Mix and match ideas for keeping in shape long term. (originally published on Medium)
The first three months of the year are the busiest for the fitness industry. Most people have at one time or another made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape. They buy a gym membership and start going five days a week. They tell themselves t’s not going to be like last year or the year before when the workouts reduced from five to three days per week by March and to nothing by June.
I’m 49 years old. I’ve done all kinds of workouts and sports and have had no trouble keeping a consistent workout routine my whole life. My clothes have fit fine the whole time except when I was pregnant. I don’t have to make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. I’ve stayed in shape all my life by using both conventional advice and my own ideas on how to stay motivated. I don’t possess any more mental toughness or self-control than you do. All I do is the following.
Always keep your options open
Last night I went to a birthday party for an eight-year-old at a trampoline park with accommodations for all ages. Instead of just sitting around while the kids played, I bounced up and down while I warmed up and got the nerve to try my front flip that I hadn’t done in years. After I landed a couple, I practiced cartwheels and roundoffs with the little girls and we had a pretend gymnastics meet. You don’t have to be good at anything to jump on a trampoline. Just plain old jumping is good exercise. Make sure you’re warmed up if you are able to try any “tricks”, so you don’t pull anything.
Fit the workout to the situation
As a single mother, I couldn’t just drop my daughter off somewhere while I worked out, so I incorporated her into my workouts. I got one of those heavy-duty strollers with the big bike tires and pushed her while I roller-bladed. Even if roller-blading isn’t your thing or you don’t have a suitable smooth, wide, path for it, you can walk or jog your kid. I did that too. The resistance will multiply the workout benefit. I pushed my kid around until she was in kindergarten, and she was not a small child.
Don’t rely on anyone else.
A lot of exercise advice tells us to get a workout buddy, because that will hold us accountable. We can’t skip our workout because we don’t want to disappoint our friend. If someone else wants to start a workout program too, it can be beneficial to go together when possible, but it’s not realistic to develop a lifetime fitness lifestyle based on whether someone is available. I play tennis with friends and sometimes walk or ride bikes with my sister-in-law sometimes, but if I based my workout routine on whether they could participate I’d be at least 20 lbs heavier.
Make a habit.
My workouts are just something I do. If I didn’t do some type of workout yesterday, I’m definitely going to today, and I don’t skip more than one or two days per week. Most days I do something. I have what I call “filler” workouts that I do on the days that I can’t do the ones I enjoy for their own sake (skating and swimming). Those filler workouts are jogging (which I hate but force myself to do) and home workout videos.
Open your mind to what you might end up liking.
Although it’s definitely possible to develop lifelong fitness without this, finding a sport you can be committed to helps a lot. I did this with figure-skating, for which I never had an actual lesson until I was 28. It’s great because I get to burn calories while doing something I love, and the time goes by quickly because I’m working on difficult skills that I’m trying to advance. Having a goal keeps you coming back. It doesn’t matter if you’re not naturally gifted. I’m definitely not; I just love it.
If you have kids, you might get an idea from what they’re doing. When my daughter was in gymnastics, I got sick of sitting out there and just watching, and since there was an adult class at the same time, I took one. When that one ended, the only one after that was with kids. At that point I was too into it to care, so since they let me I join it, I did. That’s another thing that keeps me in shape; I don’t care what anyone might think.
Don’t get stuck in all-or-nothing thinking.
Sometimes people concentrate too much on how long or hard they’re going to work out. Or they put too much concentration on counting the steps on the Fitbit. Measuring how much you do can be helpful in that it keeps you motivated, but if you’re having a “bad” day, the wrong mind-set can be demoralizing. Think of your workout as just party of a healthy and in-shape life.
Try to do a little something even if you don’t feel good.
If you have a bad cold and feel like your breath is too short, or you’re so tired from a week of insomnia and stress from work, you should still work out. Remember, this is an ongoing thing that is keeping your weight down, your clothes fitting, and your health good for the rest of your life. Go lighter. You don’t have to do a whole hour and get soaked with sweat, or lift as heavy of weights as usual. As long as you did something, you did what was needed to keep in shape long-term.
My goal with this article
I hope these ideas help someone do their body a favor and start to develop a lifetime of adequate exercise. We all deserve the physical and mental benefits that regular exercise provides.