- Dr. Eric Carlsen
Focus on Fitness: How to begin an exercise program and accomplish your goals
A daily commitment to your exercise program and goals keeps your spirit alive, your resolve strong and your actions inspired. We all know physical activity is good for us, right? I’m not going to start by telling you the benefits of exercise.
What I am going to tell you is exercise is awesome and it makes you feel good both mentally and physically — maybe not in the beginning, but if you stick with it you will feel amazing and strong. And believe it or not, you will get to the point where sometimes that feeling is all the motivation you need to get yourself up and moving. Making changes in your life isn’t easy and old habits are hard to break but living healthy and feeling great is worth all the time and effort.
Give exercise the priority it deserves. Exercise should be at the top of the priorities list with eating and sleeping. Your body needs movement.
SET A GOAL Set yourself up for success with clear, concise, and measurable goals. Ask yourself what you really want. What is it that you are looking for? What do you want to achieve? Goal setting is one of the best ways to stay motivated and on track. If you have a clear purpose and know your “WHY,” you’re more likely to persevere.
SCHEDULE IT After you have set your goals, figure out how much time will be required to start — say, for the first couple of months — and where exactly that time will come from:
How many times a week will you exercise?
How long will each session take? Plan for the entire workout time, changing clothes, travel time to and from (if not working out at home) showering, etc. You may need to block off 45 minutes even for a 30-minute workout.
Which days of the week and what time of day work the best? Look at your calendar. Consider your work schedule, your kids’ schedules, sleeping, eating, etc.
Don’t use special events as an excuse to skip a workout — plan for them with an alternative day or time. Be as specific as possible and mark it on your calendar just like you would a doctor’s appointment or your kid’s soccer game: as an appointment not to be missed.
SHARE YOUR GOALS Talk about your goals with your friends and family. It may be uncomfortable at first, but keep in mind the people that love and care about you will support your goals and cheer you on. By talking about your goals, you gain a fresh perspective which is helpful when you feel like your goal is too much.
START WITH BABY STEPS Start slowly to succeed rather than try to do too much and expect your body to do more than it’s physically ready to do. Don’t put unrealistic pressure on yourself that can lead to injury and discouragement when you’re unable to meet those expectations. Start with your beginning, not someone else’s end. Increase workout duration, pace, and intensity gradually as your body adapts to meet the new physical demands of exercise. It doesn’t matter how slow you start. What’s important is that you start.
COMMIT TO TWO MONTHS That’s 66 days, to be exact. I promise if you stick with it, you’ll reach that level where exercise feels good, and you’ll actually want to do it. It may be hard to imagine right now, but you will even begin to look forward to it.
MAKE IT ENJOYABLE
It’s going to be challenging in the beginning. You’re going to push yourself and it’s going to take effort. Do whatever it takes to make your workouts enjoyable, especially in the first few weeks. Let’s face it: if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you’re not going to continue doing it for the long term and it’s much harder to motivate yourself to do something you don’t enjoy.
DITCH THE EXPECTATION OF “ALL OR NOTHING” Give yourself permission to make mistakes and develop strategies to get back on track based on why you missed the workout.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS Use a fitness tracker to focus on what you accomplish and to make decisions on if and when you should reassess your plan and/or adjust your goals.
REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED Why did you start working out in the first place? What was your motivation to go for that first run or take that first strength training class? Remind yourself why it was so important to you and revisit that person who was motivated in the beginning to make a commitment. Also, make sure your “why” is for the right reason. Those who stick to their goals have their reasons based on truly wanting to change their lives in a way that will energize them. Create your goals from a place of love and self-care and the desire to better yourself for yourself — not for someone else.
REWARD YOURSELF Reward yourself when you achieve short-term and long-term goals. Having an extra incentive when you’re feeling unmotivated or tired makes it easier to stick with the plan. And don’t forget that whatever your reward is, you’ve earned it.
Credit: Mark Gartz