Let's face it, the trouble with fitness routines is they are the antithesis of instant gratification. When we're exercising, we're often uncomfortable, hot and sweaty. Then it may take weeks to feel or see any positive results. So what do we do after our second or third visit to the gym? We jump off the fitness bandwagon and vow to try again next year.
But not this year. This year, if your New Year's resolution is to exercise more, you will have these tips to keep you focused on the long-term gains. Or losses, if we're referring to weight.
Sign up for your first 5K. There are lots of local running groups and great causes you can support by signing up for a local race. (To those of us not using the metric system, a 5K is about 3.1 miles.) If it's uber cold and icy where you live, set your training goals for the first race of spring, and do your winter training on a treadmill or in the local mall or gym.
Shake your booty. Zumba classes are a growing trend and a fun, energetic way to work up a sweat. Bring a buddy and shake it together. If you have someone to go with, you are more likely to keep going and be kept accountable.
Spin your wheels. Bicycling is a great alternative to driving, not to mention a fun way to burn calories. If this sounds like something you'd like to do, set a specific mileage goal for the week. Once you meet that mileage for the week, try to up it the following week. Make it a game and compete with yourself! Too cold to stay on the road or trail? Try a stationary bike or set up your outdoor bike on an indoor trainer and keep pedaling.
Jump around. Next time you're watching TV and another commercial break begins, don't just sit there. Challenge your spouse, friend or roommate to see how many jumping jacks you can do before the program resumes. Then see if you can beat your number during the next commercial break, or mix it up with other 3-minute exercise options.
Push yourself. Build upper-body strength at your kitchen counter. Yes, you can do this by hand-mashing a few pounds of potatoes, taking turns with each arm so your muscle tone will be even. Perhaps a better idea is counter push-ups. What's a counter push-up? Basically, it's the same as a floor push-up except your hands are on the edge of the counter. Lower your chest to the counter, keeping your legs and back straight and elbows close to your body, then push yourself back up.
Take an extra flight. It may seem obvious but taking the stairs instead of the elevator (or walking up the escalator) is an easy way to get more active during the day.
Walk your dog. If you have a dog, you have an exercise machine with hair. Take Fido around the neighborhood for 30 minutes five times a week. You both will be in better shape. No dog? Ask your neighbor if you can borrow her dog, or volunteer to be a dog walker at your local animal shelter. Tails will wag.
Switch it up. Adding variety to your exercise routine — fitness trainers call this "cross-training" — is the best way to balance your fitness and prevent overuse injuries. This will also help prevent you from getting bored doing the same thing over and over again. Try a combination of weight lifting, walking, running, swimming, boxing, yoga or dancing.
Just get started? Here's a link to more of our helpful tips to beginning to move in the right direction for 2012. Good luck!