Believing in benefits keeps program on track

After recently finishing my first workout after celebrating another birthday, I reflected on how my goals have changed in the past 38 years that I have been working out. I once heard it said “relationships never end; they just change.” I like to apply this quote also to workouts. They should never end, but our priorities change as life goes on. My priorities have definitely changed since I picked up my first barbell as a skinny 14 year old. Four years later I competed in the Teenage Mr. America contest in Detroit and later won the state (North Carolina) bodybuilding title. Now fast forward to 2012, I just workout to better handle the stresses of daily life, maintain my health, and simply feel better.

In my 20s my focus was more on what I looked like, whereas now it’s more related to health and wellness. I’m certainly motivated to workout and look better, but my focus and priorities have definitely changed. I am concerned more now about what is happening inside my arteries, not just on looking good on the outside.

One of the top questions I have received recently from Albany Herald readers is about how to stay the course after getting started on a weight loss or fitness program. What is it that allows some of us to stick with our exercise programs and others to stumble shortly after beginning? The New Year always brings a fresh focus and allows us to start from a clean slate. Your intention was sincere. You decided to get in shape and nothing was going to stop you this time. Those were your thoughts at the beginning of the year. Now the holidays are behind you and school or work has you snowed under. Now the fitness enthusiast that you were has suddenly disappeared, due mainly to a new set of priorities and time restraints. It’s not always easy to find time to fit exercise into your busy schedule, and unless you arrange your schedule for time to workout, it won’t happen. So, how do we manage to exercise regularly when despite the best intentions we can’t find the time?

One important difference is often our attitude toward fitness. We have to believe in the value of exercise before we can become fully committed to it. A few of the many benefits of exercise include reduction of body fat, control of blood pressure, lowered blood sugar, increased muscle and joint strength, flexibility, increased bone density and cardiovascular endurance. Even if you don’t lose weight you will be healthier than someone who is inactive even if they are not overweight. Don’t think of exercise as a waste of time or as time away from work. It can make you a more effective worker. Exercise will clear your mind and allow you to think more creatively and release tension and stress you obtain through the day, improving your health and attitude as well. You will have improved concentration, which can translate into better communication, better decision making and working smarter. Scientific fact supports the health benefits of physical activity, so, THINK FIT! If past failures keep you from developing a healthy attitude toward sticking to an exercise program just remember, each day you’re getting older and wiser.

Use past failures to learn what you need to do to make your new program more realistic and more rewarding for you. Find something about exercise you enjoy, workout with a friend or just use the time you exercise to enjoy time alone. More importantly, reward yourself for achievements you make, giving yourself something to look forward to after your workout.

Although changing a habit is never easy, the following tips can help you succeed in staying committed to an exercise program:

  1. Include activities you enjoy.

  2. Set realistic goals.

  3. Anticipate things that will interrupt your program.

  4. Decide beforehand how you will cope with those interruptions.

Despite the best of scheduling, some days things will happen to conflict with your exercise plans. Don’t get discouraged when this happens and scrap your whole program. Remember, exercise is not an all or nothing proposition. Give yourself permission to take a day off without guilt as long as you maintain your long term commitment to your health and well being.

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine and has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years.