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Post Series: March Your Way to Fitness Challenge
Couple running outside to keep fit

Did you make a commitment to yourself at the start of the year that it’s going to be a new year, a new you? You’re not alone. Millions of people (including me) resolved to do the same.

Survey upon survey has been conducted over the years illustrating the frustration of both women and men about their body shapes, fitness levels and overall health. Americans spend millions of dollars annually trying the latest diet fad, weight loss supplement or “revolutionary” equipment. Like clockwork, gym memberships nationwide skyrocket in January following those New Year’s resolutions and attendance by cardholders is pretty good – for a few months. Fast forward to springtime, and there are plenty of people facing a full schedule who have a wallet with an underutilized gym card and a growing hole where a monthly fee is escaping. This means not only are many Americans wasting money, but they might not be exercising at all. Perhaps intimidated by the dedication required, unfamiliar equipment, chipper/super-ripped instructors or all of those things, many throw in the towel and end up making the same fruitless “new year, new me” resolution come January. I’m speaking from experience here, but I’m sure you can relate!

The Key to Sustainable Commitment and Results

Striving to go to the gym for abstract reasons like “preventing heart disease” or “trying to get toned” doesn’t tend to work over time. Those reasons might feel forced (whether by your doctor or societal pressures) and may fuel your efforts for only a few months. Then, life gets in the way, and you might feel like your effort was in vain, pointless or a waste of time.

Michelle Segar, Ph.D. and director of the Sport Health and Activity Research and Policy Center, is the author of award-winning “No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.” In it, she uses research to emphasize the importance of finding some kind of physical activity you enjoy to the point where you don’t consider it exercise but rather just a natural part of living.

“Initiating physical activity (or any other self-care behavior for that matter) is a perfect time to learn the specific ways in which it helps you achieve your ‘feel good’ apex,” Segar explains. “So, whether for a challenge or because there’s a sale on a gym membership, start with the intention of deeply noticing how you feel from the movement you are doing. Do you have more energy? Feel more enthusiastic or optimistic? Feel proud of yourself for making time for your own self-care?”

She continued, “The positivity we experience from moving our bodies is actually what fuels ongoing participation. Our brains learn these associations and keep us wanting more. Research suggests that rather than the scale, we’ll be more likely to stick with it for good if we focus on measuring the myriad ways your mind and body feel better when moving. And don’t forget to move in ways that you want to instead of ways you think you should.”

Avoiding Burnout When It Comes to Feeling the Burn

Speaking of ways you want to move versus how you think you should, it’s worth mentioning that extreme workouts are all over the news these days. The premise: Why spend hours at the gym when you can cram an intense exercise session in less than a half-hour and feel the burn? While boot camps and high-intensity training programs have a place for some, they might not be right for everyone, especially if you’re introducing physical activity to your life for the first time in a long time.

Fitness mentor, Kat Napolitano, argues that not everyone who engages in these programs have the proper form, which could lead to injury. In addition, she says the pressure of following an instructor with six-pack abs can sometimes be discouraging if you’re far from achieving that image. Having spent years participating in popular fitness videos illustrating modified versions of moves, she launched KatNap Fitness to serve as a relatable role model for those striving to keep fitness a part of their routine.

“I want to change the reasons for why people work out,” says Napolitano. “People need to stop obsessing about their weight and start focusing on working out to have fun, increase energy, have a healthy heart and body, fight osteoporosis and, most of all, set an example for their kids that physical fitness should be a part of daily life. Only with this attitude change can people feel empowered and motivated to improve their health.”

She says that when determining the right program, activity or intensity level, it might help to reveal what your fitness personality is through a series of questions you can ask yourself.

Kat’s Fitness Reality Checklist

  • When can you work out? Mornings, afternoons, evenings?
  • How long can you work out? If you’re taking a class, make sure you factor in the commute to and from class.
  • Where do you like to work out? Home, gym, outdoors?
  • What kind of exercise can you do that you will actually stick with? Walking, running, cardio, running, yoga, dance?
  • What kind of exercise excites you? What kind frightens you?
  • How will you begin? Two times per week? Three, four? You should be doing 30 minutes of exercise four to six times per week.
  • If you’re planning to buy a gym membership or program, will you actually use it?
  • How much can you spend on your fitness program?
  • What is keeping you from consistently working out? Time, motivation, money?
  • What will motivate you to work out? Health, family, self-esteem, great music, fun workout? Who will motivate you? Friend, fitness instructor?

Care to Make Things Interesting?

If you still aren’t sure what your biggest motivator is, maybe some good old-fashioned money can get you off the couch. Some folks start groups that penalize you or charge you a fee if you don’t work out. But what if you could be rewarded for when you do?

KrowdFit is a wellness incentive platform that financially rewards members for logging their fitness tracker data. The more a user logs their steps, sleep, meals and activity, the more entries they receive in a rewards pool of weekly, monthly and quarterly drawings, up to $5,000! Get fit and earn money at the same time? Sounds like a win-win to me!

Take the First Step When It’s Right for You

As you can see, there is some mental preparation that is required when embarking on a fitness program so that you can stop viewing it as a thing to start and finish and begin viewing it as an enjoyable ongoing aspect of your life.

Napolitano makes it clear in her messaging that she herself is not at her goal weight and is on her fitness journey along with her members. “Your health goals are your own, and they should be a result of assessing your priorities, lifestyle, age and genetic makeup. No one should tell you how you should look or what your goals should be.”

As always, it’s important to consult your physician about the right level of exercise for you.

Have you struggled with sticking to an activity in the past? What has helped you keep your fitness goals?

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I use a Fitbit to help me count steps, as it’s easy for me to be inactive work due to all my computer-oriented work. One of my favorite strategies is to park far away from building doors when I attend meetings. It not only forces me to do more steps, but frees up spaces for elderly, people with children, etc. who need the closer spaces more than I do…and keeps the car more out of harm’s way! Avoiding elevators and taking stairs instead is another strategy. And I was really surprised to see how many steps I took doing housework on the weekends!

    1. Thanks for the tips! I’ve been parking farther away as well and taking stairs when I can too. I also discovered a treadmill desk at work which should help me sneak in a few hundred extra steps!

  2. I am now looking into the personal instructor for some gym workouts to help with my overall health. Living to live longer!

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