At the beginning of 2012, 51% of Canadians pledged to exercise more and 35% planned to lose weight. Some resolved to do both. Similarly, this year, more than half of Canadians will resolve to start an exercise program and countless others will be looking for a quick solution to rid themselves of unwanted pounds. January 1st marks the beginning of a New Year, which inevitably spawns new lofty resolutions to make significant life changes. Unfortunately, only one week into the New Year, one third of resolutions are forgotten and by Valentine’s Day half of all our good intentions will have melted away like chocolate!
At the top of your 2013 resolution list may be to start a new exercise program and to try to stick to it – this time! You know developing a regular exercise routine is one the most important things that you can do to improve your health. You have repeatedly read undisputed research that confirms exercise can help prevent Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases like cancer; it can give you energy, decrease stress and promote maintaining a healthy weight. You know all this, but you can’t seem to get your body moving.
If you haven’t been able to adhere to a regular exercise routine until now, let us help you get on the right track and make your exercise routine stick! Learn tips from the experts on how to get active and stay motivated. This one change to your daily routine guarantees to give you unprecedented energy and promises to add years to your life.
One predictor of success in sustaining goals is willpower. Like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened with training, but also like a muscle it can be fatigued with overuse. Roy Baumeister, social psychologist and author of the book Willpower, argues that willpower is a limited resource. The more you exercise your self-control on one task, the less you have for the next. This is why crash dieting and all or nothing exercise regimes don’t work. Apparently, we use the same muscle for self-control for many of our daily tasks, such as avoiding brownies, battling rush-hour traffic, being nice to our boss and spending an extra five minutes doing crunches. So, in order to be successful with our goals, making small changes is recommended. Your New Year’s resolutions should not be a laundry list of all the things you want to accomplish in 2013, but instead one or two well thought out goals that are SMART: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Time oriented.
Certified Personal Trainer, Erich Baumhard agrees that setting SMART goals is very important. Erich, who works at The Stouffville Leisure Centre as a fitness counselor, conducts fitness appraisals and develops fitness programs for members, knows a few things about exercise adherence. Erich recently won the “HOT” (Helping Others Too) award from York Region in partnership with The Heart and Stroke Foundation for being an excellent role model of fitness and for inspiring others to get active. “I counsel people to be specific, not vague,” he says. “It’s important to break bigger goals into smaller, achievable goals,” says Baumhard. “Pick one thing, reach that goal and then take the next step”, he says. Baumhard says he sets goals every day or any time of year, not just at New Year’s. This keeps him personally motivated.
Experts on human behavior generally agree it takes 30 repetitions of a behavior before it starts to become a habit. If you are starting an exercise program and doing a workout two to three times per week, that equates to about three months before your new behavior becomes habit. It also takes about three months to start to see real changes as a result of your new healthy lifestyle, such as improvements in cardiovascular fitness, strength or weight loss. Sadly, at three months, 25% of new gym members will drop out, the pivotal point when change is really starting to occur!
The Mayo Clinic, renowned experts on health and wellness, advocates that including exercise as part of your daily routine is a key predictor of success. To stay motivated with your exercise program, they advise, “If it’s hard to find time for exercise, don’t fall back on excuses. Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity”. Set reminders to exercise or schedule exercise in your weekly calendar just like any other important meeting.
On-again, off-again exerciser Carol McKay, a Stouffville resident, mother of three and full-time career woman, says that her daily agenda planner has been the key to getting her off the couch. In the past, McKay professes she has been notorious for training hard for an event, such as a marathon, and then as soon as the event was over, she’d stop exercising completely for two to three months. “I’m an all or nothing, black or white person, so for me it was about finding the gray,” McKay recites invaluable advice that she got from her trainer. Two things have made all the difference with her exercise consistency: structure and a buddy system.
McKay lives by her agenda and she says that scheduling time to exercise in her day timer is “the path of least resistance.” So, every Tuesday night at 7pm, she has a standing date to attend a fitness class. “I’ve had gym memberships before that I never used. The scheduled class works better for McKay, because as she says, “ I have to be there at a scheduled time, as opposed to an open-ended gym membership that means you can drop in anytime,” she says. For her “anytime” translated to “no time.”
Every Saturday morning McKay also meets with a friend to go for a run. This works consistently for her because it employs “the buddy system,” which uses a like-minded friend to share a workout with. Your “buddy” acts as your conscience when you don’t have the energy to train and adds a social element to your exercise, taking the “work” out of “workout.” “Funny I chose running as my main sport, as it tends to be a “lone wolf” activity and I’m very social,” says McKay. But McKay has made running social by joining running groups and by running with a friend.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, makes a case for consistently exercising on Mondays because it sets the psychological pattern for the week. She also recommends exercising first thing in the morning. “As the day wears on, you’ll find more excuses to skip exercising, she writes in her blog, www.happiness-project.com. “Get it checked off your list, first thing.
It’s also a very nice way to start the day; even if nothing else goes right, you’ve accomplished that,” Rubin insists.
Still doubting that your willpower or calendar will suffice to get you off the couch? Consider Erich Baumhard’s suggestion. He believes the key to sticking to your exercise program begins with defining what you are passionate about. “Everyone is passionate about something,” says Baumhard. “I’m passionate about cycling. Trying to define what that is for you is key,” he says. It may not even be something related to fitness directly, explains Baumhard, but may be something that extends to other areas of your life that becoming healthier would impact. “As a parent, you’re setting an example all the time. If you’re a parent and you’re passionate about your family, you would be a better parent and role model if you are exercising and eating right,” Erich explains. Maintaining your health gives you energy that extends to other areas of your life, including your family, job and personal hobbies.
On a final note, “surround yourself with people who are like-minded,” says Baumhard. “Tell the people closest to you about your goal and be really passionate about what you are doing,” he says. Eric is a true believer that if you’re really committed and passionate about your goal, your closest friends and family members will act as your cheerleaders.
For those of you with busy family lives, McKay’s advice to you is that it’s important to carve out time for yourself. Carol works full-time, has three kids and hockey practices and games almost every night and still finds time to exercise. “It’s like the Wealthy Barber, you have to ‘pay yourself first’, or there will be no time for yourself,” she says.
So, if you’re either just starting an exercise routine, are a yo-yo dieter or an on-again off-again exerciser, try setting SMART goals, wielding a little willpower and making exercise and healthy eating part of your daily routine by locking it into your agenda, and hopefully this will be your year to “make it stick!”
Define your goal by saying you want to experience more energy and create a scale from 1-10 that is a daily measure of your energy level. Maybe currently you would rate your energy level as a 5 or 6, and your goal is to consistently be closer to an 8. Do this instead of stating vague goals such as you want to be healthier.
If your goal is to improve muscle strength and endurance, meet with a fitness consultant or personal trainer to give you a baseline measure of your current fitness level so you can measure improvement.
How are you going to achieve your goal? Will you join a gym, hire a personal trainer, or join a Zumba class?
Making sure your goal is realistic is so important. Looking for a quick fix to lose weight? Beware that crash dieting in which you lose weight drastically can wreak havoc on your metabolism and doesn’t create lifestyle changes. You should be skeptical of any weight loss program that recommends weight loss of anything more than 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Set a realistic time goal. Don’t make the mistake of trying to fit in a size 6 dress for a wedding that is a month away if you are a size 10 today! In our culture of immediate gratification, we forget that some things require time and commitment.
Want to be accountable for keeping a new habit? Chart your progress with the “Lift” app using reminders and graphs.
Use this app to help you instill a daily exercise habit and track your progress. Offers achievement awards to keep you motivated! Rewarding positive behavior changes can dramatically improve your chances of repeating the behavior.
Built in reminders and positive graphics make keeping your promise to yourself to exercise or make other positive life changes easy and rewarding.
Tiffany Moffatt is a certified Personal Trainer Specialist, Fitness Instructor Specialist, Pre and Postnatal Specialist (Canfitpro certified) and freelance writer who has worked in the fitness industry for 25 years. tiffanysbeyourbest.blogspot.com.