Fitness shouldn’t be something you do only when you want to drop those 10 extra pounds or prepare for a charity road race. To be successful, it has to be thoroughly integrated into your lifestyle; it should be something you do as routinely as eating, sleeping, and taking your morning shower. Unfortunately, that can be difficult, as you may already know. It’s worth the struggle, and staying after it benefits you far greater than regularly missing it.
1. Make it personal.
Your first step on the lifelong path to healthy physical activity is to identify what works for you. Think about what kind of activities suit your lifestyle, time constraints, budget, physical condition, and likes and dislikes. Personally, I like the results of fitness better than those of non-fitness.
2. Make it fit.
For most people, time constraints are a major problem to overcome. Start planning your fitness sessions by making a detailed schedule of your week. Look for ways you can work in blocks of training. Can you get up half an hour earlier every morning for a run? Would this mean going to bed earlier? Whatever it takes, make other things work around your fitness life.
3. Be realistic.
In addition to the time you schedule every day, look for ways to add bits of activity and recreational exercise, like an extra lap around the mall when you’re shopping, walking instead of driving, or a Saturday morning bike ride. After the first week, adjust your schedule in places where it may not be working, but keep it regular. A little extra never hurts, but a little less rarely helps.
4. Set some accomplishments.
Set accomplishments, and figure out what it takes to make it happen, then make it happen. Set your timetable for the shortest time possible, as your immediate accomplishments will lead to longer-term ones. Every mountain trek uses small steps to accomplish the entire climb.
5. Reward your efforts.
Meeting your fitness accomplishments, even short-term ones, is cause for celebration. It reflects your commitment to improving your health. Find ways to pat yourself on the back; rewards that don’t involve a high-calorie treat will make you feel best. Buy some new clothes, get a new hairstyle, and have your picture taken. The results are greater than you think and you’ll love the “you” you’re becoming.
6. Even the most dedicated fitness fanatics sometimes go astray.
Almost anything can knock you off track: a bad cold, an out-of-town trip, or a stretch of bad weather. That’s why it’s critical to learn how to reclaim your routine. If you’ve been away from your routine for two weeks or more, don’t expect to start where you left off. If needed, cut your workouts to less time as you restart. Once you resume your program, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it will begin to feel natural.
George Mangum is the Fitness Director at Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group and spends his time helping teens, educators and seniors make fitness a lifestyle. He believes that fitness is the answer, and doesn’t care what the question is.