Creating a habit and getting into an exercise routine is easier if you make the act of exercising fun and enjoyable. Below are some practical tips to help you develop a long-term exercise routine.
Tips to Help You Start an Exercise Routine
Get medically evaluated: If you’re a male over 40 or woman over 50 be sure to be evaluated by your physician to make sure that is safe for you to exercise. The focus here is assessing whether or not you might have some underlying heart disease. Exercise is good for heart disease, but if you have heart disease you will need to progress more slowly and need close monitoring.
Set realistic goals: Individuals who set goals are more likely to be successful. There is something about writing goals down, too, that makes it more likely that you will succeed. Be specific, too. I want to lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks. I want to increase my strength on the bench press 30 pounds by the July 4th. I want to be able to run 5 miles without stopping in 2 months.
Ease into an exercise routine: This is more true if you are completely new to exercise. Learn how your body reacts to different physical stresses. Many times you won’t know until the following day if you did too much. Nothing will derail developing an exercise routine better than becoming injured or feeling fatigued because you did too much too fast.
Increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts in a gradual fashion. As you learn more about how you respond to increase demands you can progress your exercise routine more quickly.
Make exercise fun: Certainly exercise isn’t all fun and games, but you should not dread it. If you do, that’s a sign that you need to change up your program, or that you may be overtraining.
Pick activities you somewhat like. If you don’t like running (I don’t) don’t do it. Consider group exercise classes. Explore activities like yoga or Pilates that you may know little about. If you exercise outdoors be sure to notice the trees, skies, and the surroundings. Exercise while listening to music.
Schedule your workouts: Don’t let your exercise routine be something you do when time permits. Schedule it into your day. Many find, and studies show that individuals who exercise first thing in the morning are more likely to stick with it. They did it. It’s done. There’s nothing in the day to come that will prevent them from doing it. Morning may not be the best time for you, but pick a time where your energy level is good and interruptions/distractions are minimal.
Exercise with a partner: Exercising with a friend or partner should make sticking with your exercise routine easier and provides someone to help keep you motivated. Having someone to exercise with makes it more enjoyable. Plus, you can both push each other to do better. It is especially nice to have someone spot or assist you while lifting weights and observe your lifting technique.
Change up your exercise routine: It’s important to change your exercise routine periodically – once a month is good. This will prevent boredom and keeps the body “honest”. Our bodies will adapt and get used to an exercise routine done over and over and eventually you get diminishing returns. You will get better results if you change your routine up every now and again. Getting bored or almost dreading a workout is a sign it’s time to shake up your program.
Pay attention to what you eat: Eating well while starting an exercise routine is overlooked. You will need to replenish your glycogen stores (carbohydrates) after a workout and protein intake will likely need to be increased especially if engaging in strength training. You may find your appetite has increased – that’s normal and your body’s way of telling you it needs more fuel. Just be sure to avoid the junk food.
Warm up and cool down:
When people are pressed for time the warm up and cool down tend to be eliminated from the workout. Warming up and cooling down will help prevent injuries. Warm up is a transition period for the muscles and prepares them for the more vigorous activity that awaits them. Ride a stationary bike or do some other cardio exercise for 5 minutes at a light intensity and some range of motion exercises for the arms, trunk, and legs.
Stretching exercises are best done after the workout when the muscles are warm. Flexibility exercises help eliminate lactic acid that accumulates in the muscle.
Rest: Some individuals think the more they do the better results they will get. To some degree this is true, but the body also needs rest. The physiologic adaptations to exercise do not occur during exercise, but after it. Feeling exhausted and seeing deterioration in your performance are signs that you are overtraining and need a break. It’s generally a good idea to have a relatively easy week of exercise every 4 to 6 weeks.
Resolve to get into an exercise routine this coming new year!
See related articles.