Few things beat the excitement of starting a new workout routine. There are new exercise clothes to buy, maybe a new gym membership. Heck, you might even plant a big, hulking treadmill in your bedroom.
But reality soon sets in. The new clothes hang in your closet with the price tags still attached. The gym membership is a haunting memory. And the treadmill ... well, yes, it does make a great clothes rack.
It doesn't have to be that way. You can stay motivated even with a busy and wildly unpredictable lifestyle.
Set Your Goals
When defining your fitness and exercise goals, be realistic. You may dream of running the Boston Marathon or climbing Mount Everest. But if your current fitness level would more comparable to a sloth's, you might be setting yourself up for failure. If your goals aren't attainable, they ain't gonna happen.
Maybe it's simpler than marathons and mountains--a smaller dress size or going three flights of stairs without gasping. No matter the desire, it's important to keep the two "Ps" in mind: perspective and perseverance.
"Shorten your view to close range while reminding yourself to look at the big picture," said Alice Burron, an exercise physiologist and national spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. "Improvement is not a sprint, it's a marathon."
Spread the Word
There's something official and meaningful about seeing your ideas in black and white. If you're staring down a concrete commitment, it helps if the commitment staring right back. Writing down your goals makes them more official, like a marriage certificate legitimizing a relationship. Don't just say you're married; be married to your goals. And write down what you do each day to further them along. You'll be able to carve up the bigger issue into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Don't be afraid of telling people, either. It's another way of not letting you off the hook. If you tell your friends, your family and your coworkers that you are working out, someone is bound to ask how things are going, and that will likely make you feel guilty if you quit.
Even take it a step further. Don't just tell them, but invite them along. Because let's face it, workouts can be tedious, boring or otherwise off-putting. so, don't fear prescribing to the "misery loves company" theory. A workout partner not only helps to encourage you, but can also add a key social component, as well as variety. The routine of working out becomes more entertaining, moving beyond the gym tointer-office pickup basketball games, outdoor activities with the family or a neighborhood jogging partner to wind down the day with.
Bust a Move
Sweatin' to the oldies might seem, well, old, but the concept remains: Music can help pick up an exercise. It doesn't have to be "Great Balls of Fire" -- just choose music inspires, stimulates or entertains.
"Everyone knows what they feel like when that special song comes on, or that song that they really love," said Larry North, a Texas-based fitness and nutrition expert. "The beats per minute in music can really help with cardio. It makes the time go by faster."
North, who has owned gyms for more than 20 years, adds that technology has made it easier and more popular to work out with music. Now, with devices like iPods, everyone can make up their own playlists and pick music that really moves them.
Trent David, a personal trainer at Gold's Gym in Hollywood, California, compiles his own music for the spinning classes he has been teaching for two decades.
"I actually have a DJ board and do my own mixes," David said. "I guide my music around the specific class and what we're doing in those classes."
A musical vibe in the fitness room can really elevate the experience.
"Music helps the senses get going," David said. "I think music is a little magical."
It's nice to have a set time to exercise, but work out whenever you can.
The morning may not be the best time for you. Or you may have to split your exercise time between the morning and evening. The idea is to do something whenever you can.
Don't give up because you couldn't set aside that hour every morning at six. The key is to treat exercise like any important event and add it to your daily schedule.
"Then, you will hold yourself accountable and exercise will feel like a natural part of your workday," reported the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, in its article, "Enough Excuses -- Get Off Your Duff and Go Get Buff!"
Don't despair if you miss a workout or two because of a suddenly busy schedule, a vacation or an illness. The important thing is to get back to your exercise routine as soon as you can.
And mix it up.
David, the Hollywood trainer, said it's crucial to keep your muscles from getting bored. For three months, you might work out with a personal trainer, and then switch to outdoor activities. Then, you might try something new, such as TRX training, which uses straps and bands along with your body's weight to provide low-impact resistance.
"You've got to shake it up," David insisted.
But all these strategies rely on one key ingredient: you. Only you can decide what is important to you, and only you can achieve your goals. But with a few motivational steps, Mount Everest might become a lot more realistic.
By Frank Trejo
* IHRSA: Enough Excuses -- Get Off Your Duff and Go Get Buff!
* "Boston Globe"; Harvard Grads Turn Gym Business Model on Its Head; Susan Johnston; January 2011
* "The New York Times"; They're Playing My Song. Time to Work out; Stephen Kurutz; January 2008
* Mayo Clinic: Fitness Programs: 7 Tips for Staying Motivated
* Alice Burron: ACE-Certified Professional Trainer Profile