What can you learn from how the gym rats stay on track?
You know people like my friend Nia: She hits the running trail every morning as soon as the sun rises. Unlike me—I whine, complain and roll my eyes as I’m getting ready for a brisk walk through the neighborhood—Nia loves her runs. During the frosty, frozen winter, when the rest of us hibernated on the couch, she found ways to navigate ice-covered sidewalks. When the snow was too deep, she found a Zumba class. Is there a way we can learn to love exercise like Nia and other fitness fanatics? The experts say you can teach yourself to love physical activity. Just mimic the habits of those who do.
- Realize that all movement counts. Walk, hula hoop or swim. Go to the gym or don’t—just as long as you move. Join the company basketball team, play beach volleyball or try boxing. Create a relationship with the activity, rather than showing up for class. If you’re not up for team sports, give these activities a go: gardening, tossing a frisbee in the park with your kids and dancing (which you can do alone in your living room).
- Find workouts you enjoy. People who love exercise don’t bother with activities they hate. If you hate running, don’t sign up for a couch to 5k running program. Start with an activity you’re interested in or already enjoy, because if you don’t want to attend boot camp workouts, you will make an excuse to skip them.
- Enlist a workout buddy. A University of Southern California study found that people said they had more fun and enjoyed working out more when they did it with a friend. So check your friend list; you may find one who wants to get in shape with you. Or find a workout buddy when you join a local biking club or sign up for a recreational soccer league.
- Don’t worry about weight loss. Forget that 30-pound weight-loss goal. Focus on the extra energy you’ll have to keep up with your kids. When you stop thinking about how your workouts are affecting your weight, the experts say, you may actually start seeing the pounds melt.
- Pump up the volume. Music motivates you and it distracts you from fatigue, says research from the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. You exercise longer and more vigorously to your favorite playlist.
- Let go of setbacks. Sometimes life happens, and that’s OK. Studies show people who build in wiggle room are more likely to maintain a regular exercise routine. Plan the maximum and minimum number of days you want to exercise in a week. If they miss one day because you have to work late, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on track tomorrow.
- Reward yourself. The goal? Make exercise an automatic habit. Reinforce the routine by rewarding yourself for a job well done. At the end of a month of sticking to your fitness goals, treat yourself to concert tickets or a manicure.