We’re just one month away from the inevitable deluge of TV ads urging us to get in shape and shed pounds for the New Year. Savvy marketers know that all that holiday overindulgence comes with a hefty dose of post-holiday guilt—and a burst of motivation to reverse course and build a stronger, healthier body. Of course, we’ll need to buy all the latest, greatest fitness equipment to reach that goal.
Sadly, these same marketers are banking (literally and figuratively) on the relatively safe bet that most of us will soon lose interest in exercising; consign that costly fitness equipment to the basement, attic, or closet; and then repeat the whole process a year later—again shelling out hard-earned cash for the latest flashy gadget or machine that promises quick, easy fitness results.
But what’s behind this lapse in motivation? What happens between that initial impulse to make healthy changes and the predictable fall from the fitness wagon? See if these common motivation killers sound familiar:
#1 Taking on too much too soon
You’re really pumped about getting fit this time around, so you plan for an hour on the treadmill each morning, an hour of crunches after lunch, and two hours of strength training in the evening. Who knows? You might sneak in a little cycling somewhere—maybe right after dinner but before checking your kids’ homework. Sounds like you’re well on your way to a strong, healthy body, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, such an ambitious exercise regimen simply isn’t sustainable for the average person and is usually cast aside after the inevitable “reality check.” You’ll be much more likely to follow through if you set manageable goals, start very slowly—say a half hour of exercise three times a week—and then build gradually from there.
#2 You don’t know where to begin
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the people who really want to get fit but, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, don’t know which way to turn to get started. Should they begin with strength training? Cardio? Maybe a Zumba class? All of the above? What’s the proper way to stretch? What do they mean by “warm up” and “cool down”? With so many confusing questions, maybe it would be best to just forget about the whole thing!
If this describes you, your best bet might be to make the modest investment in some sessions with a professional fitness trainer. He or she can help you develop a safe, manageable, and effective program and eliminate all the guesswork that’s standing in the way of getting started.
#3 Expecting immediate results
We’re a society that expects immediate gratification. When we decide we want something, we want it yesterday. But fitness results never work that way. You’re not going to achieve “washboard abs” or transition from chubby to skinny with just a few weeks of effort. You will see improvement, but any obvious physical changes will be very gradual. Keep in mind, however, that even if your outward appearance is the same, exercise is still making important changes in your overall health that will boost your endurance and add years to your life. Don’t think of bulging muscles and a tighter belt as the be-all and end-all of fitness.
#4 Sticking with the same old routine
Over time, your body will acclimate to the stresses you place on it, so sticking with the same old comfortable exercise routine will yield steadily diminishing fitness returns until you eventually plateau. It’s fine to keep doing the exercises you enjoy, but don’t be afraid to change things up and get outside your comfort zone a bit. For example, if you routinely walk or jog, work in some sprints or find a route with more challenging terrain (steeper hills, etc.). During your gym workout, try to incorporate some different machines or free-weight exercises. Again, a fitness trainer can help you choose all kinds of exercises that will “keep your body guessing” so you continue to see results.
#5 Getting injured
This one often dovetails with #1, taking on too much too soon. “No pain, no gain” is probably the worst pieces of fitness advice ever dispensed, yet it persists in the minds of many. The truth is, nothing kills the motivation to exercise quicker than painful muscles or joints. Don’t push too hard, and don’t start any exercise without appropriate protective gear and the knowledge of how to perform the movements safely and properly. Also, be sure to give your body an opportunity to rest and recover in between workouts. Remember, it’s during the recovery phase following a workout, when muscle tissue is rebuilt and repaired, that fitness progress is actually made.