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Friday, March 28, 2008

10 Ways to Re-Energize Your Exercise Routine

If we don’t change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are going” - Chinese Proverb

My exercise routine has really been off track lately. The sputtering started back in late February when I left work early one day with flu-like symptoms. I spent the next few days in bed with little energy to do much of anything – especially exercise.

Over the next few weeks, I was unable to gain my full strength and really didn’t feel like myself. My exercise routine went from four workouts a week to maybe two; and these two were very difficult to get through.

To make matters, I attended a conference last week and was gone for six days. This past Sunday, however, I was able to carve out a little time to get back to the gym in an attempt to re-energize my exercise routine, and myself in the process. During my workout, it was clear to me the importance and value exercise has in my life.

If you find yourself sometimes struggling to get back into the exercise habit, consider these 10 ways to re-energize your routine.

1. Realize why you miss it. We all exercise for different reasons. Some exercise to loose weight, some to build muscle and others to gain self confidence. I exercise for the latter. Not because I have aspirations of becoming a world-class athlete, but because I have aspirations of becoming a world-class person. Exercise helps me discover my limits and allows me to take pride in my personal accomplishments. These feelings of pride and personal value extend themselves beyond the walls of the gym and into the other areas of my life, too. Tap into the feelings you experience when your exercise program gets off track. Ask yourself what you miss most about exercising. Use this information as motivation to get going, again!

2. Make exercise a priority. Too often exercise is the last thing we do when we have completed our daily tasks and fulfilled our responsibilities. When the “problem of the day” presents itself, and we have not made exercise a priority, the time it takes to address the problem can leave little or no time for exercise. Consider making your trip to the gym a high-priority item in your day. Block-out the time, put it on your calendar, or wake-up 30 minutes earlier. If you take an honest inventory of how you spend your time each day, you may find the time you watch television, read email, or surf the Internet could be repurposed and redirected to help you re-energize your exercise routine.

3. Get plenty of sleep. Fatigue, both physical and emotional, can be a deterrent to maintaining a healthy and consistent exercise program. Make sure you are fully rested each day. Most experts agree that seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal. If you feel you are too tired to stick to your workout regime, consider getting more sleep in order to have more energy to devote to it.

4. Vary your routine. Boredom and monotony can settled in quickly if you do the same thing every time you workout. Do a different cardiovascular exercise each time. For example, hit the treadmill one day and ride the stationary bicycle the next. Also, vary your weight-lifting schedule. Isolate a different part of your body for each workout and work those muscles hard. Hit your arms and shoulders one day, your back the next, etc.

5. Put fun back in your routine. If you aren’t having fun, you will probably not be doing it for very long. Have fun with your exercise. Jump into a pick-up game of basketball or take a swim. When you have fun, your exercise commitment becomes less of a chore and something that can truly lift your spirits and cause you to smile – something you can look forward to each day!

6. Exercise with a friend. Working out with a friend is not only a good way to spend time with someone who is important to you, it also provides for an instant accountability partner. Ask your friend to help hold you accountable to your exercise program. Ask him or her to not let you off the hook if you say you are too busy or too tired. When commitments and goals are shared, they are more easily reached.

7. Listen to music or watch television. Running or using the elliptical machine takes time and it takes patience. To help pass the time, bring along a MP3 player or check-out some television. If you combine something you really like to do (listen to music) or do some multi-tasking (catch-up on the news while getting some cardio done) you are more likely to stay committed to your exercise program.

8. Keep an exercise log to monitor your progress. Written goals are more powerful than unarticulated ones. At the beginning of each month write down your stats. For example: (1) completed a two-mile run in 18 minutes, or (2) bench-pressed 150 lbs x 10. Each day, record what you accomplished. Soon you will see your two-mile run is being accomplished in 17 minutes, etc. This written record is a testament to your persistence and commitment. It is also a great encourager to keep you motivated and to keep you moving forward.

9. Give yourself a break now and then. Exercise should be a part of your life; it should not control your life. When you get the invitation to meet your friends after work for drinks or meet your partner for an unplanned dinner, go for it! Your gym, and your routine, will be patiently waiting for you tomorrow.

10. Focus on the positive benefits of exercise. There are some days, toward the end of my workout, when I’m tired and sore and I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” Afterwards, when I head down to the locker room to change, the feelings of accomplishment are almost intoxicating. I also feel good about the way I look and I love being able to eat almost anything I want to without guilt or dread of putting on a few pounds. When I focus on these positive things, it is easier to stay motivated.

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