Make Fitness a Habit This Summer

Here are 5 strategies to help you get in shape and stay on track throughout the year.

Mother and daughter having fun, jogging together along a river

by NEA Member Benefits

For many educators, summer signals an opportunity to work on projects that there’s never enough time for during the school year. Getting into shape is often one of them but the trick is always figuring out how to stick with your exercise routine in the fall. We asked New York City-based trainer Dominique Hall to come up with five strategies to help you stay on track all year round—and they’re specifically aimed at an educator’s lifestyle.

1. Do it en masse

Get a group of educators together that are all committed to evolving their workouts into a habit. Meet at a designated time that you know will work for you year round like early in the morning or after school. Your newfound circle can work out together or you can split up into teams so that one can baby sit while the other sweats, and then switch off.

2. Channel your inner athlete

Two or more can also pair up to create fun competitions—and keeping your workouts fun will make them habit-forming. Try these: Find a clear area in a park where you can either run or walk for 20 seconds. You and your partner walk or run the distance and see who gets there first. Rest for 10 seconds and do it again. This time the one who was slower starts where she ended the first lap so that the faster one is challenged. Then both of you start the second interval where the first one ended. Race back to the start of the first interval. Rest for 10 seconds and do it again. Do this workout non-stop for 4 minutes.

In the weight room, pick any two exercises—deadlifts and push-ups, for instance. Your partner starts with the push-ups and you do the deadlifts. After 20 seconds switch exercises. Repeat two more times. Time your third round effort. Rest for 3 minutes then do it again. See if you can complete the next round faster.

“Your partner doesn’t have to be the same every week or every day. Switching can help galvanize you and keep your workouts fun and new. Use Facebook to expand your group and to post achievements, motivation tips and even favorite recipes,” says Hall.

3. Hire a personal trainer at a group rate

There’s nothing like paying for a trainer to keep you committed once school’s back in session. If you don’t all belong to the same gym the trainer can probably use a school gym or weight room—or a park. “Keep an exercise log to help your trainer keep tabs on your progress. If the intensity of your workouts isn’t increasing, eventually your body will adapt and your changes will be either minimal or non-existent. And that will kill your resolve to maintain your routine,” says Hall. Weight selection, number of reps and rest periods should all be documented. Log books are also great tools for noting breakthrough moments, like being able to do push-ups on your toes for the first time instead of your knees.

4. Establish daily reminders

Stay psyched about your workouts year round by placing a picture of the body you want where you’ll see it all the time such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Look up inspiring affirmations online and write them in your calendar. A few words can be just what you need to attain your goals for that day. “One that I read every morning is, ‘All your behavior results from thoughts that precede it.’ It keeps me in line,” says Hall. Or make a motivation collage from magazine clippings and photographs. Maybe it has an energizing slogan like Nike’s, “Just do it,” or a picture of a gorgeous beach getaway. Choose imagery that makes you want to exercise and be healthy.

5. Keep your eye on the prize

List your long and short term goals and reward yourself every time you achieve one. Depending on your budget, treat yourself to new clothes, a facial or flowers. Short term fitness goals could be: I will run 5 miles this week. Or, I will do my push-ups (no one likes them) three times this week. Long term examples: I will run the local 5K in two months. If you’ve competed in one before, aim to beat your previous time. Or, in four weeks I’ll increase the length of time I can hold a plank from 30 seconds to 1 minute. “Rewards reinforce healthy habits and acknowledge how you feel about yourself after reaching them. Just don’t fall into the trap of using food as a bonus. Instead, plan to cook a favorite meal once a week. You’ll find that being smart about your diet choices will boost your progress and give you even more motivation to maintain your fitness routine all year,” says Hall.

Save on your summer health and wellness needs