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Tips for Making Exercise a Habit (From a Former Quitter)

If you have ever started and quit an exercise program, then I totally feel your pain. Yes, that's right. I may be a fitness professional now, but I am also a human being who started and stopped several programs in my past! So, how did I go from former quitter to personal trainer? By making exercise a habit, and I'm going to share my own personal tips for sticking with a program and staying always in motion.

Tip 1: Have a Plan

Okay, I really can't stress this enough. There's a saying that those who fail to plan plan to fail, and it's the truth. If your goal is to go to the gym three days a week, then the first thing you need to do is take a look at your schedule and decide which days and times work best for you. Some of us like to rise before the sun, while others just love burning the midnight oil. You might need your exercise time to be a solo affair, while someone else knows that without a workout buddy, there's no motivation. So, make a plan for exercise that you know you can stick with.

Tip 2: Anticipate Obstacles and Prepare To Overcome Them

If you know that you are not likely to wake up without five alarms, and you're planning to get to the gym early in the morning, set five alarms. If you have a sleeping partner with a different schedule and you want to avoid waking them up, set out your exercise gear the evening before to make getting ready a quiet, speedy affair. Make a list of all of the excuses that might keep you from sticking to your plan, and then preemptively address each and every one of them.

Tip 3: Identify YOUR Personal Exercise Goals

Are you looking to lower your cholesterol, built up your cardio endurance, move without pain, win a race, reduce your body fat percentage, make the varsity team, get strong enough to lift your grandchild, reduce stress, or finally perform that pull-up? Once you know what your own personal goals are, then you are more likely to stick to a program and make it a habit.

Tip 4: Set Smaller Goals and Celebrate Achieving Them

Whatever your main exercise goals are, set smaller goals that will help keep you motivated. For example, if your goal is to run a 5K, start by running short intervals in between walks for twenty minutes, and when you are able to stretch that interval run to 25 minutes, go ahead celebrate! You're making progress.

Tip 5: Don't Make It About the Scale

Weight loss is a common goal in the fitness world, and while losing weight can lead to a lot of health benefits, the number on the scale is not always the best indicator of progress, particularly when starting a workout program for the very first time. Spoiler alert: you might actually gain weight as your body composition changes. There are many physiological reasons for this, but what's important to remember is that an increase in weight should never be seen as a setback. Look at other measurable indicators of progress, such as an increase in strength, a lowered heart rate, better endurance, or even the way your clothing fits.

Tip 6: Make Adjustments to the Program

Plateaus and setbacks happen. There are lots of reasons why your progress in a program can suddenly begin to stall, or worse, start sliding backward, but that doesn't mean you should give up. What it means is that you just need to take a serious look at what factors might be causing this to happen. Maybe you progressed too quickly in the program, and you simply need to dial it back. Maybe you got sick, or something deeply personal affected your emotional state. Whatever the reason, don't be afraid to take stock of what's going on and make changes as needed.

Tip 7: Make it FUN

If you want to improve your cardiovascular health, but you hate running, then don't run! If you find ballet deeply uncomfortable and unpleasant, don't sign up for that Barre class. Find what you enjoy doing. Maybe you love to swim, or perhaps watching your favorite movie while sweating on the elliptical is your favorite way to unwind! Choose to engage in an exercise that brings you joy, and you're more likely to stick with it.

Each of us is on our own unique journey toward health and a lifetime of movement. Whatever your journey and whatever your goals, I hope these tips will be able to help you stay always in motion.

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