The keys to getting fit, staying fit, or improving your fitness, always remain the same: hard work, consistency, and diet. Unfortunately, the discipline and dedication necessary to reach your fitness goals are difficult to maintain. It is natural to get bored with your routine, frustrated with your progress, and tired of your diet. Even the most dedicated fitness fanatics at some point, struggle in one of these areas. I am going to share with you some ideas to try when you are finding yourself struggling with your fitness.
1. Find your motivation
I cannot stress how important motivation is to your fitness journey, and it does not have to be related to your workouts or diet. For me, I am getting into my late 30’s and still love to play basketball. Unfortunately, many people in my age range have given up the game, which means that I am often one of the oldest guys on the court. I want to play well, and I need to be in the best condition possible to keep up with the 25-year-olds on the court. I have always hated to run, but it has become a necessity for me in order to continue playing basketball. When I am on the treadmill, I am thinking about how the running is going to help me compete on the basketball court. I am motivated to be viewed as a good basketball player and not “the old guy,” and I know I need to run to be seen that way.
For you, your motivation could be something much more profound like living a healthier life to be around for your children or something cosmetic like fitting into a favorite pair of jeans or feeling comfortable at the beach or the pool. Motivation is truly a personal thing, and you don’t have to share what motivates you with anyone or apologize to anyone for your motivation. Find your motivation; it will be what drives you though the toughest moments of your workouts as well as general struggles with your fitness journey.
2. Set goals
Keep your workouts interesting by setting achievable goals to strive for. Maybe you have a one-rep bench press max of 220 lbs and set a goal to increase that one rep max to 250 pounds in the next two months. Not a weight lifter? How about setting a goal to become a 7:30 minute a mile runner from an 8 minute a mile runner in the next couple of months? Maybe you take a workout class and find that you need to take two breaks per class, how about setting a goal to cut that to a single break? The important thing about setting a goal is to make it purely an individual goal. Never set a goal to lift more weight than Erica on the bench or run faster than David on the treadmill. You cannot control how Erica or David performs; you can only seek to improve your own performance.
When you achieve a goal, it is important to celebrate it. How you celebrate it is up to you, but it’s essential to acknowledge your own hard work. Whether you treat yourself to a special dinner or make a bit of a splurge purchase, do something to reward yourself. The process of acknowledging your achievement allows you to reset your mind and will enable you to focus on a new goal to strive for.
3. Change it up!
Variety, variety, variety! Variety in fitness is so important to not only prevent boredom but also to prevent injury. I mentioned in my first tip that I hate to run, but need to do it in order to continue to play basketball at a high level. Well, there are days that I just cannot bear to get on the treadmill even though I had planned on it. Sometimes, it is the right answer to call on your motivation and force yourself through a workout or exercise that you have no desire to do. It is a slippery slope; however, as doing this too much will lead to burnout, and you’ll find yourself skipping workouts more often. The answer is to mix in some alternatives to exercises or workout you do not enjoy in order to keep going to the gym (or your basement or wherever you workout) enjoyable and not something you dread. If you do not enjoy lifting weights, try replacing a weight lifting day with a bodyweight exercise day featuring push-ups, free lunges, and pull-ups or assisted pull-ups as necessary. Need to do some cardio, but do not feel like running? Try riding the stationary bike or get on the stair climber or hit the pool for a swim for a totally different cardio experience.
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Besides staving off boredom and the potential for burnout, changing up your fitness routine is vital for injury prevention. Studies have shown that repetitive exercise can make you more prone to injury. The theory is that you use the same muscles over and over while unintentionally neglecting others, causing imbalances in your body. When your body is imbalanced, it can cause stress on your joints and leave you more susceptible to sprains, breaks, and even tears. While an injury is a risk for everyone, we all want to stay healthy and doing a wide variety of exercises increases our chances of staying injury-free. Make sure to hit all your muscle groups with your strength exercises at least once a week and do a wide variety of cardio to ensure that your ankles, calves, knees, hamstrings, and butt are all strong and working as they should.
4. Develop a quick program for when “life happens”
Maybe you have kids, and they have activities that you cannot miss or maybe you travel for work and cannot hit your gym that day (or that week), While the reasons will vary, we will all experience days (or weeks) where circumstances dictate that we lack either the time or the resources (or both) to complete our routine workouts. A friend of mine that played division one basketball shared a workout with me that combines both cardio and strength training and can be done in your basement or hotel room without any equipment and can be finished in 20 minutes.
Here it is:
- 30 sit-ups
- 20 push-ups
- 80 jumping jacks
- 60-second wall sit
- 20 bodyweight squats
- 20 bodyweight lunges
Repeat this cycle of exercise 3 times, and by that last sixty second wall sit your legs are sure to be shaking! You can adjust this program for your current level of fitness (ex start with 10 push-ups and a 30-second wall sit) or come up with your own plan that works for you. The point is developing a program like this allows you to stay on your fitness journey and move closer to your attaining your goals on the days where you ordinarily would not be making progress.