Most people start off strong with an exercise program, and then within a few weeks they've got an excuse for not being there. The majority of people will stop participating in a new workout program within the first 90 days which is why health clubs that are packed in January can seem virtually empty by March.
What's your excuse for not making it to the gym on a consistent basis? Locker room too smelly? Eye candy not sweet enough? Music volume making your ears bleed? Feeling intimidated by buff bodies crowding the free-weight area?
Don't let your gym membership go to waste!If you're starting a new exercise program, you're probably very excited about it, which is great. But that excitement is going to wear off, at which point you'll begin to notice how much time and effort a workout plan really requires.
And that's the point where you may be tempted to start pulling back, or even to quit entirely. But we're not about to let that happen. Follow these steps from the very beginning, and you'll be one of those dedicated gym members who really get their moneys worth.
1. Make workouts a key part of your schedule.Many people see exercise merely as recreation, not a necessity, which means it's the first thing to go when daily schedules get crunched. YOU NEED TO DECIDE that working out is as important as ANYTHING in your life, even as important as LIFE ITSELF.
If you don't, as soon as the initial excitement of a new program is over, everything else will get in the way; business appointments, family obligations, TV, sitting on your duff. Write your workout times into your calendar and stick to them just as you would a vital business meeting.
2. Keep it mellow.You're a lot more likely to keep your program for the long term if you avoid letting going to the gym become a hassle. Choose a gym you can get to in a reasonable amount of time at the time of day you're going to train.
If you're fighting gym traffic, you'll be a lot less motivated. Find a place where you won't have to line up to use the equipment you want. And unless you'll be going at the end of the day and can wash up at home, make sure it has clean showers and a comfortable changing environment.
3. Don't bite off more than you can chew.Many people often start out too aggressively, going to a level that's higher than they're capable of. As a result, they injure their muscle fibers, so for 48 hours they're walking around like a mummy. Then they stop going to the gym because they find themselves dreading the pain.
Many people don't realize that long, drawn out workouts is NOT better. You're not giving your body enough time to recover between workouts. 60 minutes TOPS (if you're doing a strength and aerobic workout), or about 30 minutes of a strength OR aerobic workout. Make those minutes COUNT! You can still workout daily as long as you keep your workouts short.
4. Set achievable goals.It's inevitable that as you start a new program, you picture yourself looking like the models on TV or in the magazines. But if you set your sights too high, you may find yourself discounting the gains you are making. When you're starting out, go over your long-term goals with a trainer or coach, and decide what you can achieve based on your workout schedule.
Then, instead of looking far into the future, give yourself intermediate weekly and monthly goals, such as doing an extra rep or lifting 10 more pounds. If you always have new goals to shoot for, it stays interesting.
REMEMBER: You're not exercising to lose weight. You're exercising because of HOW YOU'LL FEEL as a RESULT of exercising regularly. You WILL get leaner, you WILL have more energy, you WILL have a higher self-esteem. If you don't achieve the goals in the time you first set, it's not the goal that's wrong. It's the time frame that was wrong. Keep focused on your goals.
5. Chart your progress.Gains from one workout to the next can be subtle, and the only way to know how well you're really doing is to write everything down. Keep a journal of your workouts, as well as what you eat. Even people who are diligent don't remember exactly how well things went if they keep everything in their head.
When you write it down, you can compare results, see what is and isn't working, and see that as time goes on YOU'RE REALLY MAKING PROGRESS.
6. Mix it up.Doing the same workout over and over again gets old fast, and your results won't be as good as if you try a variety of exercises. Instead of doing 40 minutes daily on the treadmill, try every darn aerobic machine in the gym and go on hiking, in-line skating and bicycling adventures whenever you get a chance.
Change your weight training routine regularly to keep things interesting and to help break through plateaus. A lack of variety leads to staleness. A good rule of thumb is to change your sets, reps, weight, and rest periods every 3-4 weeks. You'll have more fun if you learn new tools and keep doing different things.
7. Go one on one.One reason working out can seem less enjoyable than playing sports is that it lacks interplay with others. But there are lots of ways to have some spirited competition in the gym, whether it's racing >> on treadmills or competing (safely) with your weightlifting buddy. When two guys are on the same regimen, they can make things more fun by having "mini-contests."
Try going as many reps as you can on a certain weight. Or see who can lift the most weight for 4-5 reps. Just make sure the contest rules specify doing the exercise right, since sacrificing form to lift more weight can be dangerous.
8. Work with a trainer or coach.Workouts seem easier and are more effective with a professional prodding you on; plus, you're more likely to feel obligated to show up (especially if he's going to charge you anyway). When there's someone watching you and keeping an eye on your progress, there's incentive to keep going. If you can't afford to hire a trainer for every workout, just do it every couple of weeks or once a month and have him/her help you set goals for you to reach in between.
Also, consider getting a training partner - just make sure it's somebody who will show up every time, is dedicated as you are... in other words, a clone of you.
9. Force yourself to hang in there religiously for the first three months.Nothing sustains motivation better than results. However, whether you're a beginner or a competitive bodybuilder, your muscles must be given enough time to adapt to the growth and recovery periods that strength training requires.
Though you may see some results, like increases in strength, early on, noticeable changes in your physique CAN take up to three months. (NOTE: This DOESN'T mean that everyone will take this long to see results. I've had clients see results in the first couple of weeks; some waited a few months before things fell into place.)
It also takes that long to establish a rhythm and discipline to your training schedule, but after three months of dedication, you'll be a lot less likely to fall off the training wagon.
10. As soon as you miss a workout, re-motivate yourself.This is the danger zone, the time when most people start giving up. You've missed one workout, so what's the big deal about skipping another, or all of them? Before you know it, your whole program could go down the tubes. If you miss a workout, you miss a workout. It's over. You can't bring it back. So it makes NO sense to beat yourself up about it.