get started.
What to do:
- Know yourself. Ask yourself these questions and write down your thoughts, including any strategies you come up with that might help you.
- What is standing in your way right now? (Do you work long hours? Do you suffer from a chronic disease?)
- What can you change? Not everything can be fixed, but small tweaks just might make it possible for you to reach your exercise goals.
- Educate yourself. We live in an age of information, so use it to your advantage! A simple Google search will turn up a wealth of information including exercise routines you can do at home, articles on what type of exercise may be best for you, videos you can follow, and groups in your area you can join for support, accountability, information, and more.
- Talk to friends, family, and coworkers. Letting the people you care about (and who care about you) know you want to start an exercise program will do a few things for you.
- It will make you feel more accountable – they will likely ask you how it’s going and how they can help out.
- You are also likely to find some good advice from someone you trust. Your cousin may tell you about a fitness video she really likes, or your coworker may know about a free class that’s being offered. You never know what you’ll learn when you open up!
You don’t have time.
What to do:
- Make time. How much time do you spend watching TV? On social media or the internet? I’m not suggesting you give up quality time with your family or forget about important obligations, but almost everyone can carve out 20 to 30 minutes a few times a week.
If you really cannot find the time, take stock of what is keeping you so busy. Is there something you can give up? Can you ask someone for help getting everything done?
- Schedule time for exercise. Seeing it on your calendar in black and white (or as a reminder popping up on your phone or laptop) will not only cue you that it’s time to get moving, but it will also help you develop a habit.
You’ve given up hope of sticking with an exercise program.
What to do:
- Reset your mindset. This is not a continuation of past failures. This is a fresh start. The more you repeat this to yourself, or better yet, say it out loud, the more likely you will be to believe it.
- Create a mantra for yourself. This can be anything motivational to you. For example, I use “Do it now. Feel good later!” to get myself moving. I’ve also found that repeating this to myself while I’m exercising is powerful. It keeps me focused on the task at hand and gets me thinking about how good I’ll feel when I’m done.
Try it for yourself! Brainstorm some motivational mantras.
Whether it’s raining outside or you didn’t sleep well the night before, it is possible to find a fitting excuse for any situation.
What to do:
- Take away the power of the excuse. What makes an excuse powerful? The fact that you believe it. The more you go ahead and exercise anyway, the less power those excuses will wield.
- Fight back. Argue with any excuse that pops into your head. Feeling sore or tired? Exercise will loosen up those muscles and give you an energy boost (as long as you don’t overdo it.) Feeling crunched for time? What can you rearrange in your schedule to find the time you need?
- Do some excuse-proofing. It’s easy to excuse yourself right back onto the couch. Try to steer your thoughts away from all or nothing thinking; one (or five!) missed workouts does not mean you have failed. Just start again as soon as you can. It’s all about doing your best with the resources you have. So instead of beating yourself up for the rest of the day if you miss a workout, think about when and where you’ll do your next workout.
Maybe you have vague thoughts about someday running a 5k, or you’d like to walk around the block every day during your lunch break. These are great goals, but something is missing – a plan! Setting specific, realistic goals can help get you into the habit of regular exercise. Here’s how.
- Keep it simple. If you want to run a marathon, you might go out and buy new running shoes, clothes, Bluetooth headphones, and a hydration backpack, install a few new apps on your phone, download ten different training plans, sign up for the race and then head out in your new gear for a quick five-mile run. What’s the problem with this? It’s overwhelming!
Instead, make a list of the things you know you need to do, and break that list down into smaller pieces. Then work on accomplishing those tasks in an order that makes sense to you.
- Keep it specific.
Fill in as much information about your goal as you can. If you want to walk every day, for example, what time will you walk? How far? What (or whom) will you take with you? Will you have a backup plan if something keeps you from walking?
- Keep it realistic.
Do you have thirty minutes a day or less to devote to exercise? You may not want to start by training for a marathon. Instead, decide what you do have time for and how you can make the most of that time.
What type of exercise do you love? (Or at least not hate.) Do you prefer swimming to running? Chances are, it is more realistic to expect you will swim on a regular basis than hit the treadmill, even if you have one collecting dust in your basement.
Once you’ve got your plan in place, all you need to do is follow it. I know; it’s not quite that easy, but the roadmap you created will help you stay on track.
So, what else can you do to keep yourself going?
- Announce your goal(s). Whether you do it on all of your social media profiles or tell only one person, the purpose is to make a commitment and let others help you stay accountable. It’s harder to skip a workout when you have Facebook friends asking you how things are going or your spouse asking how your run went that morning.
- If you can afford to, join a gym or buy yourself some new clothes or gear for your chosen sport or exercise. Purchasing something new or working out in a new environment will get you motivated and excited to start.
- Reward yourself periodically. Did you walk every day for a week? Treat yourself to something, like some new music for your workouts or a book you’ve wanted to read. For long-term goals, go bigger if you want. Do what works for you and make it fun!
- Love quotes? Keep a collection of words that inspire you and post them throughout your home or office space.
- Seek encouragement from friends, family, and even online. Search for groups and forums for people with goals similar to yours and join the discussion!
- Keep a workout/ exercise journal. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished can be very rewarding. You’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come. You can record as much or as little data as you want, from how long you exercised, to how you felt, to what the weather was like. This information can be especially helpful if you are training for a race or other event.
Once you’ve got your plan in place, the only thing stopping you is…you! Getting started really is one of the hardest parts. Once you’ve established a routine, it will begin to feel natural and you might even start to look forward to exercising. Or at least prefer it to those possums.
What about you? What is the biggest obstacle you face? Let me know in the comments!