Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't fall off the (exercise) wagon!

For how packed the gym was last night, you would think swimsuits and spring break are just around the corner! Maybe they should look outside... or let me tag along on whatever tropical holiday getaway they have planned?  Pretty please? :)

Anyway, I can easily recognize the regulars at my gym, so the sporadic fitness center patrons stick out like a sore thumb.  It's safe to assume those folks are the ones that cause huge waits for cardio machines the first week of the semester, especially after January 1 (resolution gym goers).  You know, looking for a quick fix and then a few days or weeks into a routine, lose interest or think they can stop once they've reached their goal.

I want to grab each newbie by the shoulders and say, "Don't lose heart!  It's way more fun that you think!  Just remember a few easy tips and you'll never get bored."  Especially during this season of making merry and eating and dining your way from party to party, here is how you can stay on the wagon and fit into that snazzy cocktail dress (or, for the gentleman, that classy vest) through the new year.

1. Get up and go!  Forming a gym habit, according to experts, takes about 8 weeks.  8 weeks!  So, it's unrealistic to expect it to happen overnight.  Even if you're not in the mood (which happens to us all), just let autopilot take over and direct your body to the gym.  Once you get there, you'll find some motivation.  Example: I really wanted to go home and curl up with some soup and a movie, but I went anyway.  As I was warming up, I watched a seriously overweight but super motivated older man huffing and puffing on the treadmill, that I was going to skip.  If he can do it, so can I!

2. Variety!  I make it a rule to never use the same machine two days in a row, preferably three.  Give some love to machines that you usually neglect -- I've recently discovered that I don't hate the rowing machine nearly as much as I thought I would.  Truth be told, I enjoyed my time on the rower yesterday!  (It may have been due to my current favorite radio hit "Only Girl" by Rihanna coming on twice but still...)  When it comes to weight lifting or other strength building exercises, I limit myself to one use per exercise per week.  No one wants to do bicep curls

3. Little is better than nothing.  If your muscles are sore or you're just feeling tired, do a small workout.  It'll loosen up your muscles, boost your metabolism, give you a little extra energy, and not make you feel like the day was wasted.  Try walking for 20 or 30 minutes.  You'd be surprised the benefits you'll reap from such a simple act!  A small workout is so much better than no workout.

4. "Dear Diary..."  Record your workouts!  A basic principle of behavior modification is to record your actions, good and bad.  Knowing that I need to write it down where I can see it at all times makes me accountable.  You don't need to be super detailed; for example, I'll write something like, "Ellip 30, Arms x 3, 3-2-1 Run 30" on my calendar.  Even if it's a long walk outside with a friend or a home workout video, it counts!  It helps me remember what I've done so I don't repeat it the next day and shows my progress throughout the week/month.  Plus, it acts as a subtle pat on the back when I can see proof of a habit forming.

Here is a workout I've been using recently.  Instead of speed, you could vary incline on a treadmill, resistance or strides per minute on the elliptical, RPM on a bike, etc.  The idea is to have 3 minutes of moderate exertion, 2 minutes of more intense exertion, and 1 minute of heavy work.  Intervals are a great way to keep you on your toes (literally!) and make time pass quickly.  Be warned -- this is a sweat-producing workout but you'll feel so good!

3-2-1 Workout
00:00-02:00.....4.0mph (warm-up)
14:00-16:00.....4.0mph (recovery)
28:00-30:00.....4.0mph (cool-down)

Happy sweating, folks!  Thank goodness today is Thursday.  That means after a killer gym session, I (and you, too) can look forward to a fantastic evening of TV as a reward :)


  1. More like a fantastic evening of Pens hockey, beers, and a three-day weekend.

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