Get Fit: The Summer to Start Anew
Summer is a good time to hit the refresh button and commit to an exercise routine to improve your overall health and well-being. Your success hinges on what you choose to focus on, and how you think about exercise. Focusing on how you will feel and how your life will improve will produce the best results.
Researchers have found that an activity becomes a habit after doing it consistently for just 60 days. A new study published in the journal Health Psychology found that the most consistent exercisers stuck with their routine out of habit. Developing habits requires an automatic response that is triggered by a cue, such as an alarm clock going off or ending your workday and heading to the gym. In other words, your exercise plan is more likely to succeed when it does not require deliberation or decision making.
Follow these five tips to get up, get out, get yourself going, and – most importantly – keep going over time.
#1: Change your mindset.
Decide who you want to be. Imagine you can be anyone you want to be (because you can). Would you be an athlete? Would you be a healthy, vibrant and energetic person? Imagine all the qualities that you want to adopt. Now hold onto that image and follow through with building a life and adopting habits based on that image of your new self.
Visualize success. The goal becomes your vision, focus on the outcome that you have set rather than all the steps and challenges along the way. It is not about the obstacles, it is about overcoming the obstacles. With each positive step forward, you will become more capable of overcoming those obstacles. Master your approach for overcoming obstacles and you will soon be looking for bigger challenges because your confidence in achieving success will increase.
Create a mantra. Identify a phrase that is meaningful to you. This is something you can repeat to help you get through the tough times and focus on what is most important – your goal. It could be something simple, such as “I can do it.” Repeating it to yourself when you struggle reaffirms your commitment and keeps you going.
#2: Make a plan.
Put your plan in writing using an exercise journal, complete with daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Tell people what you are doing so that you feel more committed to your goal. Hold yourself accountable by revisiting the plan each day and indicating what you accomplished. Add comments that might be helpful, such as how you felt, what you ate beforehand, etc. Revise your plan and goals over time as appropriate.
Set feel-good goals. Goals are more sticky when they are meaningful to you. So if ‘lose 10 pounds’ sounds like drudgery, pick a goal that makes you feel good, such as spending more time with people who have similar fitness interests or getting to know your neighborhood better on foot. When you say it back to yourself, you should feel good about it - own it and then dig deep to make it happen.
Include variety. Choose cross-training activities that you enjoy to build different muscle groups and give you a break from the routine. Make sure that every session is focused to keep it interesting.
Start small. Break your plan into phases to 1) build your base fitness; 2) maintain fitness; and 3) increase fitness for special reasons, such as training for a race. Plan to increase activity by no more than 10 percent each week. The best approach is gradual in order to avoid injury and make long-term changes that will stick.
#3: Commit to it.
Establish a routine. Set aside time regularly, ideally at the same time for each designated exercise day. The time of day you choose should reflect your pain and energy level and fit among your other priorities.
Use incentives. Come up with incentives for exercising, such as signing up for your favorite podcast series and only allowing yourself to listen while you are exercising. Or buy yourself new gear. Or find a friend to join you. Whatever you choose, ensure that it will be something that makes you look forward to exercising.
Accept setbacks. Accept that you may experience setbacks, particularly during times of increased fatigue or flares. You should listen to your body and take breaks when you need to. You may not be able to commit as much time to exercise, but there is always something you can do to work toward your goal and make progress.
#4: Make it last.
Sign a commitment contract. The most effective plans require a financial incentive. Try stickK.com, a site designed by behavioral economists who will donate to the charity of your choice (Lupus Foundation of America!) through a public commitment to achieving your goal.
Have fun. Choose an activity or activities that you enjoy and make you feel good. Stay optimistic and positive about the changes you are making. Regardless of your current level of fitness, every step you take and every effort you make counts toward your goal. Keep going and have fun.
Join a community. Find others with similar interests, either in person or online, that you can regularly check-in with to promote what you are doing and celebrate what they are doing. A support system like this can go a long way in helping to make you feel positive and motivated to working harder to accomplish your goals.
#5: Recognize your victories.
Remind yourself to recognize what you did right and what you are most proud of in any exercise session, which can help motivate you to keep coming back for more. Convince yourself you are great, and you will be great.
“I have met my hero, and he is me.”-Dr. George Sheehan.
Be the hero of your life, commit to an exercise routine and become the person you have always wanted to be.