Saturday, January 2, 2010

Stick With It

Over our New Year's trip there was a lot of chatter about getting in and staying in shape. Eric has been talking about using the time he was spending coaching football to get in better shape at the gym. Eric is a PE teacher, and he runs around with kids all day (he is one of the teachers the plays the games with the kids)- so he is not in terrible shape, but he really wants to bring more strength training back into his life. Katie was also talking about staying consistent with exercise because she has been trying to get back into hot yoga with one of her friends from high school. During these chats about getting in shape, I realized I have been working out consistently for 3 1/2 years without ever falling out of the habit.

This not impressive for most people. My mom has been working out consistently for probably 30 + years. I've never really seen my sister get "out of the habit" of exercise, or my Dad. I am impressed by all of them and I know it has probably taken a lot of hard work, and a lot of prioritizing to get them there. However, I can't imagine any of them not being serious about their work out schedule.

I, on the other hand, can imagine myself without my workout schedule. I first started going to the gym "consistently" senior year of high school, and I fluctuated between being serious about exercise and forgetting about it for awhile. I would make the New Years Resolution to work out 6 days a week and then I would get sick, miss two days and then give up for awhile. The most consistent I ever was about the gym was when I had a lot of time on my hands- during breaks from school or when I was studying abroad in Australia.

When I completed my student teaching in the fall of my senior year, I would estimate I worked out five or six times...maybe less, the entire semester. I think I was a bit scared that when I started really teaching I would be equally exhausted and never make time for the gym. But guess what? The opposite happened!

It was when I started teaching that I got serious about maintaining an exercise schedule. I started to see how important it was for de-stressing (and boy to teachers need de-stressing!). I started to finally see that getting sick and missing two days does not mean it is okay to stop going for a month. At the gym this morning I brainstormed what I finally did to make me a consistent exerciser. I hope this helps someone who is not to become one. Remember, I was inconsistent like you. It's possible to be that way and then one day just make a decision and never look back...

Here are my Tips:

1. Begin with a reasonable goal.
Do not expect yourself to go to the gym for an hour, 6 days a week. All of a sudden you will lose more than 6 hours of your free time a week. You will be shocked and never stick with it. I think 3 is a great number to start with. Pick 3 days a week that you think you are likely to go to the gym and write it in your schedule. You won't miss the time as much if you start slow.

2. Find a long term reason to work out. This is not true for everyone, but I have never actually lost any weight from working out alone. Back in college, my exercise goal was mainly weight loss. That was not enough motivation for me because no pounds were ever lost until I changed my eating! (I am also capable of losing weight without going to the gym, just changing my eating alone). Now I work out for other reasons: to relieve stress, to help my tummy (working out has always helped my digestive system do it's job), to sleep better and to feel better overall. These reasons never go away and I see results- I see myself sleeping better or feeling better. I did not see myself losing weight.

3. Change it UP.
If you can do the same exercise routine every day and stick with it, more power to you. I cannot. I constantly change it up. In the past year I have done the 30 day shred, trained for a 5k, trained for a sprint triathlon (awesome thing to do if you get bored easily- 3 different sports!), took up spinning, went to yoga and pilates classes etc. I never get bored, and neither do my muscles- I keep using new ones!

4. Pick a time and location you can stick with. Some people feel they have to go to the gym for a good workout, some people only feel comfortable at home. The reality is both working out at home and at the gym will get you a good workout as long as you DO IT. There are days I do not feel like wasting 15 minutes driving to the gym, so I walk on my treadmill or do an exercise DVD. If you pay 1 million dollars a month for cable like I do (Verizon or Comcast), you probably have Free On Demand Exercise TV. You can find Jillian Michael's videos, pilates, yoga, kickboxing- basically anything you can imagine you can find. If you really only have 30 minutes a day, pick a dvd and do it in your own family room. If you are the type that will come home from work and think of an excuse not to work out at gym, bring your gym clothes to work with you and go before you even get home. I used to do this when I lived in my own apartment, except I used my parents house as a gym. They lived on my way home from work so I had no excuse not to stop, do something and then go home.

5. Find a way that you will be held accountable.
I have heard a lot of advice about find a work out partner and I think this works well for some people. However, my schedule is pretty insane and the likelihood of anyone having the same insane schedule as me is pretty low. Therefore, a consistent work out buddy was never for me. However, I do have friends from work who attend classes at the gym with me sometimes. Sure, we don't work out together every day, but we do get each other to Spinning class on Monday night after a long day of kids, meetings and did I mention it's a Monday? So it's no small accomplishment! Another way I am held accountable is through this blog. Sure, you will all forgive me if I miss a few days of working out- but eventually I am going to have to come back to it! If you are looking for some motivation this month, try out my elliptical challenge. I did a biking challenge last month and I did NOT want to be the only one to not meet my goal, so I went to those spinning classes no matter HOW tired I was! Training for a race, a 5k, a sprint triathlon, a biking race etc, is another fabulous way to be held accountable. The possibilities are endless, believe me.

6. Cut yourself some slack.
You will get sick. You will get so busy you can't even squeeze in a 30 minute work out. You might get an injury. You might lose some motivation. This does not mean GIVE UP. This was the *BIGGEST* lesson I had to learn to become a consistent exerciser. There are weeks I work out 6 days a week, others I work out 3, sometimes I may miss a whole week. Take a break, and refocus. If you are losing motivation, try something new. If you are sick, give yourself time to rest and then get back into it slowly. Make give yourself a little reward when you get back into it (a new yoga top?). Your body will forgive you if you take a week off, forgive yourself and get back into it!

Remember, working out is not supposed to be endless torture. I can't stand the stationary bike for more than 10 minutes, so I take spinning classes instead. I am not good at meditative yoga, so I do power yoga or pilates classes. You will never stick with something you hate, so find a way to make it enjoyable (at least 50 % of the time).

What are your tips for sticking with exercise?

*Stay tuned tomorrow for my first Elliptical Challenge workout*


  1. Great post! I love your tips. Working out consistently for 3.5 is a MAJOR accomplishment. Most people don't workout consistently for 3.5 weeks.

    I think the biggest thing that helped me was just making it a habit. Each day after school (after I've prepared for the next day) I change my clothes and go STRAIGHT to the gym. I make no detours and aside from staff meetings I'm pretty consistent with it. It just seems normal now to workout each afternoon.

  2. Great timing for this post, and excellent advice. I can hardly remember life before exercise/fitness. I often wonder what I used to do with my time!

  3. Such great tips! So many things to keep in mind. For me I think keeping the big picture in mind is the most important thing. I started running with the Couch to 5K, I started slowly and worked my way up. There's no rush and as long as you're improving you're making progress.

  4. Great post! I think working out consistently for 3+ years is impressive. I don't think I could say the same, seeing as I barely worked out freshman year.
    The biggest thing that has helped me stay in the habit of exercising consistenty the past two year is a change of attitude from working out because I have to or because I wanted to lose weight or something, to working out because of how good it makes me feel and because its something I truly enjoy doing. I'm not quite sure how I made the transition, but once it happens you're golden.

  5. I think the fact that you've been working out consistently for 3 years 1/2 is SUPER impressive. I hope I will make it to that :)

    Great tips too, btw!

    I think another tip for sticking with a workout schedule is to not let it get over a week without a workout... because then a week turns into 2, then into a month... etc.

  6. I know I am too late, but I finished up my bikin tonight. 45 km in one sitting on the recumbent bike at the gym..let's just say I got in a lot of reading! Even though I didn't finish by the end of 2009, I still had to finish!

  7. being consistent is key. great job and great tips!

  8. I love this! I just got home from the gym a little bit ago :) I try to go everyday- I don't have a certain number of days per week I go- I just GO as much as I can which is usually 7 days a week, with a day that I am too busy to go every once in a while. I am about to start my last semester of student teaching and I know I will be tired after the 45 minute drive home, but I am still going to keep working out- or I will feel worse! I am going to do some of your 2 hour/week elliptical challenges- I love it!!

  9. It is so hard to remain consistent with working out but I think once you've got it worked into your daily routine it sticks. The hardest thing for me is getting back into it if I stop.

  10. I love your tips! During student teacher, I was always so exhausted after school, but I made it a priority to workout afterwards, and I NEVER regretted it. Now that I'm no longer in college, I've learned that EARLY mornings work best for me, it's when I have the most energy naturally, and I don't have to dread it all day long. Like your #4, I think finding what works for you is the key.

  11. Hey Kelly!
    Send me an email and then I will add your email address and you will get an invitation to read "Team Toppel"


  12. I have been working out consistently for the last two years. Before that I would work out hard for 3-4 weeks and then stop working out for 3-4 weeks. In the last two years I have worked out at LEAST twice a week, usually 4-6 times a week! I was actually just talking to my mom about this today and I think it is super important to keep it up until it becomes a habit!!

    That is great that your mom has been working out consistently for so long, obviously she instilled some good traits in you and your sister!!

  13. this post as wonderful! great tips, girl. I'm the same way.. I don't know what I'd do without working out. It's such a stress relief and very necessary "me" time.

    Happy saturday! xo

  14. I would say that 3 1/2 years of consistent exercise is impressive! For me, it is just a habit now. I don't really think about it, it's just a part of my day. SOme days I don't want to, of course, but then there are days when I don't want to go to work or to school. I go anyway...and afterward, I am always glad I did.

    Great tips! Thanks :)

  15. Can't wait for the first workout!

  16. Great tips! My biggest advice is finding a time that works in your schedule to hit the gym and STICK WITH IT! I know that if I don't go in the morning, I'm not going to go, so I just make it happen!

  17. good tips, thanks. i agree that your elliptical challenge has helped me with gym-time already; i would have skipped either today or yesterday if i didn't know i needed another hour on the elliptical trainer by the end of today! and it's nice to hear that someone who is not a natual gym-rat has managed to go consistently for almost 4 years. congrats on that achievement! it gives me hope that i will be able to say that in 3 and a half years :)

  18. These are great tips! I got more into fitness when I started my desk job because it was more important to find ways to stay fit. In the past I did whatever I wanted and never had results.

    Thanks for the tips!

  19. All of these tips are excellent and something I really needed to read! I've never been a consistent exerciser. I'll usually go months of going consistently to the gym and then months without. It's such a habit I need to break!

  20. Okay, I thought i commented on this post, but I guess not!

    I really started working out on a consistent basis when I started teaching 4 years ago. I realized how good I felt when I got in a workout before or after work... such a great stress releiver!

  21. That's really good advice! I've already worked out twice this year and we're only on day 3! Yesterday I went to the gym and today I took a ballet class. Definitely going to try to maintain this for as long as I can!

  22. Awesome tips girl! I get a lot of motivation writing my completed workouts down on a calendar. I get such a sense of accomplishment seeing all of the workouts I've completed!

  23. good tips for the 'resolutioners'! the biggest obstacle is avoiding burnout and not jumping in headfirst only to fizzle out by february. everyone has to find what exercises/activities they enjoy and learn how to balance them in their existing schedule.

    while i obviously had more time in school to workout, i found it easier post-graduation/in the work world with a set schedule. you know, be at the gym at 5am to get to work on time and all.