Fitness goals are among the top resolutions people make for the new year, and they are also among the hardest to stick to. If you’re like me, you’re not a gym rat and need a little extra motivation to get moving. While I’m no expert, last year I reached my fitness goals and felt great- both physically and mentally. However, I slipped out of the routine a few months after I reached those goals so I’m trying to get back into shape. Here’s what worked for me and what I will be doing again this year:
1. First establish a routine, then build up
This sounds easy enough, but it’s actually one of the hardest things to do and the easiest way to lose motivation if not done right. I also believe it’s the most important. Think about it: You start off the new year saying you’re going to work out every day—which is too aggressive a goal to start with. Then, two days into it, you skip days three and four and feel that your fitness plan has been derailed and you give up entirely. Or, you lose motivation in the beginning because you couldn’t run the 3 miles you set as a goal for yourself. Instead, I say start small. First get into the habit of staying active often, even it it’s only for 10-15 minutes a day. If you tell yourself you’re going to lift weights for 10 minutes and speed run for 5 every day, you’ll be able to easily do it and then you’ll start to establish the routine. Then, on the one day you’re feeling lazy to even do that, you’ll find that you don’t want to break the streak of “every day” that you have already established. Once you find that you’ve been able to do this with some consistency, you can build up the workouts slowly. For me, I started with saying I was going to work out three times a week, even if it was just 10-15 minutes on the treadmill or 50 minute group class at the gym. Once I managed this regularly with group fitness classes, I started to add other activities into my routine, and soon, I was working out almost every day, and even twice on some days. This ranged from a group fitness class to a 90-minute yoga class, from 40 minutes on an elliptical to an hour of weights. I would find ways to make sure to worked out even on days I was super busy, even if it meant a quick, 20 minute jog on the treadmill before heading out before – because something was better than nothing and I didn’t want to break the discipline I had built up.
2. Find role models
This doesn’t mean idolizing a celebrity or incessantly comparing yourself to others— it means getting inspired by the good habits of people whose lifestyles you admire. It could be a friend, coworker, family member or yes, a celebrity whose healthy habits who’d like to follow yourself For me, it was Lea Michele. I bought her book, followed her on Instagram and was inspired to hike and practice yoga and eat healthier. If she could do it, why couldn’t I? Any photos of her workouts that she posted on Instagram reminded and inspired me to get off the couch and to the gym.
Additionally, since I’m a competitive person in general, I would find myself gaining motivation from the fitness success stories and habits of the people around me. A coworker who was in great shape said she regularly did yoga so I signed up at a hot yoga studio and fell in love with the practice. Others who were in great shape who had been eating healthier and hiking more inspired me to cut the sweets, pasta and cheese out and get outside more.
3. Start with something you enjoy
If you’re like me, you hate to exercise and do it only because it’s a necessity. To first build a routine, it was easiest for me to start with group classes that involved dance and the latest tunes to get me excited about working out. Hip Hop cardio at LA Fitness was something that I looked forward to because it was like going clubby—without the alcohol or drama. A few years ago I also used Indian dance to get in my cardio for the day because to me, even though Bharatanatyam is truly a full body workout, I enjoyed it so much it didn’t feel like exercise. Once the fun stuff became too easy or routine, I tried new things and then enjoyed the new workouts for the fact that they tested my muscles in different ways. Essentially, I was so addicted to the routine I built up from the activities I enjoyed that it led me to pursue activities that I didn’t.
One weekend when I was visiting my parents at home in Gainesville, Florida, due to convenience and efficiency I decided to just run around my neighborhood for exercise instead of dealing with the guest fees and process at the local gym. Keep in mind, I absolutely hate running and can’t do it. I still don’t find it much fun, but after that run, I felt high off the fact that different muscles had been worked out and sore the next day that I decided to run more. My body had become too used to the routine from my group classes and elliptical routine that it was only challenged when a new workout was introduced. Now, I’ve incorporated more running into my workouts to keep things varied and I don’t feel as negative about it.
4. Find a buddy
The instructor-led classes with a group were a great way for me to kick start my routine, get motivated and excited about exercise, and to make me more disciplined. Every Monday- Kickboxing. Tuesday- Body Works, Wednesday- Hip Hop cardio. But I also had a friend who didn’t care for those classes and preferred to do strength training. Every once in awhile she and I would workout together, and doing this helped push me out of my comfort zone. She would expose me to new workouts and push me beyond what I would normally do. And I didn’t want to let her down so I would . Plus, just knowing I had to meet her at the gym got me out of the house on days when I was feeling lazy—I didn’t want to flake out on our appointment. Finding a workout buddy makes you want to not cancel your workout plans, pushes you to work harder, and it makes the workouts less painful since you have someone with whom to commiserate.
5. Use fitness apps
Some people may feel the only way they’ll reach their fitness goals is if they hire a personal trainer or hit the gym– but these can be expensive. To avoid using funds or convenience as an excuse to not workout, I rely on fitness apps. Now, there are so many free or inexpensive fitness and training apps out there that as long as you have even a little drive, it’s easy to get the training and variety you need. I used to worry about hurting myself by working out incorrectly, but most fitness training apps come with videos and tips on how to do the motions correctly, and some, like the Nike Training even give you guidance as you’re doing the workout, to make sure you are working your muscles properly and staying focused. I’ve downloaded a few free apps on my phone this year and plan to use all of them so I can review them for you in a future post. I don’t believe in paying for apps.
Finally, a last word of advice: Even if you don’t meet your daily, weekly, or monthly goals, remember the wise words a friend once told me—every day is an opportunity to start over and make a resolution. If you feel you broke your routine or consistent streak – just start fresh the next day. Don’t use the break in consistency to have you give up for good. Since my wedding, it’s been really tough for me to keep a consistent routine, but I keep trying to start over. Part of the reason for these blog posts is to keep me motivated- I can’t blog about something I’m not doing myself. So, here’s to learning more and doing more when it comes to fitness. I hope you’ll join me on this journey!