How to be Successful at Fitness: Step One
Written By: Korey Jay BSc DC
So you have decided that you are going to hit the gym or practice field and get back into shape? First of all CONGRATULATIONS! You are about to embark on a journey which will augment and improve every other aspect of your personal and professional life!
However, studies have shown that the average individual will quit exercising regularly within six months of initiating a fitness program. Why do some people quit, while others stick with a program? In my eyes there are a few simple factors that those who fail to follow a fitness program use as excuses.
- Lack of Structure
- Lack of Results
- Lack of Fun
Let us take a closer look at each of these factors and discuss how to avoid such pitfalls.
Lack of Structure
So you have embarked on an exercise program, and you are chomping at the bit to get to the gym and hit those weights. You step foot in the gym, and all of a sudden you are surrounded by dozens of exercise machines and people in varying degrees of sweat and discomfort lining up to utilize said machines. The differing possibilities of exercise and the combinations of exercises that are available to the average person in this day and age are staggering and, to be quite honest, bewildering!
What in the world are you supposed to do?!
Step one is to take one big step back. The successful fitness regimen is one that has a solid basis of planning. Consider your fitness goals as a career, and you would not choose a career without any forethought, would you? Different people gravitate to different forms of exercise. Maybe you are a cardiovascular exercise hound, maybe you live for the heavy iron, or maybe fitness classes and working out with other people is more your speed. Whatever style of fitness you prefer, you have to plan out a system by which you can achieve success.
Before stepping foot in the gym, draw up a plan of what you are going to do. Start simply by designing a program that works different areas of your body on different days, in order to facilitate healing and recovery. An example would be to create a four-day program that looks like this;
- Day One : Cardio and Upper Body with Stretch
- Day Two : Core (Back and Abdominals) with Stretch
- Day Three : Cardio and Lower Body with Stretch
- Day Four : Yoga / Martial Arts / Aerobics or something comparable
Now that you have a basic idea of which areas you are going to work, feel free to fill in the details with the exercises you choose. Aim for roughly 8-10 exercises per day, to keep the overall time manageable. Also, bring along a spiral notebook with your selected exercises to use as an exercise journal to chart your progress every day (this simple tool can save you time and significantly increase your results!). Exercises can be whatever you want, and in the future we will be posting certain exercises you might want to try.
Lack of Results
The only piece of your anatomy that can cause you to quit on an exercise program is your brain. We all have the capacity to fall prey to the “Plateau Effect”. A great example of this phenomenon is demonstrated on TV reality weight loss programs, where contestants lose massive amounts of weight in the first few weeks and then struggle to lose weight in the last few weeks. This effect happens in microcosm to all of those embarking on a weight loss program. The average individual, upon initiating a weight loss program, will lose more in those first few weeks (this is the reason most weight-loss programs offer money back guarantees if the client is not satisfied in the first month). The key is to avoid feeling discouraged when the weight loss begins to plateau and the numbers are not rolling off the scales, remember that what is occurring inside your body is twice as important as any changes happening on the outside.
Another pitfall to avoid is the tendency to only want to do exercises you are “good” at. For example, most young males love to exercise what they can see in the mirror (ie- pectorals, abs, quadriceps etc.) for the simple reason that we do not see our back muscles, and because those muscles tend to be weaker than front musculature in most people those exercises will be more painful and awkward to perform. Sticking to a program will take you out of your comfort zone and allow you to increase your results. I would recommend changing your exercise program every 8-12 weeks with new exercises to never allow your body to become accustomed to your workouts.
How do you find new exercises? The advent of the internet allows the individual to peruse a multitude of different exercises, and variations of the same exercise. Seeking out the advice of personal trainers, as well as simply observing other gym-goers, can be extremely beneficial as well. Also, we will be posting different exercises and stretches over the coming months and years on this website so keep checking us out!
Lack of Fun
There is no way around it, people call it “working” out for a reason. There are going to be days when you have absolutely NO desire to drag yourself to your home or local gym to slug out a few exercises (especially in the cold months).
This is the crux, and the main problem with most people in their exercise regimens….WILLPOWER. There are several means by which you can avoid the pitfall of feeling burnt out by your workouts.
First of all, we return to the idea of rotating your workouts over the course of the week and then re-vamping your program every 8-12 weeks. This prevents the boredom associated with constantly performing the same exercises.
Second, and this is an important one, never NEVER get discouraged by having a bad workout day. Everyone has bad days, feels under the weather, or lacks energy from time to time. I prefer to take my exercise assessments in terms of weeks instead of days. And even if you do happen to have a rough week, and have a round of workout days in which you are not at your best, make up for it during the next week.
Lastly, perform exercises that make you happy. This seems like a simple concept, but in truth it is the most difficult for most people to wrap their heads around. If you love playing hockey, then play hockey and make up an exercise program which will isolate the muscle groups you use playing hockey or likewise with any other sport. If you find treadmills boring, then head out into the fresh air outside and jog or head to your local conservation area and hike. I find bicycles uncomfortable, so I do not force myself to ride bicycles and jog instead. I also download a bunch of songs that fire me up onto an MP3 device and allow them to get me in the mood to push my body. Do not force yourself to do perform exercises that you absolutely hate (however do not confuse feeling discomfort with hating a particular exercise, that is an excuse!)
I hope that this article has inspired so of you to pick those weights back up, and re-charge those MP3 devices. Embarking upon a workout program is the first step towards a healthy and productive life full of happiness.
Photo Credits: conceptedge