For many of us, it’s easy to start an exercise program. The trick is staying with it. Here are 10 tips for long-term success from our exercise experts at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa.
1. Treat exercise as an appointment.
There’s an old Spanish saying: “A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.”
2. Specify a day and time for exercise.
Make it a time that’s right for you. Others may like to get up for a 5 a.m. workout, but if your body prefers 5 p.m., make your exercise time 5 p.m.
No time today (or all of next week) for exercise? During harried days, blend moments of exercise into your daily schedule. Park at the far side of parking lots. Climb stairs instead of taking elevators. Walk while you talk on the phone. If you have five minutes, get moving!
A pedometer can be a great motivational tool. An average of 2,000 steps adds up to a 100-calorie deficit for the day, which, over a year, can add up to 10 pounds lost.
4. Remember the “buddy system.”
Social support makes exercise a lot more fun – and a lot safer. Arrange walking groups. Set up tennis games, treadmill or spinning partners at the gym, nights out dancing, or basketball teams. What a great way to enjoy friends and get your workouts in.
5. Set goals.
It’s great to see and feel progress. Just make sure your goals are concrete and near-term. (“I want to lose 5 pounds,” not “I want to lose 100 pounds. “)
Sign up for a 5K or 10K. For many, working toward such a goal is very motivating.
6. Disassociate from the act of exercise while exercising.
Take your mind elsewhere. While exercising, listen to toe-tapping music or an engrossing audio-book. Watch T.V. Make exercise your time to escape and relax.
7. Make exercise fun.
The best exercise is exercise you enjoy. Ask yourself: “What do I like to do in my spare time?” Chances are, a “movement opportunity” of some sort will surface. Here are some possibilities:
- Walking and window shopping
- Playing trivia games with your exercise partner
- Hiking in the forest
- Playing soccer with your children or grandchildren
- Zumba dancing lessons
- Golfing (without a golf cart)
8. Take a “two-minute check” every month or so.
Ask yourself: “Do I still like what I’m doing?” Maybe you’re in a rut. Or maybe you really don’t like the person(s) you’re working out with. If so, try something – or somebody – new. Motivation is a good signal. Keep monitoring it.
9. Turn off your mind.
At 5 a.m., you don’t want to be thinking about where your gym shorts are. The night before, lay out your gear – shorts, shoes, and all. Or if you’re exercising later in the day, pack your gym bag the night before. That way, you’ve eliminated one major stumbling block each morning.
In the same vein, have an alternate exercise routine set up in case you wake up to stormy weather.
10. Turn on your soul.
Make exercise a “dose of religion,” something you can’t imagine living without. To “get” religion, clarify your values. Ask yourself: “What do I value about myself and my future? What do I really look forward to?” Dancing at all your grandchildren’s weddings? Skiing till you’re 100? Taking a year-long RV trip?
There’s an excellent chance that whatever you value and desire can at least in part be achieved by exercise. So lace up those walking shoes! Make every step a tribute to your heart and life, because that’s exactly what exercise is!