Longer days and having more leisure time make summer seem like an optimal time to work on starting an exercise program. Starting a new exercise routine can be easy, but a lot of people lose motivation and focus if they don’t start out the right way. It is important to think through your goals, how you plan your goals, and modify them along the way to increase your overall success. Below are several points you should consider when planning a new exercise routine.
- Set general goals and create smaller, specific objectives. It is important to set up general goals and break these down into target behaviors. For example, if your goal is to exercise more, start by setting target behaviors that will help you accomplish this goal—you could start walking for 15 minutes a day and increase in 5-minute increments until you are up to 30 minutes a day.
- Start out small! Most of us “go all out” when we decide that we are going to make major behavior changes. Setting unrealistic goals will only lead to failure and frustration. Think about what you are sure you can accomplish successfully. Take that amount and cut it in half to start out for the first week and increase gradually.
- Remember that it is going to take time to see results from your efforts. It is important to remind yourself that it took a long time to get where you are—so, it is going to take some time before you start seeing dramatic changes! Be patient with yourself and remind yourself that consistency over time is the key to meeting your goals.
- Seek out support from others. Support from others plays an important role in helping you meet your goals. Having others to rely on creates a feeling of camaraderie and helps keep you accountable in working towards your goals. Meeting a friend to exercise together can also provide motivation and strength.
- Identify potential barriers and work on modifying your environment to ensure success. Think through potential barriers that may impede your progress. For example, if you aren’t a morning person, it is probably not going to beneficial for you to start out initially with a morning exercise program. Also, modify your environment. Think about things that will help make it easier to meet your goals like setting your alarm clock for a few minutes earlier, laying your clothes out the night before, etc.
- Monitor your progress. Keep track of your progress and any problems you have run into along the way. Remember that your first plan may need to be modified as you find what does and doesn’t work for you in terms of meeting your overall goals.
- Reward your behavior. Many people forget that positive reinforcement is an important component of making successful behavior changes. Make a list of rewards that you can use to celebrate your successes and create a schedule of when you will reward yourself. It might be helpful to set smaller goals and reward these successes with something you find rewarding—a long bath, a massage, reading a book for a few hours by yourself, meeting a friend for dinner, etc.
Reference: Klapow, J.C. & Pruitt, S.D. (2005). Stop Telling Me What—Tell Me How! iUniverse: Lincoln, NE.