Have you ever started a fitness program and then quit? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Many people start fitness programs but stop when they get bored or results come too slowly. Here are 10 tips to help you stay motivated.
- Set goals. Start with simple goals and then progress to longer range goals. Remember to make your goals realistic and achievable. It’s easy to get frustrated and give up if your goals are too ambitious. If you haven’t exercised in a while, a short-term goal might be to walk five minutes once or twice a day. An intermediate goal might be to walk 20 minutes three or four times a week. A long-term goal might be to complete a 5K walk.
- Start slowly. If you push yourself too hard at first, you may be forced to abandon your program because of pain or injury. It’s better to start slowly and progress gradually.
- Think variety. Vary your activities to keep boredom at bay. Alternate walking or biking with swimming or a low-impact aerobics class. When the weather cooperates, do your flexibility or stretching exercises outside. Play soccer with your kids. Join a health club or martial arts center to broaden your access to different forms of exercise.
- Have fun. You’re more likely to stick with an exercise program if you’re having fun. If you’re not enjoying your workouts, try something different. Join a volleyball or softball league. Take a ballroom dancing class. Trade your running shoes for a swimsuit. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery.
- Make physical activity part of your daily routine. If it’s hard to find time for exercise, don’t fall back on excuses. Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity. You can also slip in physical activity throughout the day. Be creative! Take a walk during your child’s music lesson. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Pedal a stationary bike or do strength training exercises with resistance tubing while you watch TV at night.
- Put it on paper. Are you hoping to lose weight? Boost your energy? Sleep better? Manage a chronic condition? Write it down! Seeing the benefits of regular exercise on paper may help you stay motivated.
- Seek support. You’re not in this alone. Invite a friend or co-worker to join you when you exercise. Work out with your spouse or your kids. Take a class at a local fitness center.
- Track your progress. It may help to keep an exercise diary. Record what you did during each exercise session, how long you exercised and how you felt afterward. Recording your efforts can help you work toward your goals — and remind you that you’re making progress.
- Reward yourself. After each exercise session, take a few minutes to sit down and relax. Reflect on what you’ve just accomplished. Savor the good feelings that exercise gives you. This type of internal reward can help you make a long-term commitment to regular exercise. External rewards can help, too. When you reach a longer range goal, treat yourself to a new pair of walking shoes or new tunes to enjoy while you exercise.
- Be flexible. If you’re too busy to work out or simply don’t feel up to it, take a day or two off. Be gentle with yourself if you need a break. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can.
Now that you’re enthusiastic again, get moving! Set your goals, make it fun and pat yourself on the back from time to time. Remember, physical activity is for life. Review these tips whenever you feel your motivation sliding.
Make today better than yesterday,
and the mayoclinic.com