Getting more exercise always tops the list of New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, many people don’t stick with their new fitness routines, thanks to classic excuses such as bad weather, fewer daylight hours and crowds at the gym.
You can make this year different and resist the many temptations that lead to empty gyms and idle sneakers come March. Commit to working out for the simple reason that exercise, in any form, can be the single most important thing you can do to be happier and healthier.
These four tips from Amanda Visek, Ph.D., who works in the department of exercise science at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., can help you maintain your new, or newly revamped, fitness routine and stay motivated all year long.
1. Use visual reminders. Now that you’ve made the commitment to routinely get more exercise, you want to be sure you remember to do it. This may seem obvious, but remembering can be difficult once you factor in competing priorities such as your job and family.
One way to keep exercise in the forefront is to have your exercise “stuff” out where you can see it. Leave your sneakers by your bed, your fitness class schedule on the refrigerator, your resistance band in the bathroom. Write your fitness activities in your daily planner as you would any other important appointments.
2. Invest in more exercise duds. Having too few workout clothes can make exercising regularly more difficult. Address this problem by buying enough gear, over time, to have enough for up to one week’s worth of workouts. (Yes, this is an investment.) You also want to feel comfortable, so take the time to try clothes on and make sure they really fit. You might even find that a specific manufacturers’ clothing line fits you best.
Plus, whether you’re walking in your neighborhood, taking a spin class or working with a trainer, having the right garb reinforces your new identity as someone who’s committed to being fit.
3. Sweat with a friend. Team up with a workout buddy and get fit together for extra reinforcement. Any time you can synergize exercise with something else that’s important in your life, like spending time with a good friend, you’re more likely to do it!
Another idea: Consider signing on for an activity you and your pals have never done before. Visek and a couple of her friends recently enrolled in golf lessons at a club where they offer women’s-only group classes. She merged exercise with quality time—and learned a new skill to boot.
4. Write down your goals. Do you want to strengthen your body so being on your feet all day isn’t as draining? Or is your new fitness plan a way to reduce stress or drop excess weight? Whether you have one goal or several, write them down. Your goals will feel more tangible and therefore more doable. Also, if exercising is difficult for you or you haven’t yet found a method that you really enjoy, focusing on your goals will help keep you going until you do find what’s right for you.
As you progress with your exercise routine, be mindful of how much better you feel after you’ve worked out compared with when you don’t. Log your workouts to help keep yourself on track. If you want to do this online, MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun are just a couple of popular apps you can try. Many apps can link to your Facebook or other social media accounts so you can stay motivated right along with your friends.