Keep The Drive Alive in 2005

Staying the Course when the Declaration Starts to Dissolve

by Peter J. Morel CFC, CPT, CAFS

New Year's Resolutions are made with the best of intentions. For many, it's to get fit and start going to the gym. But believe it or not, three months is the average time most stick to that promise. There are fundamental differences between people who go to the gym day after day, week after week and someone who goes for three months and quits.

When asked what was the most difficult thing about getting to the gym, most said finding the time. Most people have time; they just don't manage it properly. When I work on fitness plans for some of the country's busiest executives, first I dissect their home time. Obviously, if you're at work, you can't be working out. The same rule applies for sleeping. So we work eight hours and we sleep eight hours. That still leaves eight. Here is where good time management skills and priorities come into play. If you are not ready to make fitness one of your top priorities, getting in shape will never happen.

If after work and dinner you take to the couch for a few hours of TV before bed guess what? You're not going to get into shape. All you need is one hour out of your day just three days a week.

Let's break it down. If over the course of a 40-hour, five-day work week, you sleep an average of 40 hours, and all the other essentials take about 30 hours, that leaves about two hours of discretionary time each weekday. Of course life is never so simple, but on average, you should still be able to set aside some time for fitness on any given day.

Next, you need to make fitness a habit. Get it into your schedule and stick to it.

Plan your exercise as you plan your day. Try to add it in at the same time everyday. Eventually it becomes a normal part of your routine. Once it's a habit, missing a session feels like your day is not complete.

Sticking with it is closely related to choosing realistic goals. If you have never run a marathon, don't expect that by going to the gym two days a week will prepare you for that 10k race in three months. Be real. Don't set yourself up for failure. If you need to lose weight then choose a goal you can live with without changing your whole lifestyle. Desperate measures are for desperate people.

Stay focused. Write your goals down, and place them in spots where you can see them often. Everyone has a calendar at work or at home. On it, write out a step-by-step day-by-day plan. Write down things like "down two pounds, 10 more to go" for encouragement. Establish target dates. Track your goals every week to help you stay focused and on track.

Seek out help of an expert if need be. Many people fail to adhere to a program due to boredom. This is often due to two major factors. One, lack of knowledge is a major problem. If you're just guessing at what it is you should be doing then it will take forever to attain a goal. People who exercise for months without attaining a goal will often quit; they have no motivation to continue because they see no change. Fitness consultants make it their business to know what you need. Doing it the right way will get results and you'll be more inclined to keep going.

Secondly, lack of variety is often a problem. Remember the old adage: "variety is the spice of life." Nothing could be more true when it comes to exercise. The average person picks about 10 exercises they like and never deviates from them. The body adapts to this training regime in about two weeks. Once this happens the stimulus is no longer creating a positive adaptation. You're just going through the motions.

Finally, have fun. Make fitness enjoyable. Find things you like to do. If a client of mine tells me during their initial consultation they hate to bike, then putting them on the bike for 40 minutes a day would not be conducive to having them stick to their program. If you like being outdoors, then exercise outdoors. If you like to walk, then add walking to your program. If you're competitive, then include small challenges or milestones in your training. For example, lift five more pounds every workout, or do 10 more pushups every morning. Compete with a friend or training partner to challenge one another.

Above all, be patient. Rome was not built in a day. Changes will happen in time.

It took however many years to get de-conditioned; you won't reverse it overnight. Keep focused and stay motivated and it will pay off in the end.

Until next time, stay fit and be strong.

PJM