Once you establish an exercise routine that fits your body and your schedule, your focus should turn to how to keep exercise in your life — transform your new routine into a habit for better health and energy over time.
Three simple steps have helped many people stick with healthy lifestyle changes, whether it is losing weight, exercising regularly, or quitting smoking:
1. Set Realistic Goals
Doing too much can be frustrating and use up more of your energy than it creates. Doing too little can make exercise boring and not give you much energy either. How do you avoid both extremes and make sure you get “gain” rather than “drain”? Use the 0 to 10 tip to understand your energy level every day and set your goals accordingly: Not too much, not too little, but just right. Like so much else, this becomes easier with practice.
2. Reward Yourself
Pavlov had the right idea with his system of rewards as a training tool. For motivation, carrots work better than sticks! Find something that feels like a reward to you, earn that reward then give it to yourself! A reward can be anything that feels like a treat to you: a call to a friend, a book, an extra 5 minutes in bed in the morning, or something special like theater tickets. Chart your success so you can reward yourself over time. Vary your rewards so you stay interested and motivated to meet your goals!
Note: Some experts counsel people who are trying to lose weight not to use food as a reward, but knowing that a small edible treat waits for you can be just the push you need to start moving. The important word here is “small.” And a reward should never be a food that a doctor has told you to avoid for health reasons.
3. Establish a Support System
Perhaps you have one buddy for healthy eating and another for exercise. Maybe having encouragement at home or at work is all the support you need. To double-up the motivation factor: identify some rewards that family, friends or a “buddy” can share with you.
Everyone’s Human: What To Do If You Fall Off the Exercise Wagon
Even Olympic athletes take a break, by necessity or choice. You may have to let some ailments run their course, or keep your feet up while an injury heals. Maybe you were traveling, or life became overwhelming for a while.
If you had been exercising and stopped, for whatever reason: skip the guilt. Instead, remember why you started exercising, remember the gains you made, and recommit yourself to an exercise plan. Go back to the basics. Set goals suitable to where you are now and work back to where you were. Every day that you exercise is a day that you do something good for yourself. It is helpful to understand what got you off track—then look forward, not back, and take one day at a time. Remember to reward yourself and record your results in an exercise log. Stick with it, and you will be ACE-ing your workouts again in no time!