The change of seasons is a great time to mix up your fitness routine. And for those who haven’t been active as you’d like, think of fall as a “back to school” for fitness.
Exercise is a huge stress reliever for me, so finding time for it in my busy schedule shouldn’t add more stress. The best technique for me is to make exercise part of my schedule. Like eating, sleeping and bathing, making exercise a built-in part of my day helps me create and stick to a routine.
I like exercising in the morning because it gives me energy throughout the day, I’m more likely to eat healthily, and I don’t have to worry about a change of evening plans eating into my workout time (I also love the calm, quiet feeling of being awake before most people in the neighborhood - it helps me get centered for the day). I have several colleagues at work who exercise at lunchtime and a friend who never makes dinner plans before 8pm so that she can ensure enough workout time. Find a time that works for you and stick with it.
Think of exercise in terms of your life. Maybe you want to be able to chase your nieces and nephews around the yard without tiring out or you really want that trip to Europe to be filled with hours of sight-seeing. Any activity you’re not used to doing can be taxing on your body, but it’s very possible to improve your physical abilities with practice over time.
Rather than use general terms like “get in shape” or “lose weight,” be specific and realistic about what you want to achieve. If you can only do five push-ups and want to tone up your arms, your goal could be to work your way up to 20 in the next month. Taking small steps and measuring your progress helps prevent burnout and frustration.
My health insurance plan includes a health coach who calls me every three months to check on my progress. While I don’t always achieve my goals, it’s been helpful for me to verbalize and discuss with someone exactly what I want to achieve. Talking with a friend or keeping a diary of your exercise goals and achievements helps you hold yourself accountable and track how well you're doing.
Mix it up
Varying your fitness routine is not only great for your body, but also helps prevent burnout and/or boredom. I recently reintroduced yoga into my routine, and love the change of pace from my usual diet of treadmills and elliptical machines. Many of us don't enjoy typical gym activities and group fitness classes like dance, pilates or martial arts may be a better fit.
If you can't find time or don't like traditional workouts, try something different. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk instead of driving or taking public transportation to work. You don’t have to be a gym rat to be physically fit. A long walk with a friend is a great way to both catch up and burn calories.
Motivate with a friend
Friends and family are great motivators and supporters. Exercising with a buddy can make the time go by quicker, push you to run one more block and force you to keep a consistent schedule. Some gyms even let you split personal trainer sessions with a friend, which can help cut costs and make workouts less intimidating and more enjoyable.
I just started a Monday/Wednesday/Friday running routine with a friend who lives close to me. It’s tough not to push snooze and roll back into my comfy bed when 6am comes, but knowing she’s waiting for me helps give me that extra push I need to get out of bed and get running.
Listen to your body
I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay to skip a few days if I need to. If you’re sick or tired, it may be better not to exercise. Always listen to your body. Sore muscles are normal (and serve as a great remind of your hard work and the toned body you're creating!), but pain that persists could be a sign of injury. Talk to a doctor or personal trainer if you're worried about something.
Fav fitness resource
My favorite source of fitness tips is Self Magazine and Self.com. In the magazine you’ll find small tear-sheets with exercises that target a different part of the body each month. I collect them and refer back to them when I need a new ab or butt toner.
The online resources at Self are great too. You can search by body part for specific exercises, find out how many calories you're burning and log your daily food intake and exercise.