3 Pro Tips for Sticking with Exercise all year
1 – Focus on one habit. And only one.
This tip has two parts. First, focus on a habit, as opposed to outcomes. Habits are things you have direct control over. For example: I will exercise 75 times before July 1st. I will fill up half my dinner plate with vegetables, 50 times over the next 3 months. I will keep a food journal 6 days a week this year.
This is opposed to focusing on outcomes you don’t have direct control over like:
I will lower my blood pressure to 120/80. I will lose 40 lbs. I will be so muscular this summer, that when I flex, men will swoon and women will cheer. Focusing on outcomes you don’t have direct control over can lead to serious frustration and abandonment if your expectations aren’t met quickly.
The last part of that sentence is to limit your focus to ONE habit. This is a big deal. Trying to juggle multiple changes at once gets messy quickly. For more on this topic, I recommend the book “The Power of Less”. The author is a great example of what can be accomplished when you narrow your focus to one goal at a time. He lost 40 pounds, quit smoking and went from being a non-runner, to running marathons.
2 – Start Small and Build on it
Whatever exercise program you choose, it would be wise to start small, smaller than you think you need to, and systematically build on it.
A popular example of this is the “Couch to 5k” program. Your first workout might be Walk 2 mins, Jog 1 minute. Repeat 5 times. A brisk, easy, 15-minute workout. A few workouts later, the workout is Walk 1 minute, Jog 1 minute for 16 minutes and only a little harder than before. It may seem like these super short workouts are worthless, but this kind of slow progression steadily continues, and before long, you are jogging nearly a whole 5k!
This works with weight lifting too. Nerdy fitness people call this “progressive overload” and it is one of the most well-established principals in exercise. Don’t underestimate this one. The power of starting small and taking small, progressive steps really is miraculous.
3 – Beat Procrastination with a Timer
Sometimes exercise just sounds like a chore. When motivation is lacking, a simple technique is to tell yourself, “I will exercise for a VERY short period of time. Like 9 minutes. If after that 9 minutes, if I’m still not in the mood, I will stop exercising.” Then, set a 9-minute timer and get started.
Why does this work? Because showing up and getting started is more than half the battle.
I’ve used this “trick” for years personally with great success. But it wasn’t until 2015 I found out this was already a tried-and-true motivational strategy named the “Pomodoro Technique” that was popular in the 80’s.
Adam Napper is a fitness trainer and owner of Circuit 31 Fitness in Allen. Previously he served as a personal trainer at the Allen Natatorium. For those of you in Allen, Texas, Adam has assembled a directory of fitness clubs and resources. You can see his list here on NorthTexasActiveLife.com.