My Tips for Acquiring a Fitness Habit
I’ve been working out regularly (i.e., at least 3 times per week) for 15 months now. Oh, I’ve had periods since graduating from high school where I worked out for awhile, but I always seemed to fall off the wagon…or treadmill, maybe? Anyway, at the end of my first year of dentistry, I decided that I needed to make some major changes in my life. I was 33 years old, overweight (5’3″ and around 180lbs), diagnosed with PCOS, and I had gained over 15lbs my first year of dental school. The girlfriend of one of my classmates was a personal trainer at a nearby gym, and I decided I’d work with her to kickstart my fitness regimen.
- Set some goals. Keep them SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). Set some long-term ones (do the Queen City half marathon on September 12th in less than 2:30) and short-term ones (run 11k without stopping, do weights twice this week, focus on relaxing my shoulders during this run).
- Make a plan. Once you have your long- and short-term goals set, set out your workouts to achieve your goals. I’m lucky -my trainer does this for me, but there are lots of training plans available online. Want to run a 5k? Sign up for a Learn to Run clinic, and follow their plan, or check out c25k.com. Interested in strength training? Consider checking out a program like Women’s Health Fit Coach, Shape’s Virtual Trainer, or SparkPeople (none of which I’ve used, but they look pretty good!).
- Schedule your workouts into your calendar. I do this on a weekly basis and plan according to my husband’s schedule, kids’ activities, extra appointments, social events, and my schedule. I find I’m more committed to getting my workout in, I can save time by getting my gear ready ahead of time, and I can overcome scheduling obstacles that lurk in my week.
- Do it in the morning. Trust me, I know: mornings suck. But if it guarantees that you’ll get your workout in before the craziness of the day, then “Just do it” *swoosh* I’ve also read a few different places (but haven’t found the study) that more than 90% of consistent exercisers workout in the morning. If you can always work out later in the day, then that’s great, too (and I’m jealous). You have to make it convenient for you.
- Sign up for a race. This is a big one for me in terms of motivation. 5k, 10k, sprint tri, marathon. Whatever floats your boat. It’ll help you be consistent and plan ahead. It’ll also make you focus on function over form (i.e., what your body can do instead of how it looks) and may help you want to fuel your body for performance rather than putting in less nutritious options.
- Get yourself an amazing trainer who is enthusiastic about fitness and healthy living. It rubs off – trust me. I meet with my trainer weekly, and the while cost does add up, it’s so been worth it for me. I figure I don’t spend that much money on shopping, drinks, and eating out, so this is my indulgence. Also, any good trainer can certainly understand your budgetary constraints and can meet with you at whatever intervals fit into your schedule and budget: bi-weekly, monthly, every couple of months, etc.
- Tell your friends and family what you’re up to. Once you tell everyone you’re doing a half marathon, it’s a lot harder to brush off those workouts
- Mix it up. There’s a reason why so many people love doing triathlons. Beyond swimming, biking, and running, you could spin, do yoga, walk, lift weights, take a bootcamp class, sign up for a pole dancing class…you get the picture.
- Strength train. Once you start, you’ll want to get even stronger. Just don’t forget to change up your workouts and increase the weight after awhile!
- Talk to fit friends and ask what they’re up to. You’ll be motivated by their commitment to fitness, which can help you to stick to your workouts or even to try something new.
- Get some gym equipment or videos for at home. Sometimes making it to the gym is harder than doing the workout, not to mention the gym fees. Sometimes a home workout is the only option, like when you have no child care available and your gym doesn’t offer it when you want it. Options include things like a jump rope, resistance tubing or bands, a physio ball, a Bosu, dumbbells. Larger pieces include a bench and cardio equipment. For DVDs, you can check out Collage Video for an excellent assortment and reviews.
- Keep a fitness journal. I find this a big motivator because I can look back and see just how far I’ve come. It can also help you track your progress and adjust your plans accordingly. Is it time to increase the weight you’re lifting? Are you meeting your goals for the week? Month? Year? Are there workouts you’re missing because you aren’t enjoying them or because you haven’t been planning around your schedule effectively? My journal now consists of my Garmin data, e-mails I send to my trainer and dietitian, and my blog, but I have used Fitbook in the past and really liked it. Fitbook allows you to set your goals for 12 weeks, track your workouts, and log what you’re eating. Another good option is The Ultimate Workout Log, which is geared more for tracking just your workouts. There are lots of online options, too, including SparkPeople and Daily Mile.
- Blog! Once you post your goals, you’ll feel publicly committed to sticking to them. This is pretty similar to keeping a fitness journal, just in electronic form. You can even make your blog private, if you’re more comfortable with that.
What are your suggestions for sticking to your workout regime? What hurdles do you have to overcome on a regular basis to get your workout in? Do you hate mornings as much as I do?