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14 Tips to Help You Stick With Your Fitness Program

You have every intention of exercising, but it's been a long day at work and that little voice in your head starts piping up. "Don't go to the gym," it says. "You're too tired. There's a cold beer in the fridge. You know you'd rather lie on the couch and watch the game than sweat under a set of dumbbells."

Then the guilt creeps in. You think of all the reasons why you should work out -- staying in shape and protecting your health topping the list. But the subconscious scheme to hijack your workout routine isn't easily silenced.

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Even the best intentions to exercise can be overridden with dozens of excuses. "I have to work," or, "It's too cold outside," or, "The gym is too far away." It's amazing how many ways you can talk yourself out of working out. What you need is motivation to turn inspiration into perspiration.

Whenever you're tempted to quit your fitness program, use these motivational tips to get yourself back on track:

1. Get into your fitness program for the right reasons. Studies show that people who are externally motivated -- that is, they're working out just to drop 10 pounds or shrink their beer belly into a six-pack -- don't stick with it. Those who are internally motivated -- meaning they exercise because they love it -- are the ones who stay in it for the long run. Which brings us to tip #2.

2. Learn to love it. Exercise shouldn't be a chore. The more into your workout you are, the more likely you'll stick with it. Don't limit yourself to weight machines and treadmills. Try different programs -- like yoga or Tae Kwon Do -- until you find ones that are more fun than work.

3. Mix it up. Cross-train to keep things interesting and exercise different muscle groups. Switch from the elliptical to the stair climber. Alternate between machines and free weights. Don't reinvent your entire routine every week; just shift it around a little.

4. Keep at it. No one has perfect form the first day they start strength training. Every workout takes practice. If you trip over your wheels the first time you try inline skating, do it again, and again. Eventually, you'll get the hang of it.

5. Start slow. Running 10 miles your first time on the track won't make you an Olympian;, it will just leave you sore -- or worse, injured. Take it easy when you're getting started. Maybe you only run a quarter of a mile your first week of training. Add distance and intensity in slow but steady increments.

6. Don't push yourself too hard. There are a few reasons why half of people who start a new exercise program ditch it within the first year, and one is that they can't keep up with the boot camp pace they've forced on themselves. Learn your limits, and know when you've reached them.

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