Starting A New Exercise Plan: Sound Familiar?
You splurge on new workout clothes and equipment, sign up for the most exciting fitness classes, and hit the gym like an addict for two weeks. But it starts with just one missed workout, progresses to a couple absences per week, and then you’ve completely fallen off the workout wagon again. Sound familiar? As a chiropractor in Brookfield who’s constantly working with patients who struggle to stick to their exercise routines, I can tell you you’re not alone. Even the best intentions to stick to your exercise schedule can be thwarted by excuses. “I have too much to get done today,” or “I’m too exhausted,” or even “The weather’s not nice enough to be outside.” It’s happened to all of us, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
A National Center for Health Statistics study reported that only 19% of Americans regularly engage in “high levels of physical activity (a minimum of three intense 20-minute workouts per week).” Another 63% said they believe that exercising regularly would lead to a longer, healthier life, a leaner body and less stress, but don’t do it. What’s more, over 50% of Americans who start an exercise program drop out within six months. The problem is motivation, or a lack thereof.
So What’s The Secret To Staying Motivated?
Of course, there’s no 100% foolproof solution to staying motivated. But a number of new studies comparing men and women who’ve stuck to an exercise plan to those who didn’t sheds some priceless advice on which strategies work when it comes to adhising to an workout toutine. As you develop your workout plan, be prepared to attack the hurdles that await you head-on with these tips, so you won’t be thrown off track.
1. Make Sure It’s The Right Plan For You
People fail to stick to their workout routines most often because of one simple reason – the plan doesn’t fit their lifestyle, time constraints, budget, or physical condition. Whenever you start dreading your workout, change it up and do what appeals to you instead. If you’re hating going to a gym every day, try working out at home or going outside for a run. Bottom line, if you’re sick of your routine, don’t quit, just make an adjustment to it that works for you.
2. Schedule Your Workouts In Advance
Schedule all of your workouts at the beginning of the month, and keep track as you complete them. Try Jerry Seinfeld’s (now famous) approach to productivity. It’s beautifully simple: post a monthly calendar on your wall and each day you complete a workout you put a big red “x” through it. Before long you’ll have built a streak that provides enough momentum to carry you through that all-too-human desire to put today’s workout off until tomorrow.
3. Avoid Burnout: Increase Intensity Gradually
Going too hard too soon can set you up for failure. Studies have shown that the most devoted exercisers don’t jump into a high-intensity workout plan right away, instead taking a few weeks to work up to full workout intensity. If you’re currently not exercising at all, 30 minutes a day of intense activity five days a week may be daunting. Start with shorter, less vigorous activities and gradually increase over time until your exercise routine becomes a habit. A lot of people are over-ambitious in the beginning and burn out from exhaustion.
Don’t think you’re not benefiting by starting with low-intensity exercise, either. Studies show that even just brisk walking 15 to 20 minutes per day can significantly decrease your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke or developing diabetes.
4. Track Your Workouts
Put pen to paper and keep a written record of what you have accomplished. Multiple studies have shown that the most successful exercise program adherents log their daily activity in a journal, keeping track of the number of sets and reps they perform or the miles they run. Being able to see your progress is incredibly motivating and keeps you striving for improvement.
5. Get In The Groove
Music sets the mood to movies, parties, and your office atmosphere, and if you’re not using music to set the mood for your workout, you’re missing out on a proven motivational boost. A report published by the Research Quarterly For Exercise and Sport showed a strong correlation between music tempo and workout intensity, with those listening to music with a higher BPM exercising longer with more intensity. The study noted that people listening to their favorite tunes are more likely to complete their entire workout.
6. Be Social (But Switch It Up Often)
Another huge factor contributing to exercise program adherence (according to a study from the Journal of Behavioral Medicine) is social support. A workout partner can keep you accountable to showing up and push you to work harder during your workout. But switch it up often. The more familiar you are with your partner, the easier it becomes to slack off from workout plans. If you notice it happening to you, find a new, less-forgiving workout partner every few months.
Alternatively, find a local fitness center that offers group fitness classes such as Cross-Fit, water aerobics, or pilates.
7. Set Goals For Every Individual Workout
When starting a workout routine, many people focus on the big, long-term goal of losing weight and/or building muscle. But this can lead to frustration and failure when progress doesn’t come as quickly as desired. It’s essential to recognize the importance of each individual workout, because it’s easier to start skipping sessions if you don’t.
To prevent this from throwing you off track, set one specific goal for each and every workout. It could be something as simple as completing a mile run or as big as beating your one rep max on the bench press. Completing small, daily goals boosts your belief in your own abilities, which a study from Preventative Medicine shows is a big factor in adhising to your workout plan.
8. Join An Online Fitness Community
It’ll be full of new ideas and inspiration from men and women who have accomplished their goals and are working hard toward new ones. Our particular favorites are Reddit’s r/loseit for those looking to drop a few pounds and r/gainit for those looking to put on some muscle. Be sure to check out their FAQs, which are full of helpful information for beginners.
9. Go Through The Motions
On days your inner demons are calling you to the couch, make the only requirement of your workout a single set of your favorite exercise. If you’re a runner, simply commit to a short, easy jog. It’s likely that you’ll want to finish what you start. If you still don’t feel like working out, go home. Sure, you’ll have some gaps in your journal, but it’s much more likely that your lapse in motivation will only be a temporary setback.
10. Reward Yourself For Meeting Your Goals
Meeting your fitness goals, even minor ones, is worth celebrating. It’s a reflection of your commitment to improving your health. Whether your reward is big or small, make sure it’s something meaningful and enjoyable (and something that you won’t regret later!)
Get Out There!
Keep this advice in mind and your workout program will be a source of empowerment instead of grief! And remember, sore muscles are normal for a day or two after an intense workout, but if the pain doesn’t go away after a few days call your chiropractor. Need a chiropractor in Brookfield? At Ascent Chiropractic we utilize gentle, non-thrusting spinal adjustments along with specific thisapeutic exercises and stretches to relieve symptoms, correct abnormal spinal positioning and help prevent future problems. To make an appointment today, call us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling app.
Huberty JL, et al. Explaining long-term exercise adherence in women who complete a structured exercise program. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2008; 79(3):374-84.
Costas I, et al. Relationship between exercise heart rate and music tempo preference. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 2006; 77(2).
Courtneya KS, et al. Enhancing Exercise Adherence in Middle-Aged Males and Females. Preventative Medicine. 1994; 23(4).
Duncan TE, McAuley E. Social support and efficacy cognitions in exercise adherence: A latent growth curve analysis. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 1993; 16(2).
Wilson K, Brookfield D. Effect of goal setting on motivation and adherence in a six-week exercise program. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Physiology. 2009;6.
National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2009: With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. Hyattsville, MD, 2009.