Practical Tips to Stick with your Exercise Routine
Wow, we’re already a month into 2014!
I promised you that I was going to start sharing healthy habit tips every so often in my rant about not selecting the generic “lose weight” goal as your 2014 new year’s resolution, and, by George, I’m going to start now! I reckon after a month of plugging away at your new year’s fitness goals, it might be time for a little motivation.
But first, a little backstory.
I have always been a loyal exerciser. Well, at least since I was old enough to grasp the importance of daily activity for overall health and weight maintenance. I started a walking regimen early in my high school days, and, the one thing that has stuck with me over the past 20+ years — no matter what’s going on in life — is walking.
It’s accessible, enjoyable, and free. When life is hectic and work is hectic and I just don’t have time or energy for complicated workouts, I fall back on walking.
Sure, I’ve done running, and weight training and swimming and biking and P90X and Insanity…and many other activities that I enjoy. But, though remodels and relocations and ‘round the clock workloads, I’ve always walked. And, walking is getting me on the road to recovery from my broken kneecap last summer. (For a while there it was more of a “hobble”!)
My main resolution for 2014 was to not stress out if my body is not able to complete the exercises my mind wants it to, and, do things I enjoy while I continue to rehab. I am getting stronger (hooray), but my old exploits are still a bit out of reach. In that vein, I decided to aim for 10,000 steps a day for the month of January, which is quite a challenge in Seattle in winter! Now that January is almost over, I am deciding what to do for February’s challenge.
Why 10,000 steps?
Well, I like even numbers, and, from all of my internet browsing, it seems that there is a consensus that it is a good number to keep one’s heart healthy. It works out to about 5 miles worth of steps each day, or, a little more than a cumulative hour of walking.
I get the steps in all kinds of ways – “walk at home” videos from YouTube (search for Leslie Sansone and you’ll find a ton), walking the dog, and, treadmill walking if I just don’t have enough steps for the day. Early on, I found out that if I didn’t make an effort to get the steps, I’d come in at about 2,000-3,000 per day, which was really eye-opening! It takes some effort to get 10,000 steps!
I’m on a roll now, and really into my daily challenges, which leads me to my tips. There is nothing Earth-shattering about these ideas, but they really do work.
Tip #1: Pick an exercise routine that you enjoy.
This one seems so simple, but it works. If you don’t like doing it, you won’t do it. You may go gangbusters on the latest BeachBody trendy workout plan, but if you stop after a week, it won’t do you any good.
Tip #2: Set a challenging, but attainable goal.
For me, this was deciding I would walk 10,000 steps per day for a month. On the surface, that’s very attainable, but in practice, it’s also challenging, because it means making time every day to get steppin’!
I watched a YouTube video last week about a guy who decided to ride his exercise bike enough miles to equal the distance across the U.S. – this is a great idea! He took a year, and racked up 3,000+ miles, and lost 20 pounds in the process, by doing nothing other than riding his exercise bike to meet his goal. Brilliant. I don’t know that I want to sign up for that kind of full-year commitment, but I’m thinking about setting a goal to ride my exercise bike 10 miles a day each day of February.
Other good options are participating in a fun run/walk, biking charity ride, or even a “mud run” obstacle course. Anything that appeals to you!
Tip #3: Use your exercise time for “me” time.
One thing I did when I set the 10,000 steps per day goal is find a new show that I had never seen and allotted myself one episode per day, while on the treadmill only. (For now, it’s the Good Wife, which by the way, is great!)
You could use this time to catch up on shows, listen to a podcast, or, just listen to music that you like, depending on the type of workout you’re doing. The point is to reward yourself with something you enjoy while doing your exercise. A 1 hour long drama streamed from Amazon with no commercials works out to about 45 minutes of exercise, and the time just flies. I usually make a point to walk on varying inclines on the treadmill, and vary the speed throughout, to ensure I’m not just mindlessly walking.
Tip #4: Exercise first thing in the morning.
This one is probably the hardest hurdle to cross, but it really works. If you can get up 30 minutes earlier than usual, get your workout, and get on with your day, you’ll feel so good and won’t have to stress about finding time later in the day. If you have a really busy schedule and often can’t find the time to exercise, first thing in the morning is a great option.
Even though I prefer to workout in the late afternoon (the joy of being a work-from-home person), I workout in the morning if my day is going to be jam-packed. I put out my exercise clothes the night before so they’re ready to go, which for some reason, creates a commitment in my mind.
Tip #5: Mix it up
Trying new things is a great way to keep momentum going. My 10,000 step a day challenge was good for January, but, I’m sure I’d get bored with it if I kept it up for February, and therefore, I need something different for February. This is probably why I enjoy triathlons so much – there is a lot of variety built right in! If you are bored with your workout routine, it’s time to mix it up and find something new, which goes back to tip #1, find something you enjoy! Sometimes you have to try a variety of things before something resonates, and, that is all part of the journey.
Those are my tips for sticking to your workouts. Do you have anything to add that I overlooked? Please let us know in the comments!