6 Ways to Kick-Start Your Workout Program (Even if You've Fallen Off the Exercise Wagon)
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Everyone knows that exercise is a good thing. Establishing a workout program for just 30 minutes a day, coupled with strength training two days a week , can provide you with many health-boosting benefits.
These workout benefits include improvement in multiple areas, including:
- Weight loss
- Anxiety & Depression
- Heart health
- Gut health
- Sleep, Focus, and Libido
If you’ve never had the healthy habit of a workout program or you’ve recently fallen off your diet plan (or treadmill), you may not know how to get started (again). How do you stick with a workout program that is going to give you the results you want?
Read on for six tips designed to motivate you to get moving and KEEP YOU MOVING every day!
6 Tips for Creating a Healthy Workout Program That Works for You
#1. Love Yourself as You Are
You may be unhappy with your body or struggle with a physical condition that makes exercise more challenging. Whatever your situation, it’s important to establish self-worth before beginning your exercise journey.
Take out a journal or a piece of paper and write down three things that you appreciate about yourself and your body. Then copy them down on a post-it and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Put them where your workout clothes are. Stick a reminder of them by your front door. Make sure you see them throughout the day.
Why do all this before you start exercising? Because beating yourself up about the size of your calves, high blood pressure, jeans that are too tight, or a diabetes diagnosis is going to motivate you for about 5 minutes.
Starting this new and exciting chapter of your life with a clear awareness of the amazing qualities you already possess will build your confidence and make you feel good. This, in turn, will help you be more of your full-throttle, amazing, and totally awesome self as you gain energy and endurance by moving your body every day.
“It’s important that people love themselves now for who they are and not for what they want to become,” advises personal trainer Jonny Straws when asked how to stick to a workout program for the long-term .
#2. Visualize Success
Over two millennia ago, the philosopher Aristotle stated: “First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends; wisdom, money, materials, and methods. Third, adjust all your means to that end .”
It seems that goal-setting is just something we humans do naturally, not only in fitness, but many important aspects of our lives. It is easier to start down the path if we know where we are going.
Many of us are great at making plans but can lose steam along the way. Sometimes, as the days and weeks go by, our goals may seem farther away than ever. Other times, we forget about what they were in the first place.
Consistent, intentional visualization is the missing piece when it comes to setting goals. Engaging in a visualization practice every day, even for a few minutes, helps to keep our goals fresh. It also helps us achieve our goals by adding images and emotions to what we want to accomplish.
The effectiveness of visualization is backed up by neuroscience. Every time you have a thought, you are creating specific neuropathways in the brain. Here is how it works:
When you think about something happy, you create neuropathways for happiness. When you think stressful thoughts, you create neuropathways for stress. Over 75 years ago, Canadian psychologist Dr. Donald Hebb coined the phrase, “Neurons that fire together, wire together .” This occurs in our brains every day based on what we are thinking.
Visualization techniques use the way the brain inherently works to help create the reality we want in the physical world. Spend just five minutes every day imagining yourself running up those flights of stairs, swimming those laps, or dancing your socks off to your favorite tune.
Then imagine yourself enjoying your strong, lean, powerful, and healthy body with as much feeling and mental imagery as you can muster. By doing this, you are creating more neuropathways for this experience and are helping turn your fitness dreams into reality!
#3. Take it Slow
If you’re just starting a workout program, remember that you don’t have to run a marathon your first week. In fact, it will probably hurt you in the long run if you push yourself too hard in the beginning.
Remember that adding movement to your daily routine is a lifestyle change and you are in it for the long haul. So take it slow and gradually build up your endurance as you go along.
For example, start out with a 15-minute walk 3 times your first week and gradually increase to 20 minutes 4 times in week 2. Or dance to 1 song a day during the first week, then groove to 2 songs a day the next week.
You may also consider exploring exercise classes for the first few months of your commitment to fitness. Try one exercise class at your local gym or rec center each week until you find one you really enjoy. Then commit to going twice a week instead of just once.
Not all exercise needs to be super intense for there to be health benefits either. Did you know that stretches that gently twist the spine can have positive effects on the adrenals, thyroid, and pancreasand activate the healing hormones of the parasympathetic nervous system ?
#4. Make it Fun
The number one excuse people have for not exercising is because they “don’t have the time.” A recent article in Psychology Today  posits that there is another reason why we don’t get off the couch and put on our gym clothes: exercise is uncomfortable.
Dr. Sherry Pagoto, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, explains that exercise is uncomfortable to most of us because it goes against the relative comfort which defines how most people live in the modern, industrialized world. According to Dr. Pagoto:
“We live in a society where we keep the indoor temperature adjusted to perfection all year round, wrap ourselves in soft clothing, wear thick-soled shoes to protect our feet from harm, lay on cushy beds draped in poofy covers, and shower and scrub with warm water and soap every single day. Is all of this First-World pampering making us intolerant to even mild physical discomfort?”
How many people really revel in the idea of getting blisters, sweating profusely, being out of breath, messing up their hair, and having sore muscles? Pagoto suggests getting out of our physical comfort zone as much as possible to prepare for regular exercising. Going out in the rain without an umbrella, letting yourself get dirty in nature, or stomping in a puddle so your shoes and socks get wet are good examples.
For those of us who are not as courageous, however, there is another (kinder) way to ease into a workout program that works for you and stick to it. That is to have fun!
Do you remember the last time you went to a concert and danced yourself into a sweat, but didn’t even realize it? Engaging in a physical activity that you really enjoy will increase the likelihood that you will “stick to it.”
Here are some activities that might point you in a fun direction. And, yes, they are all considered a “workout:”
- Brisk walking
- Taking a dance class
- Rocking out to your favorite tune
- Running with your dog
- Hiking or biking at the park or the beach
- Martial arts
- Indoor rock climbing
- Bouncing on a trampoline
- Watching your favorite show while you’re walking briskly on the treadmill
- Going on a “walking meeting” instead of talking in the office or a coffee shop
The concept of strength in numbers also applies to working out. As social beings, having a workout partner or joining a class not only is more fun, it also helps us feel like we are not alone.
A study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found that people are influenced by the exercise behaviors, healthy or otherwise, of others around them . So if your friends and family don’t exercise, try and find a group of people who can be a positive role model for you.
#5. Work Exercise into Your Schedule
When it comes to finding the time in our busy schedules for working out, experts advise creativity and planning . Remember that you don’t have to do it all at once.
Here are a few ways you can get your heart beating when you are on the run:
- Take the stairs
- Park a few blocks away
- Bike to work
- Consider a workout app for your phone or computer. Many have programs that will get you sweating in 15 minutes
- Try burst training or HIIT 
- Use your lunch hour to take a brisk walk or a jog
- Do squats, stretches, or other movements whenever you are on hold on the phone, waiting for dinner to cook, or even sitting in the office or in traffic
#6. Celebrate Success
Finally, keep in mind that working out doesn’t have to be all work. Experts in the field of operant conditioning (learning through positive and/or negative reinforcement) state that when individuals engage in activities that elicit positive responses or rewards, they will be more likely to repeat them.
So be sure to take the time to celebrate your successes in a healthy way whenever you reach weight loss, time frame, or other fitness goals. Book a massage, enjoy a spa day, or treat yourself to a new outfit to celebrate all the new energy, strength, and fitness you are going to experience as you get into the groove of your daily workout program.
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Regular exercise provides a host of benefits, but getting started can be difficult.
6 ways to kick-start your exercise routine:
- Reaffirm your self-worth
- Visualize success
- Take it slow
- Make it fun
- Work it into your schedule
- Celebrate success