Whether you're looking to lose weight or want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise is essential. Many people start working out and at first it comes easy. They're motivated to change their lives and exercise really helps. Then the soreness, boredom and injuries start to set in which will cause most people to quit their routine before realizing any benefits. Starting a routine is important but making a plan to stick with it is the key to success.
Too Much Too Soon
The biggest mistake that a beginning exerciser makes is trying too much too soon. Often when starting an exercise routine, people get very excited and over motivated. They try to exercise as often as possible thinking that this will lead to the best gains. While the effort is respectable, going 100% right from the very beginning is the wrong way to start a new routine. When you're out of shape, your body can't handle too much change physically or mentally.
If you start exercising too much from the beginning, you'll get sore pretty soon, probably after the first session. If you live by the 'no pain no gain' motto, you won't listen to your body and keep exercising through the soreness. Eventually, the soreness will turn into an injury and you won't even be able to do any light exercise. This will extinguish any motivation you had and make you think that your body simply can't handle exercise. At that point your routine will fail.
Instead of using this approach, try and slowly ease your body into a routine. Start your first two weeks by exercising twice per week. This will allow your body a good amount of time to recover. By starting off slowly, you'll also allow yourself time to mentally adjust to exercising. It's hard to get yourself to exercise after long periods of inactivity. One hour per day might not seem like a lot but when you're working hard it is.
After you ease into your routine, make sure you constantly adapt it to your new body. The whole point of exercise is to get faster, stronger and in shape. The only way to do this is by continuously pushing your body to new heights. If you keep running a mile everyday in 7 minutes, are you getting any stronger or faster? No.
Set New Goals
You need to keep setting new, higher goals for yourself once you accomplish the old ones. If you ran a mile in 7 minutes last week, aim for 6:50 this week. The same goes for weights in the gym. If you bench pressed 225 pounds 10 times last week, aim for a higher weight or more repetitions this week. Every six weeks you should also be changing the types of exercises you're doing.
Your body is good adapting and if you keep doing the same exercises, you'll reach a point where you'll no longer improve. This is referred to as an exercise plateau. Don't wait until you reach one to react. Keep changing your routine to throw your body off. This will keep you excited about about trying new exercises which will keep you from quitting your routine out of boredom.
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to keep track of your progress in a workout log or journal. Every day you workout you should write down the exercises, number of sets/repetitions and amount of weight you're using. The next time you do the same exercise, look back at your workout journal and set your goal higher.
If last week you wrote down that you bench pressed 225 pounds 10 times, you should increase your goal to 230-235 pounds and try 8-10 repetitions or stick with 225 pounds and try 12-13 repetitions. Exercising is all about getting better. If you aren't moving faster, lifting more weight or improving in another way, you're not getting into shape. By writing your progress down, you'll get a visual of how well you're doing. This can also help you easily figure out when you're experiencing an exercise plateau.
Finding a workout buddy can also help you stick to your exercise routine. It's a lot harder to tell a friend you're not working out anymore than to let yourself down. There's plenty of ways you can twist reality and justify quitting a routine to yourself, but when a friend is involved, they should be able to tell you the truth; you're just being lazy. Getting a workout buddy will make exercising more fun, give you fresh ideas and keep you committed to your routine.
By far the most important step to take when coming up with an exercise routine you can stick to is to pick a form of physical activity that you enjoy participating in. If you hate running, don't try and focus your routine around running everyday. You can throw it in every once in a while but centering your workout around it will cause you to lose your motivation really quick.
The Bottom Line
An exercise routine isn't easy to continue over a long period of time. You need to realize that not everyday will be perfect. You will run into problems along your path but you shouldn't let them discourage you. If everything was easy, everyone would be perfect.