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Get energized about exercise: 5 tips to stay motivated for fitness

Starting a new fitness program is exciting, but it takes motivation to stick with it for long-term benefits.

Stephanie Naulls, registered kinesiologist with the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative at Women’s College Hospital, explains the importance of taking the time to develop a manageable exercise plan, and shares her top five tips for maintaining regular exercise.

  1. List three reasons
    Naulls suggests listing your top three reasons why you want to exercise, not why you should. By establishing the motivational factors behind your exercise plan, you will be able to better understand your personal situation and work to fulfill your needs.Everyone’s situation is unique. For this reason, Naulls advises against comparing yourself to others in the gym. People go to the gym for many different reasons and have varied goals and limitations. Use only yourself to measure your success.
  2. Schedule exercise time into your calendar
    Exercise should become as natural as eating and sleeping. By scheduling specific times into your weekly calendar, you will be more likely to stick to your plan. Don’t just decide to go ‘regularly.’ Determine the date, place and specific times. You should even plan for unforeseen circumstances and how you will make up for any missed workouts.“The more specific you can be the better,” encourages Naulls.If you exercise at home, it is more likely that you will put it off. Because of this, the most important factor in getting over the obstacles to home workouts is to schedule exercise time. “If you do it first thing in the morning, you are more likely to get it done,” advises Naulls.
  3. Find an exercise buddy
    Being accountable to someone forces you to stick with an exercise plan. By relying on each other, you will each be more likely to stay committed.If you don’t have an exercise buddy, Naulls encourages you to use your resources. “Don’t be afraid to seek assistance from gym staff.”  It’s a good idea to ask questions if you need help or would like a tour of the gym. If you decide to hire a personal trainer, Naulls advises you to know their qualifications, especially if you have musculoskeletal (MSK) issues. Ask for a resume to make sure that they are registered kinesiologists.
  4. Try things more than once
    When beginning a new exercise or class, try to keep an open mind. Don’t write off exercise completely because you’re not enjoying a specific workout. “I encourage you to try things at least three times,” says Naulls. “You may not like it the first couple times you go, but keep an open mind. We don’t always like new things right away.”Investigate your options. If you prefer working out alone, experiment with different exercises or machines. If you prefer having an instructor, try out different types of classes. By exploring all the possibilities, you will find something that fits your needs and preferences.
  5. Set SMART goals
    When setting goals, Naulls suggests adopting the SMART guidelines:

    • Specific – knowing exactly what you want to achieve is the first step toward success
    • Measurable – choose a goal that you can track with numbers (heart rate, time, distance)
    • Attainable – make sure your goal is something that you can achieve
    • Realistic – every person is different and making a goal that is realistic based on your body is important
    • Timely – decide how long you will take to reach the goal; it’s better to make smaller goals along the way than to make a huge goal for the distant future

“You need to believe in these goals and reasons,” says Naulls, stressing the importance of self-motivation.

The payoff

Maintaining a healthy exercise program is a key factor in heart disease prevention. However this is not always easy, as daily obstacles, lack of motivation or procrastination can get in the way of a fitness program. These tips can help you stay on track.

This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: Feb. 14, 2014

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