From Good Intentions to Established Habit: Maintaining that Gym-Going Resolve

Note: This entry was originally published in March 2014.

Editor’s Note: This is the third entry of the Choose Now! series to inspire you to take control of your heart health and be a strong role model for your friends and family. To learn more about this series, read the introduction entry about Heart Niagara’s Choose Now! messaging in our Healthy Heart Schools’ Program.

The new year always translates into increased activity at my gym. It takes a little extra time to complete my full workout because there are more people using the machines. However, I know that within six to eight weeks things will revert to pre-Christmas levels, and us regulars will be back to accessing whatever equipment we want when we want it (more or less). The same pattern repeats itself year after year.

This blog entry is dedicated to those of you I will only see for the briefest of times until your gym-going enthusiasm wanes. I won’t presume to know exactly why each of you stops going, but I can make some pretty good guesses. What I’d like to do is offer suggestions – things that worked for me – that just might make this the year that you become a regular, too.

  1. First, make sure your doctor has given you the go-ahead to engage in cardiovascular and weight-training exercises, especially if you’ve been physically inactive for a period of time.
  2. Compare gyms. Don’t let the facility itself become a stumbling block to your success.
  3. Focus on today. Let’s face it: working out is, well, work. When you are first starting out, it can be overwhelming to think, “I have to do this for the rest of my life?” I promise: it gets easier. When working out becomes an established habit, it becomes second nature to go to the gym. But for now, think only of today. Today you did it: You came to the gym. Notice how good you feel about yourself for having followed through. Remember that feeling. It will help you return tomorrow.
  4. Establish a habit. Keeping point 2 in mind, strive for a realistic minimum number of times to go per week (I’d suggest three or four). Your aim right now is to turn gym-going into a habit. So, pick a frequency you can commit to – and stick to it more often than not. Once it’s an established habit, then you can consider advice regarding optimal frequency and duration based on your long-range goals.
  5. Focus on yourself. Who cares what someone else is doing! Do you know what it means if you are walking on a treadmill while the person beside you is running? It means you are both exercising! Everyone has different fitness goals, different fitness levels, and different fitness preferences.
  6. Listen to your body. Don’t overdo it, especially if you’ve been inactive for any length of time. Your body will tell you when you should ramp things up. Even if you’ve been working out for a while, there may be days when you need to scale back. Listen to your body.
  7. Change things up. If the thought of spending 30 minutes or more on a single cardio machine seems daunting, then do what always worked for me: spend 5 to 15 minutes on several different machines, moving from one to the next, until you’ve reached your cardio goal for the day. This simple plan kept my interest up, and, psychologically, I knew I could at least manage that amount of time on any one machine.
  8. Do it with music! One of my iPod playlists is dedicated to fast-paced tunes that keep me inspired during cardio workouts.
  9. Ditch your bathroom scale (or at least minimize its use). Keep your overarching goal on increased cardio and physical fitness, not on weight loss, per se. Take note of your enhanced self-esteem, increased energy levels, and greater ease of movement. In other words, measure success by how you feel rather than by numbers on a scale.

Working out regularly is a habit worth forming, and I hope these suggestions help you do just that. As for me, well, I am heading off to the gym. Will I see you there?

By Susan Down

Susan Down is an educator with a keen interest in healthy living. She works out regularly at a local gym and always starts and ends her day dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in blog entries are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Heart Niagara.

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