Fit For Life

Karen Palmer

Motivation is the key to maintaining a lifelong exercise commitment. What will it take for you to make a permanent lifestyle change?

Start by taking a good, long look in the mirror. Do you see the weight of everyone else’s problems? Your spouse’s job-related stress pads your thighs, juggling the daily day care and work commute jiggles under your arms, or possibly the pressure of your own career thickens your waistline. Maybe losing a few pounds would boost your self-image. Perhaps the weight you bear can’t be measured in pounds, but in the heavy expectations of being the woman you think you should be–bright, successful, self-sufficient, and at all times beautiful. Take time to focus on how you feel. Perhaps your stress is entirely your own, visible as the perpetual purple rings under your eyes and the tension you feel throughout your body. Now close your eyes, and imagine the ideal you–a woman who is physically and emotionally fit.

It’s time to take a personal vow to become your ideal image through a lifelong commitment to exercise. The first step is to make exercise your personal obligation. You owe it to yourself to lead a healthy lifestyle. Treat yourself with the loving care you afford others. As your body strengthens from the benefits of exercise, so too will your mind. Your resolve to become the ideal you gains momentum by keeping the commitment you made to yourself.

Here are some motivational strategies to help you honor your commitment to exercise:

Put It In Writing

Record your intentions. What do you want to look like? How do you want to feel? Explain what you hope to gain from exercise. Explore the reasons you lost your motivation in the past. Be bold. Write about things you’ve always wanted to accomplish, whether it’s committing to take an exercise class or completing your first marathon. The physical act of writing turns your hopes into attainable goals. Reread your intentions when you need to rekindle your desire to exercise.

Make Time

Organize exercise time into your schedule as you would any other activity in your life. Get up earlier on certain days; on other days use your lunch hour. Get home an hour later one night each week because you stopped by the health club after work. Cut back on TV time. Claim two hours over the weekend as your own. Keep it consistent, and those around you will adjust accordingly to your new schedule. Do what you need to do to keep your commitment to yourself to be physically and emotionally fit.

Keep an Exercise Journal

Monitor your progress. Record your daily workouts in a logbook. It will become a valuable reference, charting where you began and how far you’ve come. Also, record your emotional response to exercise. Note how you feel after your workouts and how your attitude changes as your body changes. Highlight your accomplishments and the physical and emotional benefits you gain from exercise.

Strive to Be Fit Year-round

It’s easier to motivate yourself to exercise during warmer months; therefore, break down the rest of the year into manageable chunks. Use the image of your ideal self as motivation to exercise during the holidays. Don’t skimp on your workouts the weeks directly before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Being faithful to your exercise commitment will help to reduce your stress level during this hectic season.

The humdrum months (otherwise known as January, February, and March) don’t have to get you down. If a midwinter tropical vacation is not feasible, then concoct your own cure for the winter blues. Usually a special celebration, such as a wedding, causes a shape-up tizzy. Use this same concept as motivation. Pick specific dates each month to get together with friends and family whom you don’t often see. Celebrate your success in maintaining your physical and emotional well-being year-round.

Keep Exercise Fun, Fresh, and Diversified

Avoid stagnation. Sign up for group exercise classes. You’ll meet new people and learn new skills. Convince friends and family members to exercise with you. Take a walk with your spouse after an evening meal or with a coworker on your lunch hour. Exercising with others serves a dual purpose: It helps form friendships and deepen relationships, and it encourages you to continue exercising.

Yet a lifelong commitment to exercise also means you have to be willing to go it alone. Challenge yourself. Extend your walks one day each week. Incorporate spurts of running into the mix. Ride a bike in the spring. Hike wooded trails in summer. Run a road race in the fall. Cross-country-ski in winter. Make yourself wonder what you did with your time before you discovered that exercise was fun.

Take a Time-out

Making a lifelong commitment to exercise is not a prison sentence. You are not shackled to your exercise regimen, and you won’t have to subsist on food rations. Exercise burns calories. This allows you to splurge occasionally by rewarding yourself with your favorite meal. You will also need one or two days of rest. Rejuvenate your mind and body by pampering yourself during the time that you would have spent working out–enjoy a massage, a sauna, or a long bath. Most important, take time to be proud of yourself for honoring your commitment.

The longer you continue to exercise, the more you will notice your body’s natural adaptations to your lifestyle change. You will want to eat healthy to better equip your body to perform. You will find that you have energy reserves that you never knew you had–not only when you’re exercising, but in performing your daily activities. You will find you need to exercise for the mental benefits as much as for the physical gains.

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