Friday, August 19, 2011

What's My Motivation?


As summer is winding down (where does the time go?!) with the days getting shorter, vacations wrapping up and kids getting ready to head back to school, many people start to think about getting back to the gym or a regular workout routine. Around September fitness classes start filling up and people start signing up for personal training (much like January 1st) and then... by the end of September many have given up on their "losing weight" and general fitness aspirations. I've witnessed this year after year and would like to offer some of my thoughts and observations on staying motivated to keep you on track with your goals.

1. Rome wasn't built in a day.

I recall seeing Richard Simmons long ago on TV when everyone was doing "aerobics". He was leading a class in an energetic series of leg and arm lifts (I think he still does these type of classes) and barking instructions. One of the things he said has always stuck in my mind as simple but so true--he said (these may not be the exact words but they were something to the effect of) "remember ladies, you didn't put it on in a week--you won't take it off in a week."

He was talking about weight of course, but this is also true for fitness -- you didn't become deconditioned in a week so don't expect to be back "in shape" in a week. One of the keys to sticking with your new fitness class and goals is to take it easy and go at a pace that you can maintain. If you're too sore to function the next day (i.e. you can't walk up stairs or getting out of bed is near impossible) then you did too much. And, if you attempt to try to keep up that sort of pace, you will most likely give up in frustration.

When WILL you see results? It depends on what you're doing and how often. If, for example, you start doing an activity like boot camp three mornings a week you may see fitness gains (improved cardiovascular function and increased muscle mass) and perhaps some weight loss in four to six weeks.

You need to stick with it! Your hard work will gradually pay off!

2. Build a habit of exercise into your life.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: It takes as many as 66 repetitions of any action to make it a habit. That means 66 classes or 66 days (in however many weeks) of exercising. Also, if you don't have something you really like to do, you are not going to build it into a habit. The best thing you can do is find something you really like doing. Exercise should not feel like a chore.

You don't like going to the gym or taking yoga classes? Fine. Walk in the park, skip a rope, ride a bike, or swim. If group activities are more likely to keep you motivated, join a fitness class, softball team or go bowling. If you can't get away from your house because you take care of kids, or don't drive or (insert excuse here) then do something at home--get an exercise DVD or use a Wii Fit; put on some great music and dance! Also, gardening, house cleaning, chasing kids and pets all qualify as exercise.

Try and do something active each day, it doesn't have to be an hour of an organized activity, which brings me to...

3. Every minute counts!

You don't have to have a set block of time to "exercise". Studies a few years ago showed that small amounts of exercise (as little as 10 minute sessions) count toward a cummulative total for the day--a 10 minute walk or jog to work and later 10 minutes of resistance training (could be weights, body weight, or resistance band exercises) with 20 minutes of gardening at another point and another 10 minutes to walk the dog add up to an hour of activity. Also recent studies show that "even15 minutes of exercise a day can improve health".

Get moving -- even small amounts of time spent exercising can be beneficial!

4. Exercise for the Right Reasons/Numbers on the scale are not important

This morning as we were doing bootcamp a guy who had come to the beach early to do some fishing stopped and chatted briefly (he sees us there all the time) and remarked that he was lucky because he was fond of cookies and he could eat all he wanted without gaining weight--implying he never needed to exercise. I didn't say anything at the time but pondered how often I hear this type of comment. I should have said that I do not exercise to lose weight--I exercise to keep fit. These are two very different things.

Exercising will lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, keep joints healthy and bones strong along with countless other health (both physical and mental) benefits. Staying trim is a nice benefit but it's certainly not the main reason for doing it.

Conversely, staying away from unhealthy foods should be more about wanting to stay healthy and lowering our risk of diabetes, heart disease and numerous other risks and less about how it affects our weight.

If you adopt healthy exercise and eating habits, generally, you'll feel better--and that is definately a great motivator.

Here's hoping you have a happy, healthy, active, fall season!

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