“Getting fit” is the most common New Year’s resolution in the USA. That just goes to show how difficult it is to get enough motivation to exercise regularly. If it were easy, millions of us wouldn’t have to make resolutions to achieve it, right?
Having a vague idea of your fitness goals and expecting yourself to magically reach them will never work. Getting and staying fit is a commitment: to yourself, to your health, and to your loved ones. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself, and also one of the hardest. It requires solid planning, outside help, and a firm understanding of yourself, your likes and dislikes, and your goals. If you’re truly ready to increase your commitment to your health, then read on for our top tips and tricks to setting a fitness plan and truly following through with it.
Tip #1: Find a workout buddy.
There’s no greater motivator than another person. If you have a workout buddy who depends on you, you’re so much more likely to pull on your running shoes or get to the gym, both regularly and on time.
To find a workout buddy, start by asking friends who live in your immediate area if they’d like to make a workout pact. Set a firm schedule with times, dates, and locations to make it more likely that both parties will follow through. If you can’t find a friend to commit, try finding a workout buddy online. Sites like ExerciseFriends, SparkPeople, and BuddyUp are free and easy ways to find someone to run, walk, hike, or bike with.
Tip #2: Work out first thing in the morning.
Avoid the anxiety of thinking I haven’t worked out yet by doing so first thing in the morning. Early workouts have many other benefits too: healthy food will seem more appealing to you throughout the day, you’ll feel less stressed and in a better mood, and your circulation will improve, an especially important point if you have a desk job. Plus, you’ll feel accomplished at the end of the day, no matter what else you did with your time.
Tip #3: Buy an activity-tracking device.
It’s impossible to set fitness goals if you don’t know how active you are in the first place. Using an activity-tracking wristband or watch will give you insight into how many steps you take in a day, how many calories you burn, and even how fast your heart is beating at any given time. Gadgets like the iFit Fitness Band can even track your sleep cycle and wake you at the ideal point in your cycle, so you can wake up more easily and enjoy more energetic mornings. It can also sync with your computer or mobile device so you can track your activity over time, making you more likely to meet your long-term goals.
Tip #4: Clear your schedule.
When we want to add something to our lives (such as exercise), we always have to give something else up. If we feel like every day is jam-packed with work, chores, and other activities, the thing we want to do the least (which is often exercise) will always fall to the bottom of our list of priorities. Make sure you clear enough time in your schedule to work out. But never sacrifice sleep to do so—this is counterproductive, as a poor night’s sleep will make you even less likely to exercise the next day.
Tip #5: Choose a workout that gives you meaning.
If jogging around the block every day feels pointless and boring, set exercise goals that truly inspire you. Sign up for a charity run that will allow you to raise money for a cause you care about. Join a class to learn an ancient art (like yoga, tai chi, or a martial art) or a style of dance (whether it be salsa or jazz). Not only will you enjoy a boost of motivation, your attitude will change from I have to do this to I get to do this, making it more likely that you’ll set long-term goals and stick to them.
Tip #6: Find an online personal trainer.
Sometimes, it’s best to turn to a professional. If you don’t have the time to see a gym-based personal trainer multiple times a week, hiring an online trainer—for a fraction of the cost—might be your best bet. Online trainers can tailor a workout schedule and nutrition plan just for you, taking into account your workout goals and current fitness level. They can be on call via phone, chat, or email to answer your questions and keep you motivated when you start losing your energy. Most importantly, they’re there to help you create a commitment to yourself and ensure that you keep it.
How do you choose one? Ask friends for recommendations. If you find one through an online search, verify their qualifications and read online reviews before proceeding.
Tip #7: Put your money where your mouth is.
If you still can’t seem to meet your workout goals, sign up with a goal-tracking app or website that raises your stakes—literally.
Stickk is one such website. With it, you can define your workout goals, create a timeline to accomplish it, and then set your stakes: a dollar amount you agree to give up to a person or a charity if you don’t meet your goals. You can also designate a friend, or a “referee,” to ensure you live up to your word. Stickk users, on average, are three times more likely to meet their goals than the average person.
Tip #8: Go a little easy on yourself.
When we set extremely high expectations for ourselves, we often feel guilty when we don’t achieve them. This, in turn, makes us less likely to keep trying. That’s why it’s so important to set realistic goals and to not be hard on yourself when you can’t quite meet them, despite your best efforts. After all, sometimes a long, hard day at work will prevent your from working out in the evening, or a slight cold will keep you on the couch for a week at a time. When this happens, don’t feel guilty: instead, look ahead to what you can accomplish tomorrow.
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