It’s a new year and a new opportunity to recommit to our health by working out. You feel the motivation right now, but how do you keep it throughout the entire year?
I started working out when I was 23 years old and have kept it up over the years. Here are my top tips for 2011.
1. Make it a priority
One of the most common excuses for not working out is that we are too busy. Admittedly, I’ve used this excuse many times as well and have to catch myself. The goal of working out is tied often to losing weight and looking better. However, when we really pause to think about our physical health, exercise is far from skin deep.
Firstly, research shows that about 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day can boost brain productivity by 30%. So if you are too busy to workout because you have too many things to do back in the office, you are really operating at 70% of your potential. Physical health impacts mental performance.
Secondly, think of your body like the car you can never replace. Your body can either be a barrier or enabler for everything you want to do in life whether it is having enough energy to keep up with the competition at work or hiking up a pyramid in Egypt. Technology brings many digital experiences to our finger tips, yet nothing beats the real McCoy when it comes to full immersion into the things we are most passionate about. Working out is not a guarantee of great health, but it is something we have control over that greatly increases the chances of a healthy future.
2. Assume you are lazy
It takes a lot of effort to work out. Remove as many barriers as possible to getting to the gym, working out at home or getting to a recreational game of hockey. Try to make working out in your daily routine the path of least resistance.
For example, a couple of things I do. On weekends, I will wake up and put on my gym clothes even if I don’t know when I will make it to the gym that day. I also leave my gym bag in the front foyer so if I decide to go, I just have to grab the bag. If I plan to work out after the office, I throw my gym bag into the trunk when driving home, I have the option to go straight to the gym.
As a last resort, if I am not feeling it, I will convince myself I just need to drive to the gym and then drive back to fulfill my obligations to myself. Every time, once I am in the parking lot of the gym, I go in.
3. Know your type
I am the “gym rat” type if it isn’t obvious to you already. I wasn’t born with a lot of athletic ability and I enjoy mentally zoning out when I am working out. I love the pure predictability of an elliptical machine.
I know several of my friends who would be completely bored with my work out regimen. Clint, my partner in crime, enjoys playing hockey and will often trek down to the cold ice rink at 11 pm with what seems like 20 pounds of gear. This would be torture for me.
Find something you enjoy, but also something you can realistically maintain. That is why I like the gym, it is always there for me and I don’t need to plan ahead.
4. Make it social, make it fun
I use Foursquare to check into my local gym every time I visit and have been in a fierce battle with others to maintain my status of mayor of Club One Silver Creek. Today, I finally ousted my arch nemesis, a guy whom I’ve never met, to once again become the reigning mayor.
Yes, it is a silly game. But it is one other way I motivate myself to work out. I know I am competitive and this is a very low effort way to compete with others.
Another thing I do is post my check-ins on Facebook. I doubt my friends and family care that I go to the gym, but for me, the additional amount of imagined peer pressure helps me get to the gym.
Clint, for example, will compete against his previous performance with a “ghost” of himself on the Expresso bikes. Every time he cycles, he tries to beat his current record.
5. Reward yourself
No, not with a large slice of New York cheese cake (which happens to be one of my favorite desserts). Reward yourself with new clothing and work out gear. Some gyms have even started a point reward system. Club One has WellPower which I have signed up for. It rewards points for each visit towards merchandise and guest passes. I think more insurance companies and employers should also start up such programs.
What you reward is important as well. Focus on the good habits of working out, not on the scale of losing x number of pounds.
The problem with focusing on an outcome in this case is that:
- if you achieve it, you feel you have accomplished the goal and stop working out.
- if you don’t achieve it, you feel like a failure.
Unfortunately, health is a lifelong journey, not a destination. I know, corny isn’t it. It is more about forming good habits, not aiming for a particular “number” goal. The good news about this is that missing a day here or eating a dessert there is okay. What matters is what you do over the long-term.
I hope some of these tips help you. Now I am going to enjoy my mayor status and plan out how I am going to continue to be the defending champion!