Monday, December 31, 2012

How to become a regular exerciser

Is one of your New years resolutions to start working out on consistent basis?   
I am a life long exerciser - I can   say that I have been exercising all of my adult life some 25 years  and for a fair amount of my childhood too. During that time, my efforts have been consistent, regular and productive.  When I was younger I played soccer, softball, basketball.   During high school I stop doing regular sports but started with Jane Fonda exercise video tapes.  
The one thing that has been a constant companion throughout this long training career is I have always needed to find ways to motivate my self.  It was hard some days , but somehow, almost every time, I have done it.   When I have had a family, I started putting them ahead of my exercise and  I gained a few pounds.   
Without realizing it, I made exercising a lifelong habit .People often say to me "oh but it's so easy for you!" but I can assure you it isn't. Working out  never gets any easier - that's false ! You merely get fitter and work harder. I feel the same discomfort as a beginner exerciser, get out of breath in the same way a unfit person would and weights feel heavy to me as they would to a person with less strength. I just have a greater work capacity that allows me to work at higher levels of output - however, it's still as hard as the first time I ran around the block as an eight year old training for my first sports day. And yes - that feeling of sore muscles beginners get after starting a new exercise routine (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS) - I get that too... at least a couple of times a week! (I love DOMS)
Everyday, there are things I would rather be doing than sweating in the gym or panting out on the road, like watching TV,  surfing the net, reading, sleeping, meeting my friends or just chilling out eating junk food...but the difference between me and a non-exerciser is that I "just do it" to quote Nike. Exercise has become a habit and a vital part of my day just like eating, sleeping and breathing.
The hardest part about working out  is getting off the couch, or getting out the front door, or away from whatever place you are drawn to. Once you've broken away from that place - the rest is easy...or relatively anyway!
So - how do we establish a routine that will eventually become a habit? Well, I have a number of suggestions which may help.
Remember, it takes 3-6 months of concerted, regular effort for something to become habitual, so don't go expecting any quick fixes but with some application of effort and, dare I say it, discipline, exercise adherence is a real possibility and developing the skills to be self motivated are yours for the taking...we just need to get through that first few months...
Set goals. Why do you want to get fit? Is it to lose weight, look good on the beach, drop a clothing size, be healthier? get stronger? What ever it is, write it down. Show it to people, tell people about you goal, explain what you are trying to achieve. The point of this exercise is to give you focus. Every workout missed or every day off your healthy eating plan puts you a day further away from achieving what you want from your time spent exercising. Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable in a reasonable time frame. If necessary break your main goal into "micro" goals that you can tick off on a regular basis, e.g.
Write a pro and con decision list. What have you got to gain versus what have you got to lose. If you ever feel your resolve waning, revisit this document and remind yourself what you have given up in return for all the benefits you are working towards, e.g.
Pros & Cons 
o Look better
o Half an hour less sleep
o Lose weight
o Have to be organized
o Feel fitter
o Drink less alcohol
o Have more energy
o Eat clean foods
After reviewing the above lists it should be apparent that the minor cons are outweighed by the greater pros and should serve as a reminder that the decision made is a worthwhile one.
 Make a plan and stick to it. Getting fit is a journey, and to successfully complete a journey you often need a map. By planning how to get from A to B, we can prepare for change and give ourselves a route to follow which will allow us to progress along our chosen path without having to worry about losing our way or getting distracted. Remember the old adage - "prior preparation prevents poor performance!"
I will often plan a  90 day rotations. I get a weird joy of setting up my workouts in excel and know what workout s I am doing.    I just finished a hyrid of Supreme 90/ Cathe’s Muscle Max and walking/running  for 90 days. 
o Plan your workout times - treat them as appointments and stick to them. 
o Have a back up plan in case you are unable to exercise at the time you wanted to - if you cant go to the gym, what can you do instead? If it's raining, where else can you workout? Cover your bases! Have alternatives ready to cover as many eventualities as you can envisage.
o Plan your weekly food intake and shop accordingly. One of the truths of diet and nutrition is that if you have junk food in your cupboard, you will eat it. As a result, make sure that you have plenty of healthy food in your cupboards and that includes snacks.
o Make sure you carry adequate food and water with you so you don't have to rely on grabbing a snack at work - prepare much of your days food the night before
o Tell other people about your plans so they don't accidentally interfere with your efforts to adopt a new healthy lifestyle.
 Keep accurate training and diet logs.  I keep my exercise  log in excel and have been doing this since 2004.   I track my food in my fitness pal atleast during the weekdays.  Write it down! Nothing motivates like success...but to judge success we need to see where we started. By keeping track of workout performance, dietary trends and physical measurements we can see when we improve. Sometimes we fail to see our improvements because they are, on a day to day basis, so small but overtime, these small improvements will add up to noticeable changes in body composition, bodyweight, fitness levels etc. Often, someone who hasn't seen you for a while will comment on your dramatic weight loss or improved muscle tone - they haven't seen you in a while so the changes seem great whereas to you, seeing yourself in the mirror on a daily basis may not have spotted much in the way of changes at all.
 Don't be afraid to fall off the wagon. Even with the very best planning, goal setting and support network sometimes things just go wrong - life gets in the way. The key when this happens is to not let it phase you for too long and to pick up where you left off as soon as possible. These disruptions in routine are not failures, nor are they enough to undo all of your previous good works but unless you jump back on the wagon as soon as possible, they can be the start of the slippery slope back to our previous physical state and a lot of hard work wasted. Learn from whatever caused this disruption to your planned routine and take measures to try to minimize the chances of a similar disruptions happening again. Its kind of cheesy but some say that to FAIL is the First Action in Learning and so long as we take something positive away from a failure, then it was not a wasted opportunity.


becca said...

thank you for linking up and what a great article full of excellent tips will be using some of them to help me get back on track exercising .

Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

Lots of great tips! I also loved hearing about your lifelong fitness commitment. That's pretty amazing that you've been tracking your workouts since 2004.

The Frugal Exerciser said...

You might also want to add that working with a reliable partner or group can also motivate you and keep you on track.