Tricks For Sticking To It

At last, you’re exercising again, and it sure feels great, doesn’t it? Of course, it also felt great last year, when you dedicated yourself to regularly hitting the gym every morning—and stuck to it throughout the entire winter. But then… well, you know what happened.

So if it feels so great, why do we keep quitting? Here are some tips to help you maintain your physical workout schedule with more consistency. We’ll call this the “Top 10 tricks for stick–to–itiveness”!

1. Start Looking at Exercise Differently. All movement is exercise. People need to give themselves more options. Take the dog for a walk, bike to the store, take five minute stretch breaks. You're missing some of your best opportunities to stay active when you only count exercise as what happens at the gym, endures for 30 minutes or requires a shower afterward.. 

2. Think Small. This advice can be tough for those who expect the most from themselves. Why bother walking around the block when you could be running your usual four miles? Recognize that there are times when your schedule won’t permit all four miles… and that’s okay… because a brisk hike will keep you from feeling you have failed. 

3. Set an Agenda. Establish goals, such as increasing the speed, frequency or duration of your activity. Maybe it's time to take a walk up that hill in the backyard without getting winded or even train for a 5K. Baby steps are fine, as long as you are constantly increasing your stride over time! It’s perfectly okay to think small for your performance agenda, too. 

4. Get off the Beaten Path. Have you ever tried snowboarding? Bowling? Swing dancing? Body surfing? How about reversing your power walk route? Exercising at a different time of the day? Physical activity isn't boring, but how you participate in it can be if you don’t change things up once in a while. 

5. Use Your Brain. If you're new to exercise, try listening to music, watching TV or playing computer games to help you stick with it… but remain cognizant of sensations that could signal injury or overdoing it.

6. Find an Accountability Partner. Work with a friend, mentor or coach to keep yourself honest. You can exercise with your partner, or simply check in with him or her to consistently report your progress. 

7. Plan Ahead to Stay Active. Outside of your regular regimen, think about new ways to keep yourself moving. Park at the far end of the parking lot when heading to the office or the grocery store—and put your walking shoes in the car the night before. Plan to take that new yoga class next week, and arrange for the babysitter now. 

8. Face Your Fitness Foes. Does a planned vacation throw your exercise schedule out of whack? Do projects at work overtake your personal activity time? Have injuries sidelined you? Boredom? Fear of success? Fitness foes can be beaten once they are identified. Take charge! You can change your vacation style, set work limits, seek guidance for injury-free activity, find new challenges, and face your fears with counseling and support. 

9. Go Tribal. Even if you are introverted, the presence of others in your exercise environment can be mighty motivating. We all pick up on other people's exercise vibes, so choose places and times to exercise where other people are also actively engaged in exercise. You will likely be surprised just how inspiring this is. 

10. Use a Script. We tell ourselves things like “skipping this one little walk couldn’t possible matter that much.” Next time, prepare yourself with a stock response when such an excuse dances in front of your eyes. Conjure images of past successful experiences to remind yourself just how good exercise makes you feel. Or repeat a simple phrase to yourself, such as “Every little bit makes a big difference.” By depending on your own planning, flexibility and imagination, you won't ever feel like a dropout again.