If you’re like most beginner exercisers, you start off doing too much too soon and either get sidelined by an injury or overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy involved. What’s going to make this time different? Here are seven tips that will get—and keep—you in the game long after the strains of Auld Lang Syne have faded.
- Visualize your active self. Create an activity “vision” that will compel you forward each day. What do you realistically see yourself doing in this image you hold in your mind? Who are you with? How do you feel? If the exerciser you want to be rides a bike and plans regular outdoor family adventures, then a sports conditioning class at your local gym won’t work. Start out with the very activities that make your heart sing and your hips move.
- Resource others. For the most part, physical activity is a solo journey, right? Wrong! Asking for support is one of the most neglected resources in making behavior changes. We wouldn’t get anywhere in life without the help of others—whether that be landing your next job or your role as a new parent. Be specific in the requests you make, such as asking your spouse to baby sit the kids while you go to zumba class on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
- Start small to go big. The rule of progression for building an exercise habit is Frequency—Duration—Intensity. When you are first starting out, aim to be active on a regular daily basis (Frequency), even if this is just for 5 or 10 minutes a day. Once you’ve mastered that, start tacking on more total time that you’re at your chosen activity (Duration). Only after you’re able to effortlessly exercise 30 minutes at a time should you start training harder (Intensity). The Biggest Loser(R) would have you believe that you should start with boot camp right out of the gate. Not so!
- Train like Popeye. Back when I wrote for Prevention magazine, I interviewed a research expert about the merits of aerobic exercise versus strength training for beginners. “If you only have time to do one, which should you choose?” I asked. What do you think he said? What would you say? If you see exercise as a lot of huffing and puffing, you might think aerobics should be the answer. But my expert surprisingly chose strength—for one very specific reason. You notice improvements so quickly with weight training that it motivates you to continue. Plus, stronger muscles naturally make everything from jazzercise to climbing stairs feel easier.
- Change things up. Variety keeps things interesting. Enough said.
- Aim to be less sedentary. Rather than thinking of exercise as something you have to add into your day, look for ways to subtract the number of minutes you’re inactive. Keep a wastebasket down the hall so you have to get up multiple times to throw something away. Stash your carry-on bag in a locker and walk the airport terminal while you wait to board.
- Compromise. The name of the game is consistency. When you’re up against a deadline and tempted to blow off your workout completely, do just 10 minutes of core work and stretching. Something is always better than nothing and goes a long way to keep you mentally in the game.
What do you think will keep YOU in the game this year? Comment below.