Posted on January 08, 2016 by Beth Hartman

You may have resolved to make this the year you finally start—and stick with—an exercise program, but you’re fighting an uphill battle, and it’s all too easy to give up after a few weeks. Judging by the fact that the January crowds in the gym are long gone by February, you’re not alone!

The question is how to turn your determination into action you can sustain for more than 30 days. While there are countless of blogs and articles, filled with hundreds of ways to help you make your training more effective.  We can’t actually come over to your house and light the fire that gets you moving. At some point, you must take action for yourself. No one can do it for you.

1. Define your challenge, just what is your main goal this year? Write down your ultimate physique goal and how you’d like to look. Include weight, body fat, and any physique improvements you’d like to see. Now divide it by 3. That’s roughly your 90-day goal—to get you a third of the way there.

2. Make time for your health. Work up to 60 minutes of physical activity each day. That doesn’t mean you’ll be on the weight-room floor seven days a week, but strive to do some kind of physical activity—even if it’s a walk with your dog or a leisurely bike ride. Take advantage of great weather when it happens by taking your workouts outdoors. If you’re new to fitness, start with two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions to help you become acclimated.

3. Discover what you enjoy. Weights are one of the best ways to make significant physical changes to your body. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys lifting. The most important determinant of long-term success with fitness is how much you enjoy an activity. Choose something that make fitness fun and you are more likely to stay with it for the long term! Explore new exercise classes and activities to determine which you prefer. As a beginner, almost anything you choose will be challenging, but gains will be made starting your very first week and if you continue to maintain your activity you will reap the benefits.

4. Don’t go it alone. Train with a friend who’s at about your level of ability and has similar goals. You’ll be far less likely to skip your workout when you know someone is depending on you. It’s also more motivating when you push each other, and you’ll be far less likely to cut your sessions short, or worse, skip them entirely. 

5. Be around people whose goals align with yours. Friends can help in other ways too. Surround yourself with some new friends at the office, school, or in your personal life who are committed to health and fitness. People who choose healthy lifestyles will engage in behaviors that will rub off on you. Similarly, if your friends are just the opposite, they’ll likely reinforce the wrong kinds of behaviors.

6. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Instead, compare yourself to the you of last week, better yet, last month. If you make every week better in some way than the preceding week, you’re moving forward and making progress. Aim to improve yourself 5-10 percent versus last year’s version of you. It’s hard for any of us to feel good about ourselves when we try to measure up to physique athletes who may have been training for a decade or more. What these champions have in common with you is that they decided to improve their fitness one day, and then came back for a second, and kept going.

7. Read to get motivated and learn. An easy way to get inspired and increase your knowledge of fitness, training, and nutrition is to commit to reading one online fitness article each day. You won’t know everything there is to know in a week, but knowing a little more every day helps you better understand the what, why, and how of what you’re doing. Just be aware there’s a ton of garbage advice available on the Web, so stick to sites you trust.

8. Embrace physical challenges outside your comfort zone. We all want to live comfortably, but workouts produce the best results when they make you a little—or even more than a little—uncomfortable. Your body adapts to changes when you ask more of it than it’s used to giving. To make improvements, you must push just outside your comfort zone. Adjust your mindset to seek greater challenges over time, and you’ll see your body respond.

9. Don’t rush to self-judge. Many individuals will drop out of their training program because they’re not seeing results fast enough. However, physiological adaptations occur incrementally. You most likely won’t see much—if any—improvement from one week to the next, but you surely will over 90 days. That’s why you should make an iron-clad commitment of at least three months when starting any exercise program. Only then should you compare before-and-after pictures and measurements.

10. Enter a 90-day transformation contest. Want to see the greatest changes in your physique possible? Dive into a transformation contest! Don’t do it for the money; do it for the personal challenge. Going all-in and attaching a deadline provides daily motivation that can become self-perpetuating. Countless people have used this method to achieve incredible results, and so can you!  There are different challenges out there you just need to look for them, why not start by challenging yourself to your first 5K, then 10K then maybe a half marathon... You see where we're going with this,, you need to keep pushing your limits and you will see the rewards way past the finish line.

11. Get on a roll. Any fitness enthusiast will tell you that it’s easier to stay on track when you’ve already been following a successful program. Success breeds success. In contrast, it’s much easier for beginners to fall off the fitness wagon, precisely because they’ve got so little invested. As you improve and see physical changes taking place, you’ll be even more motivated to continue. That’s why those first few months are so important, why you need to keep pressing forward even when your mind would rather be on the couch. Buy into a training program for at least three months before evaluating. Only then can you reasonably assess your progress.

12. Slow and steady wins the race. Ever heard the adage that life is a marathon, not a sprint? Well, the same goes with your fitness. Doing a four-hour workout in hopes of shaping up faster can do more harm than good—and who in their right mind wants to spend four hours in the gym, anyway? Take a more balanced approach to fitness. Commit to working out an hour a day. Your results will be better, and you won’t get burned out.

13. Rehab your injuries. If you’ve got a physical condition that limits your activity, schedule an appointment with a sports-medicine doctor or physical therapist. They can help rehabilitate the issues with various exercises. Equally important, they can teach you to modify your training so you can still exercise safely.

14. Rise, then shine. Work out in the morning, before the rest of the day gets in your way. Bonus: Nailing a morning workout boosts your confidence for the rest of day. Remember, attitude is everything and getting those endorphin's pumping early in the morning is a great way to stay motivated all day long.

15. Get off your duff at work. Sedentary jobs are associated with greater risk for cardiovascular disease, not to mention an extra inch or two around the middle (and those two things are closely related). Be sure to Incorporate some kind of movement every 30 minutes or so at work. On your breaks take a  walk around your building’s grounds throughout the day, it's not only a great stress relief and inhaling some of that fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for your attitude for the rest of the day. Find other ways to break up long periods of sitting at your desk— even if it’s just delivering a message to a coworker in person rather than by email. Keep moving!

16. Adjust your schedule to minimize midwinter blues. We all feel the midwinter blues, especially those of us at northern latitudes. Personally, for whatever reason, I’m simply not motivated to train when I get off work and it’s already dark outside, so I train in the morning or on my lunch break. While it may lengthen your lunch period, ask your boss if you can work late to make up for it.

17. Skip the pre-workout stretch. I did not say, however, to skip the warm-up. Too many trainees consider stretching to be a pre-workout activity, when it’s best saved for the end. However, 5-10 minutes of cardio helps elevate your heart rate and increases circulation. You can even do some dynamic exercises as part of your warm-up as well. But that’s not the end of your warm-up; don’t forget to do several very light sets of your first exercise. Now you’re ready to tackle the weights with reduced risk of injury. You’ll be stronger, to boot, and less likely to suffer a cramp or pulled muscle.

18. Skip the post-workout sauna. When you sweat after an intense workout, your body is cooling itself down. Subjecting yourself to an environment of extreme heat to “remove toxins from the skin” only subjects you to increased risk of hyperthermia, in which your body temperature can rise dangerously. Likewise, skip the post-workout Jacuzzi unless your body has had ample time to cool down.

19. Dine in restaurants only once a week. You consume more total calories when you eat out, and many of those calories will be empty, in the form of sugary beverages and desserts. You won’t be tempted to indulge during a weak moment if you’re eating at home and no junk food or soda is present.

20. Try a new recipe for a “clean” meal once a week. Not everyone loves to cook. However, anyone can turn simple recipes into tasty meals that are clean and loaded with protein. This is where a good dietitian is worth a visit.  They can outline a healthy eating plan and point you in the right direction to good clean food, organic and GMO free when you can get it.

The above are just a few recommendations that we have put together to help you start out 2016 on the right track to a healthier YOU.  If you commit to the first 3 months of a changed eating lifestyle combined with stimulating exercise you will happy enough with those results that you will be happy to continue on with your program, not only for the rest of the year, but hopefully for the rest of your life!


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