Strategies To Get Your Exercise Program Back On Track

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
– Japanese proverb

Family responsibilities, work, illness and a lack of motivation can all derail our best efforts to exercise.  When that happens we often get discouraged and the thought of returning to an active lifestyle can seem daunting.  But there are strategies we can employ to help us get back on track more easily.

This past winter I became ill with pneumonia.  The illness lasted well over a month and interrupted my training for a series of upcoming triathlon races, including Ironman USA (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run).  As I return to training regularly, my workouts seem difficult and my motivation is often lacking.  It isn’t easy.  But, by using some simple strategies that have proven successful in the past, I’m confident that I’ll stay on track and have a strong season of racing.

Here are some helpful strategies to get your exercise program back on track:

Commit
Even if you return to the same exercise program as before, you’ll need to re-commit.  Be clear about why you want to exercise and get excited about your return to a healthier lifestyle.  Decide how long you will commit and make it a priority.  Thirty days is an excellent length of time.  It is short enough to not seem overwhelming, yet long enough to establish new habits and make exercise a regular part your life.

Set goals
Having goals will help you find purpose in your workouts.  Focus on the one or two goals (not too many) that are most important to you and make them challenging, yet achievable.  Remember that your goals don’t have to be performance based, such as lifting a certain amount of weight or running a race in a specific time.  Often the best goal is to simply commit to never missing a workout.

Be accountable
Make others aware of your commitment to exercise and you’ll have a better chance at staying on track.  Tell your family, friends and colleagues and ask for their support.  Even better, find a training partner.  If you make plans to train with a partner you’ll be much less likely skip workouts.  Beware of online support systems.  Online groups and forums can be a great place to share your goals and find motivation, but the anonymity of cyberspace could result in you being less accountable.

Schedule your workouts
Make your workouts a priority and schedule them into your week.  Let others know that your time to exercise should not be interrupted.  Early morning workouts are usually best because they are completed before other distractions and responsibilities hijack your day. Having trouble fitting workouts into your schedule?  Consider how smooth transitions can help.

Take baby steps
Start out slowly and don’t overdo it.  Keep your goals achievable and your schedule manageable, or you’ll become discouraged.  If you don’t feel like exercising, just take baby steps.  For example, if you were scheduled to do a 5 mile run, start by simply getting out the door and walking around the block.  Once you’ve begun, chances are you’ll be motivated to continue.

Reward yourself
Staying committed to an exercise program can be challenging at times, so be sure to reward your achievements.  Rewards that encourage you to stay committed to exercise and healthy living are best.  Maybe there’s a new workout top you’ve been eyeing or a healthy restaurant you want to try.  Reward yourself.

What about my diet?
You’ll notice that I have not included any diet strategies.  While a healthy diet and exercise certainly go hand in hand, it can be overwhelming to regain control over both simultaneously.  I recommend you focus on one at a time.  Begin by reestablishing a regular exercise routine and you’ll probably find yourself naturally eating a healthier diet.  Once exercise is a regular part of your life, then consider focusing on healthy diet changes.  In the meantime, if you’d like some easy and healthy home cooking tips, read these healthy home cooking strategies.

Good luck, and remember that these strategies are not only good for getting back on track, but also for maintaining an exercise program.

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