Just about everyone I know, at one time or another, has attempted to make fitness and exercise a part of their normal routine. We all know the general benefits from a sound exercise plan; strength training and regular exercise can improve ones life ten-fold. Some of the benefits include improved cardiovascular health, increased bone mass, a positive outlook on life, improved self confidence and self efficacy.

So if there are so many benefits, why do we have a hard time sticking to a fitness program for a substantial period of time?

  • Write It Down - Your goals will be hard to reach if you don't have a physical reference to them. Writing down what you want to accomplish in the short and long term will allow you to get clear on exactly what you want. Writing your goals down also serves as a daily reminder and almost serves as a contract or commitment to yourself.
  • Take It Slow - Start out with small goals and build upon them gradually. You must crawl before you walk and you must walk before you run. If your goal is to run a 6-minute mile and you haven't jogged once in the past year, you better start off with a few laps around the block for the first few weeks. Then as that gets easier you can begin going for weekly runs, trying to increase your duration each workout. In time your endurance and conditioning improves. The same applies for strength training, martial arts or any other fitness endeavor.
  • Build Upon Previous Successes - Once you reach the initial goals you have set for yourself, you must make new ones. It's important to continually have something to work towards for maintaining your motivation. Logging your progress is essential as well. There is nothing like looking back on previous goals you have set and accomplished.

Build A Support System
While you can achieve your goals by yourself, it's always much easier with a support group. There are many ways to go about this. You can join a local fitness/athletic club, join a gym or look to the internet for a community of like-minded people.

  • Forums and Online Communities - Many people turn to fitness forums for advice and guidance and most forums have sections where you can log your workouts. I have greatly benefited from these resources as it's an easy way to log my workouts plus receive feedback from those more experienced than myself when I need help or advice. Sometimes we may be doing something that could be improved or changed for the better.
  • The Buddy System - Another way you can keep yourself accountable is by using the buddy system. Find someone else who has similar interests and make a commitment to keep each other in check. You can opt to workout together once or twice per week or set a time each month to go over your past workouts. It's really nice to have the extra encouragement from someone who is working towards a similar goal.
  • Become A Blogger - One more way to improve your chances of sticking to your plan is by starting a personal workout blog. It doesn't have to be fancy and you don't have to be a great writer. Just commit to logging your workouts and thoughts about your new routine regularly. I know of many weight loss bloggers who are having much success with this type of support method. Many of them connect with others in the blogosphere who share the same goals. You will learn in time that it's easier to stick to a commitment when others are looking forward to your progress reports.

Baby Steps Eventually Become Long Term Habits
So everyone knows it takes roughly 21 days for something to officially become a habit. The more often you do something the more ingrained in your mind it becomes. Many of the world's top athletes are only good at what they do because they formed a habit of training regularly, not just because they had some supernatural abilities.

I am not implying you must train rigorously like an elite athlete, but think about what you could accomplish by adopting the same mentality and developing a workout plan similar in structure (although not the same frequency or intensity). In time, the newly formed habits would be routine and your quality of life would improve greatly. The benefits of getting up and doing something productive greatly outweighs sitting around and wasting away.

Lifestyle Changes
The ultimate goal is a permanent lifestyle change. Changing your habits and embarking on a regular workout routine can greatly benefit your life and the time it takes to build your unique workout regimen will pay off substantially, granted you actually do it.

If you have ever struggled with making an exercise plan a permanent habit, give the steps I have outlined a try. I am confident you will be well on your way to a much improved quality of life.