With the New Year just around the corner, exercise is on a lot of people's minds. So many of us are bound and determined to reach new fitness goals, hit the gym with vigor, and change our bodies once and for all.
Does this sound a lot like last year? What happens between January and December that causes so many people to fail, only to set the same fitness resolutions year after year?
No one wants to fail. When you start a fitness program, the hope is that all of your hard work (and sweat) will carry you to the finish line. A lot of people can start a fitness program, but very few can stick with it for the long-term. Why?
In my experience as a trainer and health coach, the excuses we use to miss a workout aren't the real reasons people fail. You don't have to be a fortune teller to predict who will be going strong next December and who will be starting over again. Most often, I can tell whether someone will succeed or fail based on four simple signs.
The good news is that you can avoid—or correct—these areas to set yourself up for success.
Signs Your Fitness Routine Won't Last
FAILING FITNESS STRATEGY #1: You're doing too much, too soon.
It's tempting to want to capitalize on your workout enthusiasm when you first start an exercise program. But being too ambitious with your workout goals can leave you physically drained, mentally fatigued, and even injured. Plus it simply burns you out mentally and makes it hard to stick to a routine.
FIX IT: Learn how to set realistic fitness goals that suit your current level and your lifestyle. Sure, you may think you can commit to that "insane" 90-day fitness program that promises extreme results in just a few weeks. But will you really be able to keep up with it 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 months from now? Forget the quick, hardcore fixes when you're starting out. Your best bet is to start slow, setting small goals and incrementally increasing the intensity and duration of your program as you become more fit. Don't think of an exercise program as a sprint to the finish, but rather a marathon that lasts the rest of your life.
FAILING FITNESS STRATEGY #2: You've overcommitted.
When you joined the gym, working out every day a week sounded like a great idea. But that daily routine can quickly become a drag when you feel like your body never gets a break and your schedule is consumed by exercise appointments, and little to no downtime. You don't need to exercise every day in order to see results. In fact, I think your body appreciates at least a day or two of rest each week (and maybe more if you're a new exerciser.)
FIX IT: Whenever you start or make changes to your exercise routine, make sure they are changes you can live with for the rest of your life. If you don't think you can keep up 2-hour workouts forever (assuming you aren't training for a marathon), then perhaps you should consider scaling back to a more reasonable level that you can maintain long-term. Your body and mind will thank you for it in the long run.
FAILING FITNESS STRATEGY #3: You don't have plan.
Most people don't head out on a road trip without a map or plan to show where you're headed and how close you are to your destination. Yet most people start exercise without a real plan in place. Without a plan, you're more likely to give up because you don't have clear direction or ideas about what to do or how to reach your specific goals. You won't see the results you had hoped for when you're wandering aimlessly through the fitness landscape, trying things on a whim or without consistent effort.
FIX IT: Creating an exercise plan and setting goals along the way can help you stay focused and motivated as well as measure your progress. If you set a goal to walk a 5K, you probably wouldn't just walk a few days a week and expect that eventually you'll reach the goal. You'd find a training plan, time your walks to know how far you're going, progress in a specific way each week, and at some point, sign up for a race. Creating a plan helps you know exactly where you are and where you need to be to maximize your chances of success. Not sure where to begin? SparkPeople has lots of workout plans to choose from, including 5K training plans, a strength training workout generator, and more.
FAILING FITNESS STRATEGY #4: You expect unrealistic results.
Change doesn't happen overnight. It can take time to start seeing gains in strength and endurance or changes in how your body looks. Although a regular exercise routine can make you feel better within the first few weeks, it can take longer to improve your fitness level and notice changes in your weight. You aren't going to gain 5 pounds of muscle overnight, or go from walking a mile to running a 10K without training—and time. Reality TV and flashy infomercials may lead you to believe that big changes happen easily and quickly, but those scenarios and results are, as the fine print says, "not typical."
FIX IT: The truth is that change takes time, but with hard work and dedication, it WILL happen! Limit the number of times you weigh in to no more frequently than once a week, and even then, don't expect to lose more than a maximum of 2 pounds per week. With your body, change will happen slowly; others will probably notice it sooner than you will. Be patient and remember to find other ways to measure success that go beyond weight, body fat, pounds lifted or miles trekked. Reward yourself for your consistent efforts—not just the outcomes of your training—and you'll stay motivated long enough to stick to a routine that will provide results.
One of the greatest feelings is to set a goal, follow through, and successfully reach it. Avoid these common mistakes and you'll be well on your way to reaching not only fitness goals, but goals in all other areas of your life!
Do any of these situations sound familiar? What steps are you taking to ensure success in the coming year?
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