How are your New Year's resolutions going? Are you still exercising as much as you were in January or do you find yourself dragging your heels to the gym? If this describes you don't worry, you're in good company: over 50% of people drop out after the first 12 weeks of joining a gym or starting a new exercise programme.
If you have discovered that the joys of paper clip arranging have taken priority over your exercise time then you need to get weekly focused! These 10 tips will help get you back on track.
1. Time Management
Schedule a time slot for your exercise sessions (at same time, if possible) and commit it to your diary. Once you have written your sessions treat them as you would a dentists or doctors appointment and try not to reschedule them. If your day is often unpredictable or long try to exercise first thing in the morning. As well as being a great way to start the day, you are less likely to have other commitments taking priority at that time.
2. The Right Environment
If you exercise at home minimise all unnecessary distractions. Close the curtains, lock the door and switch on the telephone answering machine. Get everything you need ready to avoid any interruptions. For example water, towels, music, videos, desk fan and any equipment.
Studies have shown that people tend to exercise harder (and thus achieve higher exercising heart rates) when they listen to up-tempo music during exercise compared to slower, 'easy-listening' music. In other words choose inspirational and uplifting music to exercise to and save the new-age rainforest sounds for your post-workout stretching! If you're one of those people who prefers to read during exercise than have music blaring in your ears try an audio book instead. There are many available and are less likely to distract you from working out hard as can often happen when trying to read at the same time.
4. Dress for the Part
Get the right kit! You don't have to invest in expensive designer sportswear, but having a sporty outfit that you exclusively wear to exercise will get you in the mood and help keep you weekly focused on your goals. Seek advice from a knowledgeable sales assistant and invest in a new pair of trainers. Wearing the right type of trainers for your body and activity will make all the difference in your performance and in staying injury free.
5. Exercise videos
The vast selection of exercise videos currently available make it even easier to work out in the comfort of your own home. However many of these seem to be for the benefit of prolonging an already famous career than for the benefit of the exerciser. To ensure a safe and competent workout follow these guidelines before buying an exercise video:
- Avoid any video that is made by or features a film star/pop singer/TV presenter/etc.
- Choose a video made by a qualified fitness professional.
- Ensure that alternative exercises are suggested.
- Get a Training Partner
A training partner will provide social support and encouragement. A friend with the same fitness level and goals as you is the best match. When you train with someone you develop a responsibility to one another and are less likely to cancel an exercise session simply because you do not feel like it.
7. Stay Positive and weekly focused
At some time everyone has to confront feelings of apathy and procrastination when it comes to exercise. Turning these feelings into positive ones will keep you weekly focused and make the difference to you achieving your goals. Try the following:
- Remember how great you feel when you have just worked out: revitalised, healthy, happy. Concentrate on these feelings and before you know it you'll be grabbing your trainers!
- Write down your goals and all the reasons why you want to achieve them. For example don't just write "to get fit", write "to get fit because I want to have more energy, make my heart stronger and not feel out of breath so often." Keep this list and read it whenever you feel de-motivated.
- Say aloud a positive affirmation. It can be from someone who is an inspirational figure to you or one that you have made up yourself, as long as it motivates you. Stand in front of a mirror and say it aloud. Then say it aloud again, this time louder and believing every word.
8. Set Realistic Targets
By definition, you can never achieve the impossible. Unfortunately too many people have unrealistic expectations and therefore set themselves unrealistic goals when it comes to exercise. Ensure that you set realistic, relevant goals that fit into your work and lifestyle commitments. Short term goals are more attainable than long term ones, and should be used as stepping stones towards a larger, long term goal. For example a beginner to exercise who has 2 stone to lose can feel as if they are facing an insurmountable challenge. However, if that same person were told to weekly focus on losing 1 lb a week instead the goal already sounds more attainable.
9. Get a Mirror
Not just for the narcissistic! A mirror is useful in keeping you weekly focused. You can study your posture and technique to ensure that you continue to exercise in a safe and correct manner.
Don't get in an exercise rut! Try the following ways to vary your exercise routine:
- Alternate days of aerobic activities with weight training or other types of aerobic activities. For example indoor cycling one day, walking/jogging in the park the next.
- Get an exercise professional to change your programme every 6-8 weeks or devise a split programme that you can alternate between.
- Maximise your resources. Work out in a gym, at home, in the park, swim, or hire a personal trainer.
And finally, keep things in perspective. Know when your body needs a rest and take a day off. You want to achieve your goals, but you don't want to end up viewing exercise as a chore. It is also important to realise that by the time your existing goals are met you will have found a new set of goals to work towards. Exercise is about improving the quality of one's life, and is therefore something that you will be doing for many, many years to come. Pace yourself, enjoy what you do and all your goals will come true!