It's easy to talk yourself out of exercising. Even when you have the best intentions to work out, excuses are so easy to find -- “I’m too tired,” or "I’m busy," or "The weather is bad."
The right attitude and a few tricks can keep your fitness routine on track. Use these tips to stay in the game:
1. Do it for yourself. Studies show that people who are "externally motivated" -- that is, they hit the gym just to look good at your class reunion -- 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.
2. Take baby steps. You would never try to run 10 miles on day one, right? When you do too much too soon, you’ll end up sore, injured, and discouraged. Take it easy as you get started. Maybe you only run a quarter of a mile your first week. When that becomes easy, you can make it more challenging.
3. Hang tough. No one has perfect form the first day of strength training. Every workout takes practice. You'll get the hang of it if you keep making an effort.
4. Mix it up. Do different types of workouts to keep things interesting and to exercise different muscle groups. If the elliptical machine is usually your thing, hop on the stair climber for some cardio instead. Also, switch between machines and free weights when you strength-train. You don't have to reinvent your entire routine every week, but you do want to shift it around a little.
5. Don’t be your own drill sergeant. Half of all people who start a new exercise program ditch it within the first year. It often happens because they can't keep up the boot-camp pace they've forced on themselves. It’s better to work within your limits, and gradually get stronger.
6. Bring a friend. When your inner demons order you to hit the couch instead of the treadmill, a workout partner can steer you back in the right direction. It's easier to bail out on the gym than on the friend who waits for you there. Studies show you'll also work out longer when you have a pal along.
7. Show the clock who’s boss. Health experts say you should aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise a week (30 minutes a day, five times a week, for example), plus weight training at least twice a week. Can’t find room in your crazy schedule? Take a closer look. If you work too late to get to a gym, keep a set of weights at home. If you can't do 30 minutes at once, break exercise sessions up into 10- or 15-minute bursts.
8. Get used to it. Your workout should be just as much a habit as brushing your teeth or eating breakfast. When it’s part of your routine, you won't even have to think about it. In a few months, fitness can be a regular feature in your day.
9. Live in the present. So what if you missed a week at the gym and polished off a pint of ice cream over the weekend? Leave the guilt in the past. You have a chance to get back into your routine today.
10. Keep it real. You're not going to skim off 30 pounds in a week. Aim for something that’s realistic as a first step. For instance, increase your workout schedule from 2 to 3 days a week, or exercise for 15 more minutes each time.
11. Track it. Keep a fitness journal or use an app to record your progress -- for example, how much you run, walk, or lift and the calories you burn.
12. Celebrate! It takes weeks to see real changes. Even a pound of weight loss or a pound of muscle gain is reason to reward yourself. Go out with friends, or spring for a new pair of jeans.