Are You Having Problems Getting a Workout Program to Stick?

Try these great tips to increase your adherence.

I’ve touched on this topic before, but adherence is your ability to stick with something. It can be applied to almost anything, but it is especially useful when creating exercise goals and expectations. One of the biggest pitfalls of exercise adherence is setting goals that are too big, too broad, and too difficult, and giving up when you haven’t accomplished them after the first week. We can have many things in this world within a day or less, but true improvements in health and fitness take time. Try to think about how long it took to get in the position you are in now, and try to be reasonable with your expectations on how long it’s going to take to get back to where you were, or better than you were in the past.

Another cause of non-adherence is something called DOMS. This stands for delayed onset muscle soreness. If you haven’t worked out in a certain way for awhile, you’re going to be sore, but this should only last 1-2 days. (The second day is usually the worst, unfortunately.) If you are sore more than a day or so after your workout, you went too hard too fast. If it’s been ten years since you’ve exercised, please don’t start right back in where you left off. Ease into this process. There is nothing wrong with going too slow. If it’s been more than four months since you’ve worked out, I would start with every other day workouts, perhaps pulling exercise one day, pushing the next. I also recommend only one to two sets of each exercise, 10-15 slow and controlled repetitions, and only one exercise per body part…..just at first. You’ll minimize the coming soreness, and your body will let you know when it is ready to progress to more. Just exercise until you feel worn out and stop. Pushing yourself harder than you should will not give you results faster. It doesn’t do one bit of good to exercise for an hour, and then not be able to move for a week.

Now, on to the tips for increasing your adherence:

  1. Exhaustion: I think one of the biggest excuses I hear for someone not exercising is exhaustion. Believe it or not, that is because you are not exercising. The body is meant to move. It is one of the most basic ways hormone balance is established in our bodies, as well as neurotransmitters and protein synthesis. Exercise, especially cardio, will dramatically increase your energy levels, often before you see any noticeable outward changes.
  2. Build a Habit/Break a Habit: It takes 21 days to create a new habit. When I am trying to create a new habit, I always start at 21 and count down. I know it’s just a brain trick I’m using on myself, but one is the loneliest number. I like the count down version, because you are excited that the number is decreasing, and you think less about what it is that you are doing. It also takes 21 days to break a habit. Think of something in your life that you know you should eliminate or minimize substantially. Do everything in your power to put your workout time in that space. So now, you’re counting down the days, creating an amazing habit, and getting rid of something that’s been stuck to you like glue. Win, Win, Win!!!
  3. Workout Partner: This can be tremendously helpful in the motivation department, especially if your workout time is at a difficult time of the day, like 5 am. If I had to workout at 5 am, I wouldn’t be fit, so mass kudos out to those who jump out of bed with the energy of a gazelle. There is one way having a workout partner can reduce adherence. What if they can’t workout one day, or they get sick, or they decide to give up. That last one is on you. You started this battle together, and this is why you are partners. You drag your partner kicking and screaming to your workout, and you finish achieving your goals together. Don’t let them lose sight of the goal. For the first two reasons, a really great option is for the two of you to sit down when you are starting this process and create a substitute workout for the other person to do, a just in case workout. If you have it made up ahead of time, and even better, if you both sign it like a contract, taking the day off has been negated from the very start.
  4. Denial: There are a lot of toxic emotions that some of us are carrying around. Sometimes, they are so negative they suck all of our energy, good moods, and motivation away, not just in exercise, but in everything we want to accomplish. The first step is realizing that you have an overwhelming repetitive feeling that is keeping you from doing new things or giving life all you’ve got. You need to be able to name them before you can heal them. Also, if you are on a medication for high blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol, or insulin-resistant diabetes, it is far past time for your head to still be buried in the sand. You have a medical problem, and it’s time to accept that exercise is a requirement. It is the one of the things that will truly make the biggest impact on your disease. Get clearance from your doctor to make sure exercise is still safe, but you have to do this. There is no longer any argument for any reason of why you can’t workout.

I’d just like to say a few more things about this. One of my favorite things to do when I’m trying to solve a problem, (and that’s what this is, because we all know exercise is good for us), I sit back and try to think of all the ways I can make it worse. By making this list, I usually come up with the exact series of steps to solve the problem. It’s just a matter of figuring out why there is so much resistance to something that is so good. Exercise can be regressed or progressed as much as necessary to make it possible.

Let me know your thoughts, or connect with me on LinkedIn for more information.

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