January is here. Planning to jump into a new workout routine?

Get ready to wait in line at the gym.

70% of U.S. residents intend to start exercising more this year. By February, most will be ready to quit.

We all know that exercise is essential for our health and wellness. So why is it so hard to make this habit stick?

With the right plan and mindset, your workout goals do not have to crash and burn.

 Read on for our best tips on how to start working out and how to keep going all year long.

 


 

1. Pick an Activity That Works for You

This sounds very obvious, but start with something you enjoy. If you are dreading your workout every time you lace your shoes up, you may not be on the right path.

There are many choices for working out including cardio, strength training, high intensity interval training, and more.

You can start on your own or join a group class. You can workout in a gym or even in your living room. You can take up outdoor hobbies like hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing.

If you’re still trying to decide what you like, many classes will let you try for free in the beginning.

For those of you who may have concerns about your ability to safely workout, consult your doctor. Then, get started.

 

2. Make a Plan But Start with Tiny Habits

So you’ve found an activity you like. Now it is time to start thinking about what your goals are.

Why do you want to work out?

How much?

How often?

The more specific you can get, the better.

Write your goals down and post them in a place where you can view them daily.

Goals are essential to remind you of what you hope to accomplish but they can also be daunting.

One simple way to start tackling them is to take the teeniest possible baby step. Every step gets you closer to making your workouts a lasting habit. Plus, as you achieve each little baby goal you will get more confident and motivated to continue.

You may have heard this idea of simple progression described as the tiny habits approach.

For others the Japanese principle of Kaizen comes to mind. However you think about it you can use this practice in your workouts.

Let’s say your goal is to run 30 minutes 3 times per week. Set a micro goal of running for 5 minutes once per week. Then work up to twice per week. Then add 1 minute to each workout, and so on.

As you grow stronger both physically and mentally, you will be much better prepared (and more likely to stick to it) by the time you reach 30 minutes.

Besides, even 5 minutes of activity has important health benefits.

 

3. Get Help Being Held Accountable

Despite our best intentions, there are days where we feel very unenthusiastic about what we want to accomplish.

This is normal.

We go wrong when we blame ourselves for not reaching out goals because we lack willpower.

A lot of people who are successful with keeping their workout goals have learned not to rely on willpower.

In fact it is often our surroundings that help determine if we will continue to workout or stay inactive.

Building a supportive environment to hold you accountable to work out even when you don’t feel like it is essential.

You can do this by joining a weekly class or exercise group or finding a workout buddy who you know is all about their fitness (and yours!).

You can even recruit your partner, kids, or roommates to remind you to workout even if they won’t be joining you.

You might also hire a personal trainer to help you stay on track.

Have a system in place that will push you to work out when you don’t feel like. This transforms your workout from an activity to a habit.

 

4. Harness the Power of Temptation Bundling

Perhaps you are some who likes your workout and knows it needs to get done but you still don’t love it.

You will love temptation bundling. This simple approach combines something you really enjoy (think: guilty pleasure) with something you want to get done.

For example, get in the habit of listening to a good audiobook or podcast while you workout.

If you can, stream your favorite show on the treadmill instead of binge watching it on the couch.

Catch up with a friend by inviting them to walk with you or give them a call and chat on the go.

Social activities can be a great way to enjoy quality time with friends and stay active at the same time. Organize group runs or join a sports league. Walk around the field while you enjoy your child’s soccer game.

Get inspired, get creative, and get moving.

How can you do something you love and get your workout in at the same time?

 

5. Track Your Progress Visually

Tracking how you are progressing with your workouts is essential to maintain motivation. Simple tracking adds another layer of motivation beyond viewing your written goals.

Think of a simple symbol you can use to show if you worked out or not.

It can be as basic as a check mark. Then in a planner you check daily or even on a sheet of paper, add a checkmark every time you work out.  

When you look at all those check marks adding up over time, you will feel proud and more motivated to keep going.

It’s a simple hack that inspires you to keep going.

If visual tracking interests you, find more great ideas of how and what to track on Pinterest.

 

6. Treat Yourself with Compassion

Last but not least, remember to treat yourself compassionately.

Sometimes we fall into a trap of working out to punish ourselves for eating too much or for looking a certain way.

Or we feel we need to workout more than we realistically can or should.

This is not the kind of mental space that fosters healthy exercise habits.

When you exercise in the ways you enjoy and in the ways your body is designed to move, you are giving yourself an invaluable gift.

Exercise can boost your mood, help increase your self-confidence, and do wonders for your health.

It is natural to feel guilty if you miss a workout here or there.

The key to being compassionate is to acknowledge that setbacks happen but they do not define you.

Also be realistic.

Some days you will not have the time or energy to work out.

If you miss a day, it doesn’t mean you have failed.

You can always start working out again tomorrow. 

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 Samantha Thoms, MPH, RD Samantha Thoms is a Registered Dietitian. She enjoys sharing practical information about how people can lead healthier lifestyles by making simple changes. Check out more information on her website: https://www.budgetdietitian.com.