It’s that time of year when New Year’s Resolutions are going to be made... and soon thereafter, broken! According to the trainer at my gym, within 6 weeks people start dropping like flies. She told me that out of all the new sign-ups they receive for the New Year, 80% won’t stick with it and drop out by Feb 10! Whoa!!!
We all know New Year’s Resolutions are notorious for being unsustainable... but less than 6 weeks =( that’s pretty sad.
So let’s ignite your drive to make this year the best and healthiest year with my most popular gym tips -and flip that 80% drop-out rate to an 80% stick-with-it-healthy-lifestyle rate!
Here are my top tips for the right attitude, workout and motivation you need to go for the long haul.
*Note: Going to the gym does not have to mean the gym. Your version of the gym could be a yoga class, running outside or even an at home workout.
1. Everyone at the gym is a jerk so get used to it
And by ‘jerk’ I mean they won’t smile at you so you’ll think ‘gosh, that person is a jerk’. But in actuality, no one smiles at you because they’re either A) in-the-zone or B) they have already had the experience of smiling at someone only to realize the other person mistook it for flirting… or maybe they didn’t and it was just an innocent smile back?!? Either way, now it’s just awkward! Or C) both! Soon you’ll become a jerk too... or at least appear to be. So don’t be put-off or offended by someone’s game-face! I’m sure they’re really nice people outside of high intensity intervals and lifting iron.
2. Stay in your zone
It’s so easy to feel discouraged by seeing other people who make your buckle-at-the-knees workout look like their warm-up. But they’re not your competition. You are your only competition. Don’t worry about how much faster the person next to you is running or how much weight they can curl or how much better their arms look in a tank top. Throw your self-consciousness out the door because everyone has to start somewhere. Comparing yourself will only make you feel like crap. Whenever I find myself in comparison mode, I give the other person props and say (silently to myself) “that person must have really worked hard to get to that point.” It puts things back in perspective and gets me back in my zone again. Stay focused on you and your goals, because that’s all that matters.
3. Forget about willpower, you need drive
What is driving you to want this now? What is your motivation? Until your gym routine really does become routine, you’ll be much more successful if you have a strong driving force rather than trying to rely on willpower. Willpower is good for the last lap of the race when you can barely stand but you can’t stop now, only 1 more lap to go. It’s for short term use. All the fit people you see at the gym, day in and day out don’t have willpower, they have drive! Willpower is you forcing yourself to do something, but drive is when a force from within is pushing you. See the difference :)
4. And on that note about drive and fitness…
What drives some people to overeat, be self-loathing and unmotivated can be the same exact thing that drives another person to run marathons, have washboard abs and outdo themselves each week. Take the ultra-marathoner Rich Roll who speaks openly about his past struggles with alcoholism. He now has a better and more healthy (albeit more extreme) way of channeling his struggles into something positive. I know of others (both friends and clients) who have similar histories or have dealt with drugs issues, bullying, an abusive relationship, etc and now they use that to drive them to something healthier everyday. The point is: don’t judge anyone -fat, skinny, toned, showing-off, hiding... or something else. You have no idea the reasons behind why someone is striving to burn every ounce of body fat or why someone else has never exercised a day in their life. http://www.richroll.com/blog/time-to-man-up/
5. Prepare for your workout the night before
Set out your clothes, charge your ipod, fill your water bottle. Then get your gear on as soon as you wake up, even before you wash your face, so you have no excuses in the morning!
6. Nobody cares what you’re wearing
Throw on your old t-shirt with the paint stains, put on your cut-off sweatpant shorts and leg warmers, who knows maybe you’ll start a trend! I’ve seen a guy workout in jeans and other people who seem like their entire outfit was picked from a page in the Nordstrom fall catalog. Either way, nobody cares except you! So wear whatever makes you comfortable and don’t worry about anyone else! I know I kinda said this one (see #2) but it’s worth repeating.
7. Stop tying your shoelaces wrong!
If you have to double-knot your shoelaces, here’s the right way to do it, so you can stop fiddling and get your butt moving. It's super easy, just reverse the last step. Watch the video to see the demo!
8. Yes you have the time to exercise
Find yourself saying you don’t have time for the gym??? Read the book Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod! It will help you organize your day, and especially your morning so you can ‘find the time’ to get in a workout. Even if you think you don’t have time! A 10 minute workout at home is better than skipping it altogether.
9. Commit to doing your workout 30 times
This is another Hal Elrod tip. He says it takes 30 times until the painfulness of a ‘new thing’ transforms into a natural habit. So instead of committing yourself to a month at the gym, commit to 30 workouts. He recommends daily so you get it in and over with sooner than later. Drawing it out over a longer period of time increases your dropout risk. The sooner you’re able to be consistent, the sooner you’ll be able to see results and stick with it.
10. Don’t forget to breathe... always... like even now, but especially at the gym!
If you’re new to cardio it’s going to take a few weeks before your lungs adjust, so if you’re coughing or hacking up phlegm on the treadmill, your lungs are just cleaning themselves out! You’re breathing into pockets that haven’t had fresh oxygen since playing tag in 5th grade! But you gotta start somewhere, so no matter how gross, it’s totally normal and it should stop within a few weeks.
Also… when lifting weights, stretching or anything else, don’t forget to breathe! It’s easy to think more about pushing or pressing the weight than breathing, but that extra oxygen will help you perform better, and keep you from passing out :) General rule of thumb is to breathe into a contraction, so if you’re doing a bicep curl you’d inhale when the weight is brought up to your shoulder, then exhale on the release of the muscle (on the way back down).
11. Do full body moves to save time and get the most out of your workout
There is a wide variety of full body moves you can do that will engage more than one muscle so you can get the most out of your workout and in less time. A great way to get used to doing these movements is to try out a few classes at the gym. Many classes will incorporate a wide variety of multi-muscle movements so you can get the most out of the class. Take these same moves and apply them to your regular solo workout.
12. Make sure whatever gym you choose it’s convenient!
Be realistic about choosing the location. Are you really going to exercise at the gym near your work after a long day in the office? Or is the one right by your home more practical? Are you really going to start running outside if it’s 30 degrees or is a nearby spin class more realistic… though it might sound more frightening! There are many options to consider when choosing a gym but don’t base it simply on cost or amenities alone. Choose the one you’re most likely to stick with and that’s usually the one that’s most convenient!
13. Have fun!
If you’re bored, it’s time to change it up and find a new challenge. Try something new, but give yourself at least 2 weeks or 6 classes, to get used to the movements. Many gyms offer a variety of group classes. You can also check out Groupon, Amazon Local or Living Social for discounts to a wide variety of workouts. There’s everything from yoga to paddle boarding to kickboxing to boot-camp style workouts. Keep trying until you find something that you enjoy. Even if you don’t end up sticking with the class for the long haul you can still bring in some of the new movements and techniques that you learned to freshen up your regular routine.
14. Go with a friend!
My husband and I keep each other accountable. We have our schedule set so we know that Monday, Wednesday and Friday is gym time. Neither of us wants to be the reason (uh-hem, excuse) that we didn’t make it to the gym that day. Having a friend or someone else you know who’ll be relying on you to go to the gym will greatly increase your chances of going! If you’re at it alone, try taking a class. Arrive a few minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor and ask if there’s anything you should know ahead of time, also a good time to let them know if you have any injuries and they can offer you some different moves or assistance during class. Or talk to someone next to you. If you’re worried about your ‘performance’ let them know you’re new to the class and aren’t really sure what you signed up for! You never know, they may have felt the same way when they started. Not feeling alone and making even a small connection will increase your chances of returning. You could also hire a personal trainer who will really keep you accountable!
15. Don’t think about it, just do it!
If exercise isn’t already a habit, then that means it’s still in the ‘chore’ stage. You feel like you have to do it, or you have to talk yourself (or nag yourself) into doing it! Once that New Year momentum is gone, it’s way too easy to talk yourself out of it. Stop that mental jibber-jabber and take a note from Nike’s playbook: Just Do It! Get your gym clothes on, grab your water bottle and head out the door before you even have time to think about how cold it is outside or everything else you have to get done today. Just Do It!
16. Cardio is great, but not that great
For long term fat-burning you need to build muscle so don’t spend your entire workout on the cardio equipment. Make friends with weights! 10-20 minutes of cardio is enough for most of us. Spend another 20+ minutes working on muscle building and strength training moves.
17. Don’t use momentum when weight lifting or on machines
Often times people will use momentum when the weight is too heavy for their strength. But lifting heavier weights when you’re not ready for it just sets you up for injury. You want to use controlled movements. There is nothing wrong or wimpy about using light weights. Start with a 5lb or even 3lb dumbbell and gradually work your way up to heavier weights… once you have strengthened your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons so they can handle the weight and force. Use steady, controlled movements rather than fast, swinging or jerking movements. That won’t do anything to build muscle but instead, will waste your time and could cause an injury. Focus on each movement and the muscle that you’re trying to work for the most effective exercises.
18. Keep exercising through aches but not injuries
When I’m running on the treadmill, especially if it’s been awhile and I get a stomach cramp, instead of stopping altogether, I slow down to the fastest pace I can keep until the cramp works itself out. Legs can also get a cramp or feel tingly when you first start doing cardio, but that should stop happening after a few weeks at the gym. Again, slow down to a comfortable pace until the discomfort is gone. If it persists, slow down to a walking pace and simply walk for 5 mins to get your body warmed up, then spend some time doing stretches. Working through these minor discomforts will help you get to the next level and eventually will stop happening. But if you have an injury, that is completely different. Don’t just push yourself through it. Speak to a physical therapist or find a qualified trainer at the gym and ask them what moves you can do so you don’t cause further injury, but will still keep you active until you fully recover. If you have a severe injury you may be left with just stretching or balancing exercises which is still better than nothing and will help prep your body for when you are fully recovered.
For many people a 1-5 minute walk on the treadmill will be enough of a warm-up to wake up those muscles and get the blood and oxygen flowing. Jumping jacks or jogging in place also works! This will help prevent injuries and help your performance too!
20. Don’t stretch first, but definitely stretch after your workout
Stretching before your muscles have had a chance to warm-up means they are going to be more constrained and not as flexible, this could potentially cause an injury to the muscle or ligament. But don’t skip stretching just because it’s at the end of the workout and you feel fine - consider it part of your workout (unless you just did a yoga class). You’ve just spent all that time contracting your muscles, now it’s time to do the opposite and lengthen them! Stretching will shorten your recovery time, reduce injury and will help you become more flexible. Spend 5-15 minutes stretching your arms, shoulders, back, hips, legs and glutes, everything!
21. Drink plenty of water!
Bring a water bottle with you. Don’t drink the artificially flavored Gatorade drinks. You can make your own healthy electrolyte drink HERE using sea salt, honey and citrus.
22. If you’re struggling, don’t make it a bigger deal than it is
Take your routine down a few notches and simply read a book or a magazine while walking on the treadmill or doing the stair stepper. Any exercise is better than skipping it altogether. And keeping this consistency will help you develop the new healthy habit of setting aside time for yourself to exercise. You can step it up a few notches when you’re ready.
23. Know when to take a break
Know when to take breaks and when to take it easy, both during the workout and throughout the year. It's totally fine to stop and take a breath during your workout. This is actually a good sign that you're heart rate is up. Taking a moment to rest and bring it back down again will actually help improve your overall heart rate, health and fat burning throughout the day (think of it as a mini form of HIIT).
24. Beware of burnout
When I first started going to the gym and making it a habit, I didn’t want to stop for fear I would slip back into my old ways. I’d make sure when we went on vacation there was a gym at our hotel. I’d workout 3-4 times a week, and I was always fine-tuning and trying to improve my performance over the last one. This was fine in the beginning because that’s what I needed to make it stick. But!... I got tired of it! Now, years later I take breaks! I’ll completely switch up my routine for a month and do something different or just a lighter workout. And I no longer use the hotel gym, I take a real vacation!
25. Make the most of your time
You don’t have to spend an hour at the gym. A 10-20 min workout can be so effective! But you really have to be working out during that time. Luckily that’s what HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts are for! Many gyms offer these if you don’t know where to start. There’s a boot-camp class in my town that has a 20 minute workout and you’ll be dripping sweat afterwards! You can also do it easily on your own. All you do is a high-intensity workout such as: sprinting, jumping jacks, running in place, mountain climbers, etc for just 30-60 seconds. Then switch to walking, doing a weight lift, stretch or other low-intensity workout for 30-60 seconds. HIIT workouts have been shown to be the most powerful for burning fat and increasing cardio!
Last but not least...
26. It'll get easier!