My Tips for Acquiring a Fitness Habit

Getting well wishes from my kids at my first triathlon.

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.

That summer I lost 10lbs with the help of a few different trainers at the gym (my classmate’s girlfriend moved on to a different job) and by following Weight Watchers online.  The school year started, though, and my motivation to fit in my workouts started to fizzle.  Not wanting to lose the fitness gains I’d made over the summer, I asked a fit friend of mine, A.N., if she knew of any good personal trainers.  A.N. suggested my trainer, Lindsay, based on what she’d heard from some of her fit friends.  So, I contacted Lindsay and we started meeting weekly.  She listened to what I wanted – to increase my fitness level, lose weight, no more than 3 workouts per week – and designed a program that worked for me.
Fast forward almost a year and I still meet with my trainer weekly.  She helps keep for accountable for getting my workouts in, keeps my workouts fresh and interesting, and constantly challenges me to get fitter.  She also encouraged me to enter my first sprint triathlon (she’s an Ironman herself) and is helping me train for my first half marathon.  With her help, and that of my dietitian, I’ve lost another 20lbs.  I can do unassisted triceps dips, chin ups (though just a couple) and lots of pushups.  I recently ran 11k in a row (part of a 21k training run), and can do 7.5 mph x 1 minute running intervals on the treadmill without feeling like I’m going to hurl.  My resting heart rate is down from around 70 bpm to 52 bpm and my blood pressure has gone from 120/80 to 100/60 (yes, it’s on the low side).  I feel GOOD.
I’m not a fitness expert by any stretch – just a regular mom trying to get fitter.  Everyone is different and has her own challenges, and what works for me may not work for you, but here are some tips that I hope will help you fit exercise into your life.
  1. 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).
  2. 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  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!).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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?


16 thoughts on “My Tips for Acquiring a Fitness Habit

  1. couchpotatoathlete says:

    My biggest hurdle is my own mind!!! I need to consciously make the decision to get up in the morning and I remind myself constantly that the more consistently I work out, the better I feel.

    I think you have great tips!


  2. Laury @thefitnessdish says:

    I hate mornings, haha..

    these are all amazing tips!!! I commend you on your hard work and determination!! My biggest hurdle is boredom, I do “fitness” for a living, and sometimes it would be nice to have another person to motivate me, rather than me constantly being the motivator for others and myself!


  3. Kelly says:

    I put it on my “to do” list each day. Writing it down seems to help. I agree that early morning workouts are the best, but with 2 kids under 3, that doesn’t always work for me. So once the kids are down for naps, I do my workout FIRST and then get to the rest of my list. I am so much more productive after a workout!
    Signing up for races was a HUGE one for me this year. It’s amazing the motivation it provides. My racing season is over, and after a couple weeks of slowing down and resting, I’m back on the bandwagon – gotta get ready for ski season. 🙂


      • Kelly says:

        Oh my gosh, NO! I’m totally bummed too. Summer is TOO short and ski season is TOO long. I love to ski, though, don’t get me wrong. But I have to say I enjoy swimming, biking and running more. 🙂


  4. Kat says:

    Yeah, lady! I’m all about 5, 7, 10-13! I also try to make sure that there aren’t ANY obstacles to me exercising (I put on my workout clothes immediately after work and get going!).


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