It’s that time of year again…time to focus on your New Year’s resolutions. Many people begin an exercise program, but abandon it before Easter. However, you can increase your chances for long-term success if you follow these five simple tips to achieve your fitness goals.
Determine Your Readiness
Make sure you’re both physically and mentally ready to start an exercise program. Tell your doctor you want to begin a fitness regimen and you want to make sure you’re healthy enough to start. Once you have been physically cleared to proceed, consider your mental readiness. How likely are you to stick with an exercise program once you begin? While there are many factors to consider, three are most significant.
You are more likely to succeed if you:
- Have confidence in your exercise ability.
- Receive encouragement and support from those closest to you.
- Participate in an enjoyable form of exercise.
Create a Plan
Before you start your exercise program, answer three questions. First, when will you exercise? Identify three days and times that are convenient for you and stick with those days so you are working out at the same time each week. Second, what type of exercise will you do? The best type of exercise is one you enjoy. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; pick an exercise that works for you. Choose from activities such as walking, cycling, running, swimming, weightlifting, skating, dancing, golf, handball, tennis and basketball. Third, how much time will you spend exercising? Start with as little as 10 minutes per session and slowly build up to at least 30 minutes per workout.
Bring a Friend
You may know someone who resolved to start exercising in the New Year. Begin your fitness journey together. It will increase your chances for success and you’ll have more fun. For this to work, you have to find an exercise that both of you enjoy. This might be a challenge, but it’s worth it since an exercise partner provides you with a support system, a positive social experience and inspiration. There will be times when you don’t feel like working out and a partner can be just the motivation you need to get going.
Take It Easy
Think of your resolution as a lifelong commitment to a healthier lifestyle. You are much more likely to be successful if you take it easy at the beginning. For instance, you may see people exercising at a very high intensity, but you should start with low-to-moderate intensity workouts. You may know people who train six days a week, but it’s fine to start with three. You may see people engage in a diverse array of physical activities, but a 15-minute walk three days a week is a great place to begin.
One of the biggest problems with New Year’s resolutions is they can be extremely impractical. Setting goals is a great idea, but make sure they are realistic and feasible. For example, a goal to lose 12 lbs by Easter is both reasonable and achievable. So is a goal to complete a 5K run by tax day. Conversely, a goal to complete a marathon by that date is unrealistic and potentially unsafe for newbie runners. Think of it as if you were building a house. Start slow (i.e., low intensity and duration), develop a solid foundation of fitness and then build upon that foundation as your fitness improves.