Who doesn’t love the feeling of diving into a fresh year with a gleaming list of resolutions to make this one better and brighter than the last? Nearly half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and nearly seventy-five percent of those resolutioners set fitness goals on their lists. Woo hoo! Now for the bad news. Studies show that by February 18, about eighty percent of people with fitness resolutions will have dropped off the bandwagon.
As a group fitness instructor, I know the value of sticking to a fitness resolution. I also recognize the difficulty that many people, especially busy working professionals like myself, may face in adding a new fitness regimen to an already hectic schedule. I get it, it’s hard to maintain. Therefore, I’d like to provide you some tips on how to establish a routine that’ll last long after the six-week mark.
1. Find Your Workout Groove. If you’re already a yoga junkie or Crossfit fiend, you know the rush that comes from doing something you absolutely love. You’re in the zone and time just flies by! But if you don’t particularly love exercising, I’d like us to find you a workout that’s not only tolerable, but actually enjoyable. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
a. Why do I want to work out and add fitness to my daily life? (I recommend you write this answer down in a place that you’ll see on a regular basis to remind you of the reasons behind your efforts.)
b. What type of workout environment do I prefer? Indoor or outdoor, group or solo, dance or athletic, competitive or noncompetitive, high-impact or low-impact, music or silence?
c. When have I felt alive and excited while exercising? What was I doing?
d. What type of music energizes me?
Once you’ve discovered your “why” and narrowed down your workout preferences, browse the options and step out of your comfort zone. Even though the New Year's excitement has somewhat worn off, there’s no shortage of gym deals, fitness “boutique” trials (hello frou-frou cycle, barre, and yoga studios!) and couponing website specials. A Google search will turn up running playlist ideas, Youtube has a host of free workout videos, and you can download phone apps for simple and efficient bodyweight workouts. Enjoy the process of learning something new and moving your body!
2. Strive for Consistency. Nothing will deflate motivation faster than a commitment that’s impossible to continue in the day-to-day grind. So, let’s not get too ambitious with early morning hour-long calorie-blasting sessions. You want simple and sustainable in the long-term. If you’re new to a regular workout routine, strive for 20 minutes of light activity three times a week, for the first month or two. After that, ramp up to 30 minutes. Think baby steps every four to six weeks. Before you know it, you’ll have incorporated the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity, five days per week. Anything above and beyond is icing on the sugar-free cake.
3. Keep a Balanced Regimen. There are four elements to a well-balanced workout regimen: cardio, strength, flexibility, and rest/recovery. If you prefer treadmill runs, no need to force yourself to incorporate candlelight yoga or a heavy-duty lifting sequence on a regular basis. However, I do want to encourage you to add some balance to your regimen. This will prevent you from getting bored and burning out on the same old activity, while also challenging your existing physical fitness capabilities. So, take a chance on a yoga or boxing class, or try out some free-weight exercises at the gym every once in a while. Also, “too much of a good thing” is a very real concept, so if you’re doing intense cardio or weight lifting, incorporate rest days into your routine to allow your body adequate time to recover and strengthen before your next vigorous workout. I recommend one rest day for every three consecutive days of moderate-to-intense activity. Trust me, it’ll do the body good.
4. Stretch! Do not underestimate the value of a good stretch with some deep breaths. Stretching increases flexibility and range of motion, improves blood circulation, reduces the risk of injury, and aids in body relaxation and stress relief. It is best to warm up your muscles for a few minutes before stretching. (Think light jog or jumping jacks.) Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds without “bouncing,” and if you feel pain, you’ve stretched too far. I recommend stretching for 5-10 minutes a day, to a few of your favorite slow songs. Even better, incorporate it into your daily routine by stretching lightly while standing on Metro, waiting in line at the grocery store, or sitting in front of your computer at work. You don’t have to become a workout addict to see and feel the physical and mental benefits of regular fitness activity in your daily life. That’s why it’s so important to find workouts that you’ll enjoy doing regularly, even when it’s cold outside or you’ve had a long, tiring day. In the long term, your steady workout routine will stick because you’ll remember your “why” and you’ll know that those daily efforts will add up to a better, more energized version of yourself in the long run. Cheers to your health and fitness in 2015!
*Featured in Capitol Standard Magazine; January 3, 2015*