Every year diet, weight loss and exercise are some of the most popular New Year's resolutions in America - probably because so many people need to do these things.
From a personal standpoint I know this to be true because you wouldn't believe how crowded the local gyms get during January and February as compared to October, Novemeber and December. Unfortunately, by March everything goes back to normal as most of the New Year's resolution motivation fades away and life goes back to the status quo.
If you are one of those people trying to add exercise to your life (maybe you've already started) I would like to give you a few tips that I think will improve your chances of maintaining this new lifestyle,
Obviously, if you are highly motivated to exercise there is a great chance that you will succeed. Here's a personal example (I am not a workout fanatic or a gym rat, as they are called, but I am highly committed to exercise). I exercise regularly in a health club. I happen to be a member of one, and I also have my physical therapy facility that I could work out in as well if I'm too busy to leave the office.
If I am traveling I will use the hotel gym. If I am staying with relatives in the midwest I will run outside, and if I was snowed in for a week and trapped from the rest of the world I would probably do push ups and situps on the floor and climb a lot of stairs.
The point is that a well motivated person will find a way to exercise. But let's face it, if your resolution is to exercise, you are not that person! So let's talk about another factor that will help you to achieve your goal.
I think one of the most important factors in determining the ability for a person to stick with an exercise program is to ensure that the exercise program is well matched to the individual. Let me explain. Experience, motivation, time, and economics are the biggest variables in determining an individual program that works for you.
Experience level of the participant is important to think about. Many of us are running to the nearest gym we can find to begin our exercise program - having never exercised before.
Many people will fail in this attempt because a gym can be an intimidating place and you have to know what you're doing in ordere to use the facility. After fumbling around for a few days and seeing all of these other big strong and fit people working out effortlessly (it seems that way sometimes) many of us will drop out because that is not a pleasant experience (not only physically but emotionally).
For someone who used to work out regularly but has stopped - this plan would work perfectly, but not so for the novice.
The novice would be much better suited for personal training or a gym that has staff that are attentive and regularly walk around the gym looking to help members. Be careful because many gyms are very cheap. They are cheap because they often cut back on staff so eventhough the price may be what you are looking for, the environment may not be supportive for you to achieve your goals.
Motivation, or lack thereof is another important factor. People use personal training for many reasons, one of which is to substitute for lack of motivation. If you can't exercise on your own then pay someone to make you exercise both safely and efficiently.
In my practice we offer personal training to clients after they have recovered from whatever injury brought them to our door. Anytime a client starts training (let's say for weight loss as an example) I usually say on the first day (jokingly) "Congratulations, you just lost 10 pounds, now all you have to do is show up." The funny thing is that it's true. Many people continue to show up even when they don't want to because they know someone else is waiting for them to come and work out.
The negative to personal training is that you have to pay for it. Yes, you are paying for motivation (among other things - I don't mean to make light of the field) - but it works. Another assist to motivation is to get a partner. In the gym or with personal training, having another person to push you to exercise when you don't want to can really help you, just make sure you are ready to do the same for your partner.
If time is your problem, learn how to work out at home. You need to know how and you need to have more motivation to police yourself but not only can it be convenient it can also be much cheaper. Learn how to exercise during lunch (that's what I do). Wake up 20 minutes early and exercise at home.
There are so many different ways that you can create an exercise program to match your individual needs that will increase your likelihood of success. Many of our clients come in for a wellness visit and ask for us to help them program an exercise routine. Some people opt for personal training, some opt to come in once a week, once a month, or come in once just to get a program created. The most important thing is that you give yourself a better chance of success when you have a program that is matched to your specific needs and limitations.
As always questions and comments are encouraged
Yours in Health
Chris Ostling PT, DPT