started and continuing an exercise program can be a challenging
yet rewarding undertaking. Fifty percent of those who begin an
exercise program will drop out with-in six months. You can implement
various techniques to improve your adherence to these new lifestyle
Determine where you are going to exercise. Some people find
it more convenient to exercise at home. Others may find they
have fewer distractions at an exercise facility. If you choose
to exercise at a gym, pick one that is nearby since you may be
less likely to exercise at a club that is further away.
You are more likely to stick with your program if it is fun
and convenient. Start by identifying activities that you enjoy.
Then determine the most convenient time to exercise with the
Your first few workouts should be brief and well within your
abilities. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your
exercise. Do not start out with a program your coach had you
perform in high school or college. Individualize your program
and begin back gradually. When working out with a partner try
to choose someone with a similar fitness level. As a beginner,
you may work too hard if you exercise with an experienced partner.
Studies have demonstrated you are less likely to continue your
program if you exercise at higher intensities too soon. Likewise,
long workouts are also associated with higher drop out rates.
Set realistic goals that contribute to long term lifestyle
changes. Set both behavioral and outcome goals. A behavior goal
could be exercising on weekdays at 7 P.M. for 30 minutes. Examples
of outcome goals include losing 10 pounds in 2 months or jumping
1 inch higher by next game season. Understand the objectives
behind your outcome goals so you can set appropriate behavioral
goals. Focus on achieving your behavior goals since you will
have much more control in achieving this type of goal. Do not
get discouraged if your short term outcome goals are not achieved
by your initial deadline. Change your behavioral goals in accordance
to the achievement of your outcome goals. Re-evaluate your plan
if you discover a more effective means to attain your objectives
or are not certain you can consistently achieve your behavioral
Commit to your goals. Initially you may be very motivated
to stick to your program. It is not unusual for your motivation
to dip occasionally. To get yourself through these times, try
Establish a routine so physical activity becomes a habit.
Plan on a definite time to exercise. Write these times in your
planner as you would an appointment. Set recurring alarms on
your watch or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) just before your
scheduled time to exercise. Set out your workout clothes or pack
your workout bag the night before.
If you feel like not working out, agree to yourself to have
a very short, light workout. Quite often, after getting ready
and warming up, you will find enough motivation to push through
a full workout. If you miss your scheduled workout, realize not
all is lost. Forgive yourself and reevaluate your behavioral
plan. Adjust your strategies to prevent future drop outs and
recommit to your program. Develop a back up plan in case of unforeseen
circumstances. Agree not to use your back up plan unless absolutely
necessary. If you have not successfully stuck to your program
in the past, analyze past obstacles and implement new strategies
to overcome these barriers.
Perform a variety of exercises and activities. Engage in utilitarian
activities such as walking to the store, walking the dog, or
catching up on yard work. Try new activities you think you may
enjoy. Consider less traditional forms of exercise like kayaking,
urban hiking, or participating in sports leagues or pickup games.
Check to see if your company offers wellness incentive programs,
fitness facilities, or corporate sports competitions. Perhaps
plan and train for an adventure vacation or sports event. Learn
about these new activities by reading an instructional book,
joining a training group, or hiring a personal trainer.
Plan your workouts by selecting exercises for the next month
or week. Implement a variety of activities. Consider scheduling
a different activity on specific days of the week adjusting in
accordance of your changing interests. If you workout with weights,
change your exercise program every month to alleviate boredom
and to restimulate progress. When walking, jogging, or cycling,
vary exercise routes or trails. Use diversions such as listening
to music, watching television, or reading during exercises that
you would otherwise find a bit boring.
Utilize social support. Find an exercise partner, hire a personal
trainer, or exercise in a group setting. A training partner or
exercise instructor can provide feedback, assistance, and motivation.
Participate in physical activities with your spouse, family,
or friends. Be creative. Every week take turns having family
members choose their favorite family activity.
Share your goals with those close to you or others that are
likely to ask you about your progress. Ask them for their support.
Having explained that you have set aside a particular time to
exercise can potentially minimize future conflicts or misunderstandings.
Those close to you will have the opportunity to understand the
importance of your goals and the time you have set aside for
Write your goals on paper and post them where they are in
view for you to see every day (e.g. refrigerator, mirror, date
book, etc.). Some people may even find it helpful to sign a personal
fitness contract with their personal trainer or friend.
Monitor your progress. Record your activity and progress in
an exercise diary or log. You can even record your diet in a
journal or a food exchange check list. Consider purchasing an
electronic monitoring gadget like a pedometer, heart rate monitor,
or stop watch to track your progress.
Find an exercise professional who can monitor your progress.
Regular fitness tests can objectively measure the effectiveness
of your program and can possibly save you months or even years
of hard work. If progress is not significant, immediate changes
can be made to your program. A fitness professional can help
you decide the tests most compatible with your fitness goals
and how often you should test.
Although some individuals may thrive on competition, many
beginners may get discouraged when they compare their fitness
levels and abilities with others. Comparing yourself to others
may bring about either disappointment or conceit. Remember, it
is not so important where you are today as it is where you will
Certainly you do not need to implement every strategy outlined
in this article. Start out with the techniques you believe will
have the most impact in your adherence to your program: find
activities you find fun and convenient, set goals, start out
gradually, monitor your progress, perform a variety of exercises
and activities, use diversions, and utilize social support.