Strategies to Help You Stick with Your Exercise Routine

8 Ways to Keep Your Intentions for Exercising

The Best Intentions

Have you ever set out with the best of intentions to start exercising regularly?  Maybe you even went as far as buying a gym membership, a piece of exercise equipment, or some new gym clothes.

startDid you start exercising regularly, with the best of intentions to continue exercising regularly, but still “fell off the wagon”?

If you answered yes, to either of those questions you are not alone!

Everyone knows that exercise has many physical and emotional benefits; it can make you stronger while also relieving your stress.  However, despite the well-known benefits of exercise, many people have trouble sticking with a consistent exercise regimen.

As a fitness professional with twenty-six years of experience, I have seen this happen to MANY people.  In fact, I would say that the majority of people struggle to maintain a regular exercise regiment.

Why?

Well, it is difficult to stay on task.   We are all busy, and it is easy to get distracted.

However, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done; even busy people who often lack focus can make regular exercise a habit.   I know this because I interact with MANY people who have a regular exercise routine, and I what has helped them maintain this habit for years and allow it to become a part of their lifestyle.

 

Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

My experience has taught me that there are many ways to make exercise a habit.   However, I suggest trying the following strategy to keep your intentions intact and jumpstart your roadmap to regularity!

  1. Master your Mindset

    Henry Ford famously said “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”  In other words, what you think matters!   So if you believe that you are too busy, too lazy, too tired, etc. to add regular exercise into your life, you will most likely not be able to add regular exercise into your life.  On the other hand, if you believe that you will succeed, it is most likely that you will.  As Buddha said “What you think, you become.  What you feel, you attract.  What you imagine, you create.”

  2.  Set a Goal.

    Setting goals is an important, and often necessary, action.   After all, your intentions matter.

    goalsTherefore, when we set a goal, we are specifically telling the universe what we want to happen.  We are taking the time to define exactly what we want to accomplish; we are setting a clear intention.  We are making it more real.

    With regards to exercise, goal setting can:

      • speeds up your progress.
      • Increases the likelihood of success.
      • Increase your task persistence and make it less likely that you drop out

    If you need help getting started with writing meaningful goals, please read my previous blog posts on goal setting:

  3. Schedule It.

    timeMichael Hyatt says “What gets scheduled, get done.”

    In other words, if you block out time in advance to get something done, you are much more likely to accomplish it.

    Not surprisingly, this concept is especially true for exercise.  Although we all know the many benefits of exercise, many of us still tend to put it on the bottom of the list of priorities.

    However, I challenge you to record how you spend your time for the next week.  I would bet that you are spending some of your time doing things that are simply not a priority.   If this is the case with you, align your time to your priorities.

  4. Create space for it.

    In addition to creating a space on your calendar for exercise, you also need to plan a physical space for your exercise routine.

    Of course, there are many options for your exercise space.  your space could be you favorite local gym or studio.   Or, it could be an area in your house that is conducive to the exercise format that you have chosen.  If you live in an area that is experiencing great weather, you may choose to exercise outside.

    The location that you choose should resonate with you.  You should love it; so that you are more likely to look forward to the time that you will spend exercising there.

  5. Find an accountability partner or workout buddy.

    Most people would agree life is better together.

    Well, this isn’t just true for romantic endeavors; this is also true for exercise!   As explained in this article, research shows that if you exercise with someone else, you are more likely to feel accountable and stick with it!

  6. Hire a trainer/coach…..Monitor progress and give feedback

    While an accountability partner or workout buddy is a great support, sometimes we just don’t have currently have anyone who is appropriate for the role.  In this case, take the plunge to hire a fitness professional like me someone who will hold you accountable for meeting your goals.  Or, if you are on a budget and like technology, you could use an app like Habit List to help you achieve the goals that you set for yourself.

  7. Publicly profess your goal.

    When you tell your goals to others, you are making yourself publicly accountable.   So if you really want to increase the odds of accomplishing your exercise goals, tell others!   You can announce it to your lunch buddies at work, you can announce it at your next family event, or you can post it on your social media page; just choose what group will make you feel the most accountable and, therefore, make you the most likely to continue working towards your exercise goals.

  8. Join a community.

    Margaret Mead said “Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world.  In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    Undoubtedly, joining have been shown to influence behavior.  For this reason, joining an in-person or online support system to help you stick with your exercise routine.  Many different communities exist to support you.  The Facebook group that I oversee for people participating in my 30 Day Free Pilates Mat Challenge for Beginners is an example of an online support community that you could join.Learn Pilates at Home

5 Benefits of Pilates Mat Exercises

Why a regular practice can benefit you on and off the mat

Disclaimer:   Please remember to check with your physician before beginning any new exercise program, including a new Pilates Mat program.  

Regular Exercise is Important

In today’s fast-paced world, women (and men) must sometimes balance work, family, friends, and personal responsibilities.   As a result, it is often difficult to save time to exercise.

However, finding time to regularly exercise is important.   Regular exercise has many both physical and emotional benefits.   It can make you stronger and more flexible.   It can also help to counter the stresses that you encounter while trying to juggle home, work, and self.

Exercise can come in many forms.   Some people get their exercise through long walks, others like play racquetball, while some others enjoy swimming.

Many forms of exercise exist, and they all have benefits to you.   Therefore, no one can use a lack of choice of exercise choices as a justification to avoid exercise.   Everyone should be able to find an exercise that is both enjoyable and adaptable to their schedule and lifestyle.

 

The Benefits of Pilates Mat

Personally, one of my favorite forms of exercise is Pilates Mat.    I love it because it is adaptable.   If you have a mat and someone/something to instruct you on the proper way to perform the movements, Pilates Mat classes can be done with almost anywhere.  Therefore, you can decide to do Pilates Mat where it is convenient for you, whether that be at home or in a studio/gym.

Pilates Mat exercises are very popular because they have many benefits to the body and mind.   Five of the most significant benefits are listed and explained below.

 

Mind-Body Connection

Doing Pilates Mat can strengthen the relationship between your mind and body because the proper execution of Pilates exercises requires focus and concentration.

In other words, doing Pilates Mat exercises requires you to focus on the nuances of the movements.    Factors that include the degree of extension in your limbs, the angle of your arm or leg levers, and the stillness of your torso, can greatly impact the difficulty and/or effectiveness of a movement.    Furthermore, some Pilates Mat exercises require you to concentrate on keeping some parts of your body completely still while simultaneously focusing on movement in other parts of your body.

Therefore, if you don’t maintain focus and concentration while doing a Pilates Mat movement, it is unlikely that you will properly perform each movement. In fact, you risk either getting injured while doing the movements or making the exercises less effective.

Focus on Alignment

Spine So how does focusing on the principles required to execute pilates movements help you when you are “off the mat”?   Well, like anything else, skills and tasks that you practice regularly are likely to become habitual.

For instance, during a regular Pilates exercise practice you will need to become attuned to your alignment.  This way, you can make any necessary positional adjustments to get you in the right anatomical position for the movement.

The focus on your alignment will not disappear when you leave your mat.  In fact, you will likely become more aware of habits that you didn’t previously notice.  You will most likely become more focused on your alignment in your daily activities.   For instance, you may become more aware of how you sit or move when at your computer, steering wheel, or checkout line.    Hopefully, this increased awareness will make you more likely to make positive postural adjustments to your position that you may not have previously noticed.

Focus on Breathe

breathe here nowOr, the focus on attention to the breathe while doing Pilates exercises may also give benefits off of the mat.  You can learn to be more cognizant of your breathe.    (In general, during a Pilates Mat class, you focus on inhaling through the nose and exhaling out the mouth.  The exhale in Pilates can be somewhat powerful because it can assist you with the execution of the hardest part of a Pilates exercise.) In turn, you can become more attuned to the messages that your breathing can convey and be more likely to react mindfully, with intention, instead of reacting to an impulse at the moment.

For instance, if you know that you practice a short and shallow breathe when your body is tired or stressed, the increased awareness on your breathe may help you to better recognize when your body is starting to become tired or stressed.   You may be able to make quicker action to ensure that your body not get to the point where it is over tired or over stressed.    For instance, even something as simply as returning the focus to maintaining a steady and deep breathe like you use in Pilates mat or yoga classes may help you to relax.

 

Improves Core Strength

Pilates at home is one of the most effective and challenging ways of developing core strength and stability.  (Core muscles include the abdomen, lower back, and glutes.)  A strong core improves overall daily function as well as posture.

 

Promotes Muscular Endurance and Flexibility

Pilates Mat exercises also promote significant increases in abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility and upper-body muscular endurance. This endurance can help women work and play longer without tiring. In addition, muscular endurance is a key preventative factor in the long-term avoidance of injury.

 

Optimize Body Composition

Regular Pilates practice helps enhance overall body composition. Pilates focuses on lengthening and strengthening the body, and when you repeatedly stretch and strengthen, you tend to lose fat, increase lean muscle mass, and have a more balanced body composition.

 

Maintain Spine Health

Pilates mat exercises can often help people with back issues because it helps to strengthen the muscles in the back.  Therefore, Pilates Mat can be particularly effective for people who suffer from pain caused by excessive movement and degeneration of the vertebrae and joints.

One reason that Pilates Mat is beneficial for many people with back issues is because many Pilates Mat exercises require you to emphasis proper back alignment in order to prevent excess stress on the spinal column.    Someone who practices Pilates Mat regularly may be able to duplicate this awareness into their “off the mat” activities.  Their increased focus and attention to spinal alignment can help them better recognize how to hold their body when sitting, standing, and moving during their daily activities.

 

The Benefits of Pilates

No matter what your schedule or priorities, finding time for mat Pilates is a must.    Its vast array of benefits will help you to work towards improving your life.

Free 30 Day Challenge

If you are hesitant about attending a class at a gym or studio, don’t worry!  You can learn 30 common Pilates Mat exercises without having to worry about any cost and location barriers.  Just join our FREE 30 day Pilates Mat challenge for beginners  to learn the fundamentals.

Please don’t delay; starting a Pilates Mat practice is a beneficial breeze!

How do I make time for exercise?

Five suggestions for busy people who want to get fit.

Finding the Time

With 27 years of an experience as a fitness professional, I have had encountered many people who want to exercise consistently.

However, most of the people confess that they are not sure how they  can consistently fit exercise into their already busy schedule.  With jobs, significant others, family responsibilities, hobbies, and life in general, it is hard to find any “free” time to fit one more thing.

But, we all know that many busy people actually do consistently fit exercise into their life.   So how can you do it too?

 

1-Decide that Exercise is a Priority

I am going to be brutally honest, even though you may not like it.  It is unlikely that you will be successful in reaching your goal to consistently exercise if you don’t feel it is a top priority in your life.

That is, if it isn’t extremely important to you, you are unlikely to follow through long-term.  (BTW, I feel like this is true for most facets of our life.  If it isn’t a priority, it is unlikely it will remain habitual; whether it will be spending time with your friends, family members, etc. or saving money for the future.)

In my opinion, the single most important step in establishing a consistent exercise routine is deciding that this is important to you.

So before you buy a treadmill, sign up for a gym membership, buy an exercise DVD on Amazon, or start any other physical aspect of exercise, you must work on the mental component first.  You need to me in the right mental place before you can get in a good physical place.

 

2-Choose Something that you Enjoy.

Choosing something that you enjoy may seem obvious but it is something that is commonly overlooked.

Many people try an exercise that is popular, rather than an exercise that they will truly embrace.

For instance, while I wish that everyone loved taking classes at a fitness studio like mine (Auburn Yoga & Pilates Center), I recognize that our method of exercising is not for everyone.   Some people would prefer something else; dancing, swimming, running, bodybuilding, walking, etc.

It is important to do an exercise that you truly enjoy because, most often, people who stop exercising report that either they didn’t enjoy doing what they were doing for exercise.

While different types of exercise have different benefits, ; some have more cardio benefits, some have more strength training benefits, and some have flexibility benefits.  Of course, some types of exercise have multiple benefits.

But, all forms of exercise can be beneficial.  And although you may not choose the optimal exercise, choosing to do some form of exercise is undoubtedly better than choosing not to exercise.    The key is that you find a form of physical activity that you can embrace, that better suits you personal tastes and/or schedule; this way, you are more likely to stick with it.

 

3-Make the Time

If you are going to maintain a consistent exercise regiment, you will need to make the time for it.   For many of you, this means that you may need to take a critical look at how you spend your time.

If you haven’t ever done an analysis of your time, you definitely should.  Try writing down what you do for two days.   Try selecting a weekend and a weekday so that you can see the differences in a work and non-work day, if there are any.

I did an analysis of my time, and it was definitely revealing.   Personally, I found that I was spending a lot of time on activities that really weren’t a priority for me.

For instance, in my personal situation, my time analysis revealed that I was spending too much time on social media.   Those “quick checkins” were adding up to a half hour or more of time.

For me, social media was not a priority.  It isn’t that I don’t enjoy reading posts from friends and acquaintances;  it is just that I would rather spend time with my kids or working on my business.   Plus I figure that if it is important, someone will tell me.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that I never go on Facebook.  During the academic year, I limit myself to no more than 10 minutes a day.  During the summer when I work a slightly less demanding schedule, I am more liberal.

Of course, I am not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t spend your time doing.  How you spend your time is ultimately your decision because your time is just that, YOUR TIME.

But, I am telling you that you should take a critical look at how you spend your time so that you can align your activities with your priorities.

Doing this will inevitably cause you to rank your priorities; and if exercise is really a priority for you, you will find some time.

 

4-Exercise when it Works for You

Over the years, people have asked me when they should exercise.  Should they exercise in the morning?  at night?  during their lunch hour?

I emphatically tell all of them that they should exercise when it makes the most sense for them to exercise.   In other words, if exercising before work is the best time, do it then.  If you have time for a walk during your lunch hour, exercise then.  If you are too exhausted to even think about exercise when you come home from work, don’t plan to exercise at that time.

In other words, exercise when it works for you; you are more likely to stick with it if it works with your life.

But aren’t there some studies that found the optimal time to workout?  Probably.  But, if the time that you exercise doesn’t make sense for you, then you are unlikely to stick with it.

 

5-Exercise how it works for you

How you exercise is just as important as exercising when it works for you.   You have to decide how you prefer to exercise.

That is, maybe you would like to take classes at a studio like mine (Auburn Yoga & Pilates).  After all, having an instructor to plan and guide a safe and effective workout for you takes planning off of your plate.   You simply have to show up and follow along.

Or, maybe you like going for a walk or run with your partner.   If you are both enthusiastic about the exercise, it might be a nice togetherness activity for you.

Maybe you want to join a gym.   If you are someone who likes a variety of equipment, or simply enjoy people watching while you exercise, a gym membership might work for you.  Or, maybe the fact that you are obligated to pay a monthly fee will motivate you to stay consistent.

Or, maybe you want to exercise at home.   If you like exercising alone in your own space, this is a logical choice for you.  However, exercising at home sometimes leaves the planning and equipment to you, unless you want to participate in an online challenge similar to the one that I describe below…

30 Day Pilates Challenge for Beginners

30 day pilates challenge for beginners

I have met so many people that are hesitant to attend a class at a studio or set foot in a gym.  For some reason, they are afraid that they will feel out of place because they are a beginner.

In my opinion, the fear of feeling out of place is unwarranted.   I hope that the staff at any quality facility would do their best to welcome and assist any new client who visit their facility.

However, my many years as a fitness professional have taught me that the fear is real for many people.   For this reason, I am starting my first ever, online challenge for beginners who want to learn pilates.

I chose pilates because I have found that many new clients want to try pilates but don’t know where to start.  They have heard or read that pilates strengthens their core, but they don’t feel that they are strong enough to start.

So, to help conquer fear and hopefully help people to embrace pilates, I am offering a FREE 30 day pilates challenge for beginners.

In the challenge, I introduce you to 30 common pilates mat exercises through 30 short video clips.  I break down how to do the pose, and I give you modifications for beginners.

The goal is get you familiar with the movements.   Watching some of the videos more than once, and practicing them consistently will make you  more confident and stronger.

At the end of the challenge, you can choose how and when to practice pilates mat, providing that you enjoy doing it as much as I do.

If you are interested, sign up at www.doingpilatesathome.com