How To Really, Truly Love Working Out

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When it comes to working out, “just do it,” right? Well, according to some sources, more than nine out of 10 people who start a fitness routine will quit before it becomes a lifestyle habit, officially making our beloved slogan the most ineffective advice ever. Sure, the reasons for not going to the gym are plentiful: too tired, too busy, too sore, and (let’s be real) too lazy, but the reasons for working out (burning fat, lowering your heart rate, fighting disease, reducing stress) far outweigh the excuses. So, why is it so hard to stay on track?
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The issue, according to many trainers, may be that your exercise regimen just isn't you. If your workouts aren't suited to your personality or goals, it's no wonder they don't stick. If you just can't seem to keep a fitness regimen going, we're here to help you create one you'll love for the long term. The good news? With a little shift in perspective, you can develop a plan that'll make you beyond excited to get moving.
Step One: Set Goals, But Get Them Right
“I’m firm believer that you can’t go anywhere until you know where you want to go,” says Holly Rilinger, a personal trainer and instructor at Flywheel. “Instead of talking hypothetically about results like toning up or losing fat, I advise my clients to visualize their goals in the form of a dream board, where they are putting in front of them pictures that embody what they want." (That could be a pair of jeans you're coveting, for instance, or the energy of someone who is running on the beach, she explains.)  Research has shown that visualizing goals helps to increase motivation, effort, and commitment to reaching the desired outcome. Give yourself a realistic timeline, since expecting too much, too soon is a surefire way to lead to discouragement and burnout. For long-term success, set tangible goals in multiple short terms and celebrate small victories along the way.
It’s also important to know what you want to achieve from exercising. Are you trying to lose weight or improve performance? Want a bikini bod all year round or just want to feel less lethargic? “If you’re looking to change your body in specific ways, then you must have a fitness routine in place that tailors your goals,” Rilinger advises. “Simply being active won’t cut it.” However, if you’re looking to have more energy, relieve stress, or just be healthier, making yourself go to the gym may not be the most effective method. Instead, look for ways to incorporate more physical activity into your daily life. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, joining a local kickball league, or just going for a walk instead of eating lunch at your desk.
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Step Two: Do What You Enjoy
This might sound like the most obvious advice out there, but how often do we climb onto the corner treadmill at the gym, run in place for 30 minutes while bored out of our minds, and then dread the idea of ever going back? No wonder it’s not sustainable.
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“When I meet with clients, I want to learn about their hobbies," explains Carol Espel, National Director of Group Fitness for Equinox. "Do they enjoy dancing, were they a former athlete, or are they just not that active and want to start off by testing a variety of classes? The bottom line is, we need to figure out what they like and actually want to do.” Wise words, we say, since the key to staying motivated is doing something because you want to, not because you feel an obligation. Even if you just don’t like getting your sweat on, there are many lower-intensity options like mat Pilates or barre exercise. So hit up your friends for their workout recommendations, or grab a buddy to sample classes together at a nearby gym.
Step Three: Put Your Personality Into It
Getting and staying fit requires mental power as much as physical power, and your personality is key in choosing the right program. “Doing a workout DVD at home might seem like an easy solution, especially if time is an issue, but it requires someone who is extremely self-motivated to sustain it,” says Rilinger. “You have to be honest with yourself and understand if that is you or not.” Similarly, a group fitness class may work for those who are energetic, competitive, and don’t mind being around people when they’re red and sweaty, but can be a discouraging experience for those who need to go at their own pace and have space and privacy. If you’re the former, go ahead and sign up for that boxing class or boot camp. If you’re the latter, you’ll probably benefit more from one-on-one personal training.
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Step Four: Set Yourself Up For Success
We already don’t have enough hours in the day as it is, so there’s nothing more frustrating than spending precious time working out, only to see no results. To ensure success, Rilinger recommends that all fitness routines incorporate strength training, interval training, yoga, and a focus on nutrition. The more intense components such as lifting weights and cardio are effective for burning fat, increasing lean muscle, and raising metabolism levels. Counter that with yoga and meditation to increase flexibility and decrease stress, and eat plenty of whole foods and protein to fuel the body. Before long, you'll see changes in your energy and body — which provides even more motivation to keep going.
Step Five: Don't Quit...Even If You're Over It
Nothing is fun all the time, and that most certainly applies to exercise. At some point, work, life, the weather, or just plan discouragement will get in the way of even your most favorite workout. “When that happens, start by addressing each barrier,” says Espel. “If you’re traveling, ask your hotel for running maps. Or, if you can’t make it into the gym, ask your trainer to customize an at-home routine.”
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If you’re simply burned out, it’s also okay to take a break to rest and reenergize yourself. “Then, revisit your goals and schedule in workouts on your calendar to get back on track,” Rilinger advises. Another tactic is to go the social route and enlist a like-minded friend to keep each other going.
Sure, sustaining a long-term fitness plan is much harder than the Nike advertising team would like us to believe, but with the right approach, it certainly is possible to do it — and love it.
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