Start the year off right with a commitment to fitness every day.
Do you find yourself constantly saying, “I really need to get in shape” or “This is the year I’m going to do it.” Or are you constantly dreaming about getting fit for a race — whether it’s your first or your fastest? Do you just want to lose 5 or 10 pounds and look better naked?
No matter your age, ability or background, you have the opportunity to get into the shape of your life in 2014. It’s much easier said than done — it’s one thing to be motivated in January and another thing entirely to make it happen throughout the year. Consistency is the key to building great fitness, but often that’s the piece that’s hardest to implement. When life gets in the way, it’s easy to miss or skip workouts for a day or even a couple days, and that can lead to a relentlessly counterproductive conundrum.
The solution? Start by committing to a 30-day fitness challenge. Aim to move in a meaningful, purpose-driven manner every day for a month. If you start with a simple but consistent program for a full month, you’ll be able to create a baseline of fitness to build on through the rest of the year. Once it becomes a habit — and that includes making time for it even when you don’t think you can — it will become part of your lifestyle. No matter if you’re completely out of shape or already have pretty good fitness, it will go a long way in helping you reach your goals. Consider it your own personal training camp for what could be your fittest year ever.
Guidelines to help you get (and stay) on track in 2014:
1) Just do it — something, anything — every single day. Commit to a minimum of 30 minutes a day for 30 days, but allow yourself to go longer if time, ability and fitness levels allow. Keeping it up for 30 straight days can be a challenge, but that’s the point. Fitness doesn’t — and shouldn’t —come easy. Hard work over time is how you get results.
2) Have a plan. Set goals for yourself and establish a consistent workout routine every week. Schedule specific days for running, strength training, cross-training and recovery. You know when you’ll be busy, so plan ahead and make room for at least a short bout of fitness every day.
3) Find a training buddy. Seek out a training partner to tackle your 30-day challenge along with you. Plan workout “dates” or “meet-ups” and don’t allow yourselves to leave each other hanging!
4) Be accountable. Tell others about your goals, whether that means publicizing your 30-day challenge to your preferred social media channel or confiding in your best friend or significant other. Want to keep it personal? Write your goals down and put them in a place where you will see them every day, just as long as you can be accountable to yourself.
5) Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t start off by doing 2-hour runs for the marathon you’re planning to run in July or intense brick workouts for the Ironman you’re doing in August. Mix in a variety of activities, but keep it light and nimble. Hammer yourself in a workout if you’d like, but not to the point it makes you too sore or fatigued and derails your 30-day quest.
6) Be realistic. Don’t head out on every run focused only on your Boston-qualifying time. Don’t do sit-ups with the goal of looking like the model on the cover of a glossy fitness magazine. Don’t expect an overnight metamorphosis. Just focus on putting in meaningful efforts every day.
7) Be flexible. Don’t make this a rigorous I-have-to-do-it-this-way kind of thing. Plan out what you’re going to do in advance, but be flexible and be ready to adapt. If your day changes and you find yourself having to go for a run at 9 p.m., embrace it for what it is and enjoy it. A rainstorm makes your early morning run impossible? Run during your lunch break, swim after work or do 30 minutes of core strength work before you go to bed.
8) Keep it simple. Not sure you can get through 30 days? Need a rest day? Simply walk for 30 minutes to get your body moving. Remember, the goal is 30 days of meaningful movement. A brisk, refreshing walk is better than sitting on the couch!
9) Enjoy it. Exercise — running, cross-training or whatever you do — should be fun. If it’s not, stop doing it. You should be relishing the fact that you’re pushing yourself physically, mentally and emotionally every single day. Ending your day exhausted and waking up with a renewed spirit will help create self-perpetuating momentum.
10) Keep going. After 30 days, you’re bound to improve your fitness. Even if you started off pretty fit, you’ll see and feel noticeable changes in your body and conditioning level. Don’t stop there; set new goals and personal challenges for the next 30 days, develop long-term goals and start plotting your course to your next level of fitness.