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Exercise and Motivation

The key to reaping the rewards from any exercise program is maintaining the activity in the long term – it needs to become habitual. If you’ve managed to take the first step to “start” an exercise program, the next question becomes how do you “maintain” the flow into the future? The answer is multi-factorial and the goal of the following is to provide you with some direction in this regards. Remember, before starting any lifestyle modification program (e.g. Diet and/or exercise) be sure to consult your doctor particularly if you are over 40 years of age, are overweight, haven’t exercised for a long time, or have any chronic medical condition.


To maintain your motivation do it right from the onset:
  • Pick activities you enjoy. You won’t stick at something you don’t enjoy. Pick activities that fit in with your lifestyle (e.g. Choose activities you can do close to home or work that don’t require you to regularly travel significant distances to participate as eventually factors such as this will impact on your enthusiasm).
  • Set some goals. These should be realistic, achievable (but challenging), measurable and time related. Reward yourself once you’ve met your objective before refocussing your goals and progressing forward (e.g. A realistic goal may be to drop 6 kilograms in 8 weeks so that you can buy a new pair of jeans you really like before ramping up your exercise program in preparation for a 5km fun run in another 8 weeks time – Realistic, achievable but challenging, time dependent and ongoing).
  • Don’t be despondent if weight loss isn’t reflected on the scales. Too many people become too “weight” focussed. Muscle actually weighs more than fat so you may actually “gain” weight when you start an exercise program. Be more focussed on changes in “body composition” (e.g. Loosing centimetres around the waist).
  • Aim for slow progressive change. Rather than trying to completely overhaul your lifestyle in six weeks, pick 2-3 major issues (e.g. Decreasing the number of cigarettes smoked in a day from 20-10, walking 20 minutes 3-4 times per week and aiming to eat 2 pieces of fruit and 4 serves of vegetables per day), make these habitual – this will take 2-3 months. Once you’ve achieved these objectives set some more lifestyle goals and build on the habits you’ve already established. Trying to completely overhaul your lifestyle in one instance is a recipe for disaster. Small changes, sustained over time result in significant long-term benefits.
  • Schedule time for your exercise. Make an “appointment” with yourself, slot it into your diary and make it a priority. Once you make this commitment you’re more likely to adhere to it.
  • Exercise with a friend or join a club. The social benefits of exercise should not be under-estimated. If you’re expected to be at a certain place at a certain time there is less chance of you “putting it off” or not going at all. An exercise group becomes a great motivator and social outlet.
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency. Consistency over time is crucial to your long term health benefits from exercise. Missing a day or two here and there isn’t a problem, the key is the overall picture that exercise is generally a “regular” part of your life.
  • Regularly remind yourself “why” you’re exercising (e.g. Weight-loss, improving energy levels, sleeping better, decreasing lower back pain, etc.). There will be times when your enthusiasm diminishes maintaining a focus on what got you moving to start with, where you’ve come from to where you’ve progressed acts as an excellent motivator to get you over the tougher periods.
  • Be flexible. If circumstances arise that disrupt your usual exercise habits be adaptable (e.g. If travelling and you don’t know the area to go for a morning run from choose a hotel with a gym so that you can walk on a treadmill or ride an exercise bike there).
  • Monitor your progress. How much looser do your jeans feel? What time did it take you to jog your 3km loop from home when you started, how much quicker are you going it now?
  • Keep an exercise log so that you can refer back to the log and chart your progress.
  • Variety is crucial. Mix your exercise bouts up from time to time to maintain your interest and enthusiasm. Doing the same thing week in week out becomes boring.
  • Don’t try to exercise intensely through an illness or injury. A gentle walk for 15 minutes around the neighbourhood would be a better option than trying to go out on your scheduled 1 hour run. Be flexible in such circumstances. Remember you can’t train a tired, sick or injured body – recovery is crucial.
  • Get as much “incidental” activity into your daily routine as possible – walk up the stairs rather than taking the elevator, park a little further away from the shops and walk to them, ride your bike to work and home.
  • Combining exercise with improved dietary habits will speed your rate of improvement towards your health and fitness objectives considerably.
  • Have exercise down-times. Even elite athletes back off their training from time to time. You should do the same. If you’ve been doing a highly structured exercise regimen for a couple of months, take a couple of weeks to ease back, but keep doing something (e.g. Trade 4 jogs a week and 3 weight training sessions for 2 swims, a walk and a weekly game of tennis)!
  • Exercise doesn’t have to hurt to be good for you. This needs to be a lifetime commitment. The human body is a very adaptive mechanism. Exercise it and it will adapt to the demands of physical activity by becoming stronger and more resilient. Lead a sedentary lifestyle and the body will adapt to this as well by showing signs of degenerative diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and the like.
 Guy Leech7 Time Winner Uncle Toby’s Iron Man Championship, Winner World Iron Man & Australian Marathon Swimming Race & Founder of Guy Leech Health 
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