Staying Committed to Exercise

The Difference Between Success and Failure

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Getty Images/Corey Jenkins

It isn't easy staying motivated to exercise, especially if you're a beginner. In fact, most veteran exercisers would probably agree--some days they got it, some days they don't. If you're trying lose weight and make exercise a habit, you may be surprised to learn that there's not much difference between you and people who exercise regularly. There's no magic pill that brings discipline and motivation to your workouts.

So what do they have that you don't have? It's all in the way you think.

The Doldrums

With many of my personal training clients, I've noticed some fairly regular trends: After about 6 to 12 weeks, the doldrums set in and that's when many of them quit. While this is not a very scientific study, my experience tells me that something happens after that initial excitement of starting an exercise program. First, the enthusiasm fades. Second, most clients haven't seen significant results yet. The combination is devastating and, many times, this is the moment many people give up.

What's so frustrating is that many people quit just when they're on the verge of success...at both making exercise a habit and seeing fat loss. Below are some of the mistakes that contribute to failure to exercise:

  • Focusing on the scale. Weight loss isn't going to happen right away. For some folks, it takes months to see significant changes. When starting a program, it's best to set measurable goals like getting a certain number of workouts in each week or lifting a certain amount of weight.
  • Working too hard. Newbies sometimes go at their new workout programs like veteran exercisers. Starting easy and working your way up to more frequent exercise makes your workouts more enjoyable and gives your body time to adjust to exercise.
  • Not working hard enough. On the other hand, some people don't take their intensity high enough to promote weight loss results. Learn the right way to Monitor Your Intensity
  • Comparing yourself to others. If your friend is losing weight faster than you are, it doesn't mean something's wrong with you. We all lose fat at different rates. Try to keep the focus on the gains you're making, not someone else's.
  • Giving up too soon. If you're not seeing results yet, giving up is the last thing you should do. If you've been working out consistently, you may be well on your way to weight loss. Whether you've seen results or not, you ARE getting something out of exercising regularly. Think better sleep, more energy, better quality of life...is any of this sinking in?

Aside from these issues, there are a few other things that stand in the way of you and success. As I mentioned above, the only real difference between a veteran exerciser and a struggling exerciser often lies in how they think. Check out the table below for a comparison on how a successful exerciser gets past exercise obstacles and how a quitter usually handles things.

Positive and Negative Thinking Habits

What You're ThinkingQuitter's ThinkingSuccessful Thinking
I don't want to workout today.I quitI'll just do a warm up. If I still don't want to exercise, I'll stop.
This workout is boring.I quitMaybe I'll try a new activity--like that spinning class.
I'm too stressed out to exercise.I quitI'll feel more relaxed if I get in a quick workout
I missed my last few workouts, why bother?I quitI've gotten off track, but I'm ready to get started again. I'll be back to where I was in no time.
I haven't lost a single pound.I quitIf I quit now, I'll never see long-term results.
I don't have time.I quitI'll do what I can until things slow down. Something is always better than nothing.

Now that you've gotten some insight into the things that stand in the way of success, it's time to challenge yourself and your ideas about exercise. Next: Take the Challenge The Challenge

If you find that you're not motivated to keep going because you're not losing weight fast enough, I have a few challenges for you.  Take some time to study the questions below and figure out what you think about exercise.  What are your fears?  What is holding you back from making exercise a part of your life?  How can you make workouts more appealing?  These are just some of the questions you'll be able to answer.

  1. Name 3 benefits you get from exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss.

    Example: 1. I feel proud of myself for finishing the workout. 2. I feel energized for the rest of the day. 3. I sleep better on the days I workout.

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  2. Name 3 things you like about exercising.
    Example: 1. It's the only time I have to myself all day long. 2. I always feel better once I get started. 3. I'm more confident when I take time to workout.
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  3. Name 3 things you could do to make your workouts more enjoyable.
    Example: 1. Take time to warm up instead of jumping into an intense workout. 2. Do more activities outside--I don't like the gym. 3.Find a workout buddy to keep me motivated.
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  4. Describe your favorite exercise and why you like it.
    Example: I like running because it's easy--I can do it anywhere and all I need is a pair of shoes. I like the fresh air and I always feel good about myself when I finish a good run.

     
  1. What are some activities you'd try if only you were in better shape, stronger, more conditioned, etc.
    Example: Cross-country skiing, Snowboarding, Group fitness classes
     
  2. Name your biggest obstacle to exercising.  Now, name 3 ways to overcome it for your next workout.
    Example: Being too busy. To overcome that I can: 1.Schedule my workouts in my calendar. 2. Have consequences if I don't follow through (i.e., I can't watch my favorite TV show). 3. Try shorter workouts that fit within my schedule.
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  1. Name some rewards you could give yourself for completing all your workouts for one week.
    Example: 1.  A massage. 2. Some new workout shoes or clothes. 3. That new novel I've been wanting to buy.
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  2. Name some consequences for not doing your workouts.
    Example:  1.  No TV unless I do my workout.  2.  If I skip my workout, I have to do a horrible household chore (clean the grout in the bathroom, give the cat a bath, etc.).  3.  If I don't exercise, I have to spend 30 minutes rubbing my spouse/loved one's feet.
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  3. Describe 3 ways in which exercise could improve your current and future quality of life if you did it consistently.
    Example: 1. I'll have stronger bones and more endurance. 2.  Preserving muscle mass so that my metabolism doesn't drop. 3.  I'm less likely to gain weight and I reduce my risk of heart disease and other problems.
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  4. What's your biggest fear when it comes to exercise?  How realistic is this fear?
    Example: That I'll fail to finish my workout.  This fear isn't very realistic since I definitely won't succeed if I don't do it.

     
    How'd you do? Did you learn anything about yourself? Figure out ways to make exercise more enjoyable or fit better within your lifestyle? Print this questionnaire out and keep it nearby. Come back to it whenever you feel like quitting to remind yourself why exercise is important. Most importantly, don't give up. We all quit from time to time...the trick is to keep going anyway.

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