Do the Groundwork1 of 7
It's tempting to go all in when you start a new exercise program. But you need to be careful your enthusiasm doesn't get in the way of doing the legwork. Josh Cox, Certified Personal Trainer at Anytime Fitness, says meticulous research is the key to making a game plan that will help you focus on the nitty-gritty. "The better prepared you are for the road you're about to embark on, the easier it is to handle the 'flat tires' and 'cracked windshield' situations that come up on the journey," Cox says.
Look for "Try Before You Buy" Programs2 of 7
There's nothing worse than paying for a new gym membership or series of classes only to find out you hate it after just two weeks. It's worth your time to look for facilities or programs that have free trials or introductory offers. "It's good to try out the facility and your workout before investing in something that might not be compatible with you and your goals," Melody Ward, Master Trainer at Club Pilates, says. If you try it and enjoy it, you're much more likely to stick with it.
It's Important to Commit3 of 7
iFit trainer Becca Capell advises her clients to commit to an exercise program for a set time period. "Research shows that four weeks is long enough to start making habits and short enough to maintain without getting distracted," she says. Capell also says if working out is something you struggle to fit in every day, set aside a specific time just for working out, and make it a priority in your schedule. "Once you make it a habit, it's much easier to stay on track."
Know How to Design a Program4 of 7
If you don't join a class or structured program, know how to design your own workout routine. The ideal exercise plan should include aerobic exercise (cardiovascular training), strength training and flexibility (like yoga and/or Pilates).
Cardiovascular training: Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is a key component in an exercise program. It helps manage your weight, boosts your mood, decreases stress and is essential in maintaining good heart health. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week (150 minutes/week) or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days per week (75 minutes/week).
Strength training: The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends strength training should be performed a minimum of two non-consecutive days each week, with one set of eight to 12 repetitions for healthy adults. Eight to 10 exercises should be performed to target the major muscle groups. Start with a full-body routine to hit the major muscle groups and get the most out of your workout.
Flexibility: The ACSM recommends stretching two to three days each week to improve range of motion. Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds and repeated two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch. Static stretches are best performed after a workout, whereas dynamic stretches are great before you get moving.
Stick With It5 of 7
You've probably tried several workouts once or twice and then quit when you started getting bored or failed to see instant results. "It's important to stick with a new workout for a few times to really see how your body feels, especially if it's a new movement," says Caley Crawford, Director of Education and Coach at Row House. It takes a class or two to really understand the movements and really start to enjoy it.
You Won't Always Love It6 of 7
News flash: You're not going to love working out all the time. Even if you find a class or gym you enjoy, there are going to be days when doing the dishes sounds like a lot more fun than getting your sweat on. And that's OK--as long as you're honest with yourself and have a plan to stay on track. Part of getting into a long-term fitness groove is riding the ups and downs.