Step 1: Orientation

How to Stick with a Fitness Program

Former mile world record holder, Jim Ryan said, "Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going." It sounds so easy. However, research states that the majority who begin a new fitness program will quit after the first several weeks. Health clubs count on the fact that the bulk of new members will not be back after six weeks.

Most of us find it very difficult breaking old bad habits and cultivating new good patterns of behavior. Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the University of California at Irvine, states, "Humans were designed to habituate, our brains are wired that way." He says that habitual behaviors are crucial to our species survival. Unfortunately, many of us are entrenched in a lifestyle of inactivity.

The following strategies will help make exercise a lifelong habit:

  • Add a workout to your daily schedule. Exercise should be an important component of your life. Make it a priority. Include time to workout when scheduling work and classes.
  • Start your workout at the same time each day.
  • Start slowly. If you have not exercised regularly doing the previous 6 months, you are starting from scratch. Be realistic about your fitness level. Exercising at an intensity that exceeds your current fitness level will lead to injury and discontinuing exercise.
  • Recovering between workouts is important, especially in the beginning (48-72 hours).
  • Expect a little discomfort. Delay Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is common when beginning a new fitness program.
  • Create an atmosphere for success. Find a gym that you feel comfortable using, bring your own motivational music, pack a gear bag the night before, sleep 8 hours per night, eat a well rounded diet, and purchase the correct footwear.
  • Workout with a friend.
  • Keep a journal of your workouts. Journals are motivational and help eliminate overtraining.
  • Mix things up. Doing the same workout for extended periods slows progression, is boring, and leads to staleness.
  • Set positive, process driven goals. Goals are important motivational tools. However, set goals with the aim of identifying behavior that you want to display. Do not place focus on behavior that avoids failure.
  • Be realistic. Set goals that take into consideration body type, genetics, and time commitments.
  • Tell a friend. Friends and family are a built in support group. Also, telling someone is an unwritten contract for you to follow through and succeed.
  • Plan your workouts in advance. Taking five minutes to write down what you want to accomplish during your next workout will prepare you mentally. A written plan keeps you on task, helps you maintain intensity, and is a contract to finish the workout.
  • Reward yourself when you reach a goal. Rewards help reinforce a new behavior.
  • Include recreation in your conditioning program. The Cañada College Fitness Center is not the end all for your fitness and health program. Schedule time for tennis, surfing, running, mountain biking, hiking, skiing, golf. Participate in of these fun activities at least once a week.

Do not panic if you miss a day. Everyone misses a workout or two. However, do not allow yourself to skip a second consecutive workout if at all possible. Research found that missing several workouts in a row often leads to complete dropout. For most of us it will require a minimum of six weeks to establish a routine of working out. In addition, visible changes to your physique will most likely take several months. Give your body sufficient time to adapt to the training. Good Luck.

Now take the QUIZ!

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