Achieve exercise adherence – 6 steps to help you reach your fitness goals
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the ‘action’ phase and kick-started your fitness regime. But how many times have you started out with the best intentions, only to find yourself back in the ‘couch potato’ lifestyle a few weeks, or maybe a few months later? Use these six steps to help you achieve exercise adherence and get the results you really want.
This is one of the biggest exercise adherence factors and is especially important in the first month of your fitness regime, as it’s the crucial time for developing habits. This is the step you carry out after you’ve decided on your goals. Write out a plan for your first four weeks and post it on your fridge, or somewhere else you can easily see it. Include what exercise you will do on each day, what time you will do it, and when you will have rest days.
As part of your initial four week plan it’s a good idea to book in a few sessions with a health and fitness coach for some ‘kick-start’ motivation. It’s also important to check you’ve got the right mix of variables in your program. These include frequency, intensity, type of exercise, rest, etc. Additionally, you’ll need initial support during this period. A good personal trainer or online fitness coach will make your workouts fun as well as effective.
You must have an alternative plan in place to minimise getting off track: Will you still run if it’s raining? What happens if you have to work late and miss the class you wanted to do? Look at your exercise plan and determine everything that could possibly go wrong with it. Then make sure you have other solutions in place where needed. Maybe your alternative plan is to put on an exercise DVD at home when it’s raining? Or if you miss that class after work you’ll know you’ll be setting your alarm early the next morning!
You might have heard the saying “Fail to plan, plan to fail”. So get that plan in place (in writing!) and you’ll minimise the likelihood of getting off track.
Preparation involves thinking of everything you will need to have or do in order to execute your plan. Following on from this, preparation involves taking action!
Examples of what you might need to do to prepare for exercise:
- Having appropriate clothing and shoes to work out in
- Making sure you’ve got any extra things that are necessary for your workouts, such as a drink bottle and sweat towel
- Getting these items laid out or packed into your bag the night before so you’ll remember them
- Setting your alarm to wake up in the morning, if need be
- Packing a healthy lunch the night before so it’s ready to go
- Writing a grocery list to prepare for healthy eating
- Making and freezing bulk meals for busy days
Write a list of the things you personally need to do to prepare properly. Then work on creating habits around these things to help increase your chances of successful exercise adherence.
I’ve mentioned the role a personal trainer can play in helping you. Just as important for support and in turn successful exercise adherence are the people in your life. These include friends, family and work colleagues.
Identify your biggest supporters. These are the people who encourage and inspire you, push you along, or perhaps are very active themselves.
Maybe your biggest fan is a partner who will watch the kids while you do your training. Getting yourself a workout buddy can also be a great way to achieve better exercise adherence.
Make these people a part of your journey in any way you can, and show them your four week plan! You also need to identify anyone who might hold you back even though they often won’t do so purposefully.
Do your friends always push you to have another wine? Do you have a work colleague who tries to stuff cake down your throat every week? You will need to talk to these people about what you’re doing and how important it is to you. Be straight up with them or they’ll keep nudging you in the direction you’re trying to get away from.
Set yourself a reward at the end of your first four weeks as an incentive for exercise adherence. If you can get through this period without too many hiccups, you should be on track for achieving those big goals. While you’re at it, set yourself rewards for your big goals.
A great ‘reward related’ idea that I first saw from Catch Fitness in Christchurch is to make yourself a ‘tip jar’. It works like a piggy bank and you could put a coin in it for every workout you complete. How proud will you feel when it’s full! Or perhaps you put a coin in for any other health and fitness targets you set yourself. For example this could be cooking a weeks worth of healthy meals. This is a great way to save for any rewards you want later!
There’s a Chinese proverb that says “The Journey is the Reward”. Therefore do make sure you’re enjoying yourself along the way too! This blog post covers more important principles to help you with successful goal achievement, such as taking inspired action, enjoying the journey, and eliminating worry and self doubt.
Get yourself a 1B5 exercise book to help you with exercise adherence. Write your goals in it each day and write down what you are going to do/did that day to work towards your goals. Congratulate yourself on your successes. Also write down when things don’t go to plan, including anything you could do differently to stay on track.
It also works well to have a ‘dream page’ in this book. This is a visual representation of what you’re striving for. It might include a picture of somewhere you’re going on holiday. Maybe it has a photo of yourself from when you were happy with your size. Or perhaps it has a picture of someone running, if that’s one of your goals. The key to the effectiveness of your book is consistency – use it every day!
Know that you’ll need to put in effort to reach your goals, and probably a lot of it! Achieving exercise adherence is simple if you have a realistic plan in place, have strategies set up for any slip ups along the way, and have the knowledge, skills, desire and support needed to get you there.
But it’s not easy. There will be days when you feel too tired to get out of bed, let alone go for a run. Invitations will come along that threaten to interrupt your routine, and sometimes it will seem like progress is just going too slow! So go back to that goal book and remind yourself of what you’re going to achieve when you stick to it. Also remember that you will always feel better after your workout!
If you’re really tired, under a lot of stress, or your muscles are sore from a previous workout, you might need to opt for a gentle walk or stretch routine instead of your usual plan. As long as you put in the effort to do something, you’ll thank yourself later.
For more online fitness advice, check out my physical fitness blog category.
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I write for a number of publications and generally publish a blog once a week about finding ways to enjoy a more happy and healthy lifestyle.
I also come across a lot of useful healthy information all the time. If I find something of value, I'd love to share it with you.
Also published on Medium.