Getting More Exercise 2: making it happen

Part 1 of this series explored ways to make time for exercise. Now that your schedule is set, how can you make sure it happens on a consistent basis?

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

-As I mentioned in my previous post, be specific in your plan. It’s a lot easier to wiggle out of “I have to exercise more!” than it is from “Thursday: thirty minutes on the stationery bike while watching the news.” Think through What, When, How Long.

-If you know you have a busy day or week coming up don’t just abandon your exercise plan. Modify it. Get a couple exercise DVDs with 15-minute routines for the days you can’t make it to the gym. Plan fun activities into your vacation that keep you moving. Come up with a Plan A and Plan B, and stick to them!

-Make your exercise environment as comfortable as possible. We need all the encouragement we can get to exercise, so if you stick the elliptical machine in the farthest corner of the coldest room in the house, who would want to wade through the cobwebs and piles of junk to exercise consistently? Clear out the mess, open the blinds, put up a poster or some photos. Make this your sanctuary, and you’ll want to exercise.

INCLUDE OTHERS IN YOUR SUCCESS

Getting others in on your plan increases your motivation, accountability, and makes the process more fun. Let others know about your plans to exercise more frequently, and tell them to check in with you! Or find someone else who wants to bump up their activity levels – you can keep each other motivated, share tips and ideas, or find an activity you both enjoy to keep one another going. Family members, friends, coworkers, online forums or support groups are all excellent places to turn.

TRACK YOUR MILESTONES TOWARDS SUCCESS

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, keep your expectations reasonable and break your progress down into a series of achievable milestones. If you’d like to exercise five days a week, it’s reasonable to start out at three and work up to five over the course of several months. If you want to lose 50 pounds, don’t let the large number deter you. Focus first on losing five pounds, or set up other, non weight-related milestones along the way.

Some tips:

-Set up concrete, tangible goals in a clearly defined time period. Just as a specific daily plan for exercise keeps you on track, specific weekly or monthly goals provide an overarching framework to guide your daily efforts.

For example, you wish to exercise 5 days/week by the end of 3 months. The first month you might start out at 3 days/week at the gym, the second month you add in a day of walking, the third month you add in an exercise DVD. Long-term goals focus your efforts despite short-term setbacks.

-Track your progress! Note down your goals and your progress towards them. Some people like notebooks, others prefer the visual encouragement of X’s on the calendar. Once you have a string of X’s on your wall, it creates additional motivation to continue the trend and not break the string.

-If you feel discouraged, look back to where you started. You’ll see more improvement than you realized.

-To kick start your efforts, some people like to create “one week” or “one month” challenges. For example: No snacking after 9PM for the month of April, or do some form of exercise daily for an entire week.

FIND THE WEAK LINK

We all have a part of the exercise plan where we are likely to drop off of a routine. For some it is a constant flow of unexpected lunch meetings, for others it is the temptation to hit snooze that prevents a morning workout. When reviewing your plan for the week, think back on the moments when you were less successful at achieving your exercise goals. Once you identify your “weak link” you can think through how to overcome it. Some common stumbling points:

Weak Link: Not feeling up for exercise when you get home.

Solution: Have your exercise shoes right next to the door; head straight for your exercise room and change there; find a class or facility on the way home from work and store your clothes in the car.

Weak Link: So many nighttime chores that it’s impossible to consistently exercise

Solution: Switch to mornings or daytime exercise; allot a specific time period for exercise; exercise consistently on weekends and once or twice during the week.

Weak Link: Snoozing the alarm in the morning

Solution: Move the alarm across the room so you have to get up and turn it off; shift your bedtime earlier; find a motivating picture of quote and stick it on your alarm clock.

Despite the best intentions it can be difficult to consistently exercise. To make exercise a long-term habit, it is helpful to have an exercise routine in place (see Part 1 for specifics on setting up an exercise routine) and strategies to overcome obstacles that may come up along the way.

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