As we approach New Year’s and I begin to think about my personal goals and resolutions, I think back to one of my biggest challenges: committing myself to an exercise routine. Usually, I get started in one and do it for a few weeks and something happens – I get sick, work gets busy – and find myself dropping the routine before the benefits kick in. I think I know how to get in shape, it’s the actual motivation to stick to an exercise program which I need to work on.
1. Get a Personal Trainer
By far the easiest and most obvious solution (and the most expensive on this list) is to hire a personal trainer. A personal trainer can assess your situation, provide a balanced workout routine, and then help you stick to that routine. They are trained to understand when someone is likely to quit and change things up to keep them going.
2. Have a Friend Join You
You can mutually motivate each other, particularly at first, by exercising and eating together and communicating a lot. My best option for this is clearly my husband, and we’ve been discussing things along these lines for a while now, such as switching to a vegetarian diet at home and having one of us exercise while the other watches the kids. We occasionally hire a baby sitter for the kids so we can use the community clubhouse gym which has a wider range of workout options for both of us.
Having a partner in this process not only helps you stick with exercise throughout the year, but he/she can also motivate you to push yourself beyond your normal stopping point to run more, lift more, or work harder.
3. Eat Healthy – But Eat Well
One easy rule of thumb for me is to ask any vegetarian friends you might have for their tastiest recipes. Almost always, these recipes are healthy and I’m often shocked at the tastiness, considering that my earlier impression of vegetarian food is that you’re sacrificing flavor for healthiness. There are many substitutes you can find for your meals to reduce calories without reducing taste. For example, I’ve created chili with lentils and beans which would beat many meat-based chilis. Find the right substitutes for you and continue eating well.
4. Find an Exercising Game System
The item that comes to mind here is the Wii Fit, which includes a workout mode and is essentially a game that enables you to burn calories in the privacy of your own home. There are lots of little motivators that one can use, but this one works most effectively for me. The start-up cost with this is a bit pricey, but it’s always there for you, while a personal trainer has a constant upkeep cost.
Recently, we found the EA Sports Active2 (for the Wii and other gaming systems) is a great option for at home fitness. The system really does provide a solid workout and has a heart monitor to help keep track of your health during the workout.
5. Keep Track of Your Workout Data
For me, there are few better motivators than a lot of data that confirms that I am moving in the right direction. A month of very healthy living might burn me out, but if I can look at my stomach and see a bit of change, then look at a graph of the data and see a definite downward trend in my weight, I feel much more motivated to get out there and do it.
6. Read Inspiring Books
I find it very useful to regularly read, hear, and see inspirational stories about how others have done the same thing. I usually try to read a bit from my favorite diet/healthy living books each night, just a page or two to keep my mind on the right track. Yes, I have several books that I read a bit from each night for inspiration.
7. Visit Health Blogs
Similar to the logic behind inspirational books, I also read a number of health-related blogs written by real people facing the challenges I’m facing. Some of my favorites include Lazy Man and Health and The Tao of Good Health. You can find hints and tips to help your workout routine, or just find someone you can relate to going through the same stuff you’re experiencing.
8. Use Pictures of Yourself as Motivation
I have a couple pictures of myself where my weight looks pretty awful, and those pictures bother me quite a bit. Rather than hiding them, I use them as motivators, keeping one in my pocket and another one as my desktop image on my computer. They make me feel a lot of emotions, but generally they encourage me to take action to never look that way again.
9. Keep Track in the Mirror
We keep a dry erase marker in our master bathroom and have a chart on the main mirror that kind of looks like this:
The chart on the mirror has the days of the week, the next column is P for pushups, the second column is R for running, and finally a tracking chart for weight. Seeing this chart every day in the bathroom will motivate you to work harder so you can keep check marks in those columns.
Save for the personal trainer, what all of these ideas have in common is that they’re not expensive – and they work. In fact, these techniques largely work for any long-term goal that requires a lot of little steps along the way. One just needs to find the little things that helps one stay motivated.