Three Keys to Succeeding in an Exercise Program
Here's How to Flourish in your Fitness Program
This is the time of year when many people make commitments to begin or renew an exercise program. Unfortunately, many people fall off the fitness bandwagon soon afterwards, for any number of reasons. Lack of time, sore muscles, boredom, excess stress and many other problems can conspire to steal the mental and physical benefits of a regular exercise plan. We all know the perks of healthy exercise: lost weight, increased energy, better sleep, the envy of your couch-potato neighbour or co-worker ( haha ), you name it. Here are the 3 keys to making exercise a lasting part of your lifestyle.
Step 1 - Find a type of exercise you enjoy.
I can't overemphasize the importance of this point. Many exercise programs would have you chugging away on a treadmill or lugging weights around a gym full of sweaty body builders. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but for most people it's not a recipe for long term enjoyment and satisfaction of your exercise program. Not into running or bench presses? No problem. Join a tennis club, go to a spin class, sign up for an aquafit program or take Tai Chi or a martial arts class. My wife even joined a belly dancing class for fun and fitness. (For the record, I did not complain!)
The point is that it's very difficult over the long haul to force yourself to do something you really don't like to do. Sure, we can all suck it up and soldier on for a while, but if exercise=drudgery, you're not likely to stick with it long term. And sticking with it for the long term is the key to developing a healthy life-style.
Step 2 - Find a Partner
No, not that kind of partner, though many people do meet attractive members of the opposite sex at their fitness venues. What I'm talking about is finding an exercise partner, fitness buddy, accomplice of muscle-bending, or whatever you want to call it. Having someone to exercise with greatly improves your willingness to get out there and work out, after all, though you may be willing to let yourself down, you really don't want to leave your friend waiting alone when you've agreed to meet at 6 o'clock for an evening bike ride. An exercise buddy can give you encouragement, commiserate with you about how evil your spin class leader is or brag about how well you're doing to your spouse and kids. In a way, this all goes back to enjoying your exercise. Very few people enjoy working out by themselves for hours on end, having a friend to go through it with you makes the time go by much faster and more enjoyably.
Step 3 - Go at your own pace
The most important aspect of getting fit and maintaining your exercise program is to go at your own pace. Many people who fail at exercise or workout plans do so simply because they try to do too much, too soon and get burnt out physically and mentally. It's important to realize that this fitness thing doesn't come all at once or from a few short, violent workouts. Fitness and health come from gradual, consistent practice and persistence over time. There's no way to speed up or short circuit the process.
So, keeping in mind that you want to be exercising regularly for the rest of your life, it's very important that you go slowly and build up your program gradually. Don't be in a rush to run that marathon or do that 300 lb. bench press. These things take time, you can get there eventually, but trying to do it overnight will only lead to discouragement and disappointment. Besides, it's more fun to work out to the point of pleasant fatigue rather than complete and utter exhaustion.