5 Ways to Stick to an Exercise Routine

Motivation flagging? Use these tips to keep plugging away at your fitness plan

12/29/2014

How many times have you penned a workout plan — and then did not follow through with it? You’re not alone. Even when you have the best intentions, motivation can ebb and flow every few days or weeks, according to a study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.
 
But don’t fret; with a few little tricks, you can stick with it, and reap the health benefits that come with it.
 
"There's a notion that when you want to start a new fitness regimen it's all or nothing, but change is a series of different stages with different ways to get you to each next stage," says Elizabeth R. Lombardo, PhD, psychologist and author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.”

5 Ways to Stick to an Exercise RoutineReady to get your motivation back? It’s easy with these tips:
 
Dress the part - Simply putting on your workout gear and lacing up your sneakers can help enhance your motivation to hit the gym. According to a Northwestern University study, when participants wore a lab coat, they were better at tasks that required attention than they were when donning regular street clothes. What’s that have to do with exercise?
 
“It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing,” says researcher Hajo Adam. “I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out.” Even if you weren’t planning to work out, the right clothing may motivate you to pick up the pace around the house or even take a walk around the block (in other words, it couldn’t hurt).
 
Keep it interesting - Doing the same fitness routine over and over again can become tedious — and in turn, zap your motivation. So, instead of continuing to walk the treadmill or ride an exercise bike every day, switch it up and make working out more enjoyable. For example, take a walk in the park with the kids, a hike with your spouse, or check out drop-in exercise classes at gyms and malls. Many tend to offer classes like Pilates, yoga, Zumba or strength training — classes that will keep your workout appealing (and best of all, sometimes these drop-in classes won’t even cost you anything to attend).
 
Be realistic with your goals - Saying that you will complete a two-hour workout at 6 a.m. each morning followed by a yoga and Zumba class may not be very practical. Instead, focus on fulfilling goals you can commit to, like upping your run one-tenth of a  mile whenever you’re out for a jog, or losing a pound in two weeks.
 
“Set realistic goals that include clear milestones, and as you progress toward your goal, you’ll find a ripple effect occurs and things fall into place in your work, home life and health,” says Stacy Fowler, a personal trainer and life coach in Denver. When you achieve a goal, you may be surprised at how much your motivation will increase and you’ll want to continue on the fast track to success.
 
Be flexible - When plotting out precisely when you’ll work out, it’s important to go easy on yourself. Scheduling exercise  time slots three or four times a week is a great way to stay active, but be willing to mix up your agenda when need be, say, when an unexpected work event pops up or you’re feeling under the weather. In other words, if something does come up, don’t let that stop you from getting a workout in at another time.
 
Get a gym buddy - Having someone to work out with is proven to help you stay committed to fitness.
 
“In my 10 years of experience evaluating what creates long-term health-and-fitness success, the single most important factor is having a support system,” says Wayne Andersen, MD, cofounder and medical director of Take Shape for Life, a nationwide health and lifestyle coaching program based in Owings Mills, Md. Think about it: If you promised your friend or family member that you’d work out with them at a certain time, you’ll be more likely to follow through than if you didn’t make that promise.
 
“Psychologically, if you feel like you have a responsibility and commitment toward another person, you are more likely to follow through on that commitment,” says Michelle P. Maidenberg, PhD, MPH, clinical director of Westchester Group Works in Harrison, N.Y. Additionally, a study published in “Psychology of Sport and Exercise” showed that the workout habits of people you know can positively influence your own.

Sticking to a fitness plan doesn’t have to be tedious. With these simple exercise-related motivation boosters, you’ll be back in the swing of things in no time.

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