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Stick with the Program!
Discover the keys to fitness success
With all the fitness information available to us through magazines, television and newspapers, not to mention all that “great advice” we get from friends and acquaintances, you’d think we’d all be fitness experts by now. And yet, close to 60% of all Americans are obese, and two out of three exercisers give up after 3 short months of effort. The scope of this national problem of “the sedentary lifestyle” is enormous. This epidemic costs The United States, our healthcare systems and each individual citizen, hundreds of millions of dollars each year in increased health insurance rates, doctors fees, time lost from work and more. So, what is the solution? Why don’t more people commit to exercise?
It comes down to this - each one of us needs to make a commitment to ourselves, our families, and to each other, to live the healthiest lifestyles we can. For no matter your wealth, status, good looks or the size of your jeans, your health is your greatest asset.
Commitment to exercise on a daily basis is easier said than done. However, even with our busy lifestyles, our work, our kids, our other commitments - it is achievable!

What is the secret to achieving success in fitness? How do you incorporate fitness into you daily schedule and stick with it?

Fitness experts who study the psychology of exercise adherence agree there are several keys to fitness success. When these key principles are applied to fitness, we can overcome the many obstacles we face, or more directly, overcome the many EXCUSES we create for not exercising.

Fitness success can be achieved by following these simple rules:
1. Set achievable, realistic, internally focused goals.
We all set goals in our daily lives, and we need to do so with exercise as well. To make a difference in exercise adherence, the goals must be achievable and realistic. Most importantly, for the long haul, you must be motivated by the internal desire to be healthy because it feels great, not because your waist line will shrink. Goals such as “I’ll lose 30 pounds in 6 weeks for that wedding” are inappropriate and unachievable, not to mention, “externally focused”. With a goal such as this, you will eventually fail because the goal is unrealistic or even worse, you’ll lose weight too fast, and once the wedding is over, it will all come back because you were not motivated past the date of the wedding. We all know people who lost 30 pounds plus, just to gain it back, feeling worse than when they started. How self-defeating!

Finally, remember to reward yourself once you’ve achieved your goals, and then set new ones.

2. Accept yourself for who you are.
Each of us has a body type, a shape, a genetic gift that is ours. We may have shapely hips, strong muscular legs, or an ample bustline, and this is part of who we are. Accepting yourself for your genetic gifts, while giving yourself continual positive feedback such as “I am strong” and “I have a curvacious figure as all women are meant to have”, will go a long way to making you feel good about yourself. Negative self-talk achieves no purpose. It hurts us and makes us feel weak and failing. Once we feel good about ourselves on the inside and outside, we can overcome any minor setbacks that may arise as we move forward in our fitness.
3. Choose an exercise that you enjoy.
This may seem like a simple idea, but many people actually think they must suffer through exercise in order to be successful. The exact opposite is true if you want to find success. If you choose an exercise that you truly dislike, you’ll dread your exercise session and hence, you won’t do it! So, if you hate running - don’t run!

In order to address all aspects of good health you need to incorporate cardiovascular endurance, strength training, flexibility and nutrition. Even if you dislike one of these aspects of fitness, there are ways to sneak a little in here and there. By incorporating many different types of exercise and including lots of variety in your program, you will also be “Cross Training”, a proven way to beat boredom and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

4.Schedule your exercise time into your daily life just as you would any other appointment.
Our lives are often so hectic that we rarely have extra time to go to the grocery store, let alone exercise. Exercise can be pushed to a low priority when we become too busy.You must learn to manage your time more wisely, making exercise a top priority. If you analyze your current schedule, you will find places where you can insert an exercise session. Instead of your weekly manicure, or lunch with your friends, why not exercise instead? After all, which is more important, your health or your nails? Many people find exercising in the morning to be a good way to help them stick with their exercise programs, but this is only feasible if you have open morning time.
5. Don’t over exercise or under eat.
So many new exercisers make the mistake of thinking, "if a little exercise is good, more must be better." Even worse is this thinking: “if eating less makes me lose weight, eating even less will make me lose weight even faster.” Both of these ideas set you up for failure and possible injury and illness. It is possible to exercise too much, and injury is always the end result. Overexercising or “overtraining” can create “overuse injuries” such as pulled muscles, shin splints, and knee, foot and back problems. Undereating is just as dangerous, resulting in low energy, chronic sickness, slowing of your metabolism and increased risk of injury. Even occasional bouts of self-imposed starvation (DIETS), or bingeing and purging can lead to serious eating disorders.
6. Be Patient.
Changing your physical health takes time. Anyone, or anything that promises “quick, guaranteed results” is not telling the whole truth, and does not have your best interests at heart. They are only out to make money at your expense. Depending on your initial fitness level, creating positive changes in your health can take months, sometimes up to a year. This is not to be pessimistic - this is the truth!  Think of any goal you may have, whether it is saving for a new home, learning a new language, or training for a marathon.  Quick, guaranteed results are unheard of in these examples, why do we expect them in fitness?
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for help! While some people manage to find fitness success on their own, many of us flounder through a lengthy trial-and-error process before we figure out how to achieve our goals. Finding a knowledgeable fitness professional to help can dramatically speed up this process. Make sure that you seek advice from a certified or accredited fitness professional with references, if applicable. Remember that while books, the Internet, or TV, often provide information about health and fitness, not all of it is grounded in science as it should be. Your best bet is to establish a one-to-one relationship with a gym, nutritionist or personal trainer who will provide you with healthy advice.
Remember to always check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

This article provided courtesy of Kathleen Ekdahl.  Kathleen Ekdahl is an AFAA and ACE Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer with over 12 years experience in fitness and a background in Clinical Research and Cardiovascular Medicine. Kathy is a consultant and presenter for the fitness industry and fitness professionals. Got a question? Ask Kathy now

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Last Updated: October 19, 2002