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It's S.M.A.R.T. To Stay Motivated

You've hit a plateau after working out regularly for months. Now you're tired of your routine, and your schedule is making it tough to stay on track. We've all been there. How can you rekindle the excitement for exercise?

Step One: Find a New Activity You Like

Pole dancing might be the hottest new trend in fitness, but we're not all comfortable gyrating in front of strangers. To stay motivated, find activities you enjoy and by determining how you prefer to work out: alone or in groups, in classes or on machines, indoors or outdoors…the best exercise to participate in is not whatever the hottest celebrities are doing, but what revs your exercise engine.

Step Two: Make Friends

On a rainy Monday morning, it's quite possible the only thing that will motivate you to wake up and work out is your promise to meet a friend at the gym. In fact, working out with friends is continually proven to be a key motivator … and can help make working out social and more enjoyable. What's more, workout buddies may offer a challenge: Try new partner-based moves, create friendly competitions, and provide honest feedback to each other. Often, when you've hit a wall, your workout buddy is the spark you need to keep you going.

Step Three: Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Many coaches and trainers use this technique to help their athletes and clients stay motivated:

  • Set Specific Goals: It's great if you want to work out more often, but it's even better if you want to add two new aerobics classes to your weekly routine. Setting specific goals makes them easier to recognize and act upon.
  • Set Measurable Goals: Telling yourself you'd like to improve your mile time is much less inspiring than challenging yourself to improve your mile time by 6 seconds in one month. This is a specific goal you can measure regularly and adjust as necessary, which brings us to our next suggestion…
  • Set Adjustable Goals: Sometimes you will reach your goal ahead of schedule and sometimes it will take longer. What's important is that you recognize that you're improving along the way and can adjust your goals as necessary. It's also important to allow wiggle-room in your goals for life's obstacles: holidays and family time, to name a few.
  • Set Realistic Goals: It's helpful to set short-term goals to help inspire you to achieve long-term goals. For instance, if you're a novice runner, it's much more realistic to aspire to complete two full miles on a treadmill before you aim to compete in a 5K marathon, moving up to a 10K … rather than setting an overwhelming goal to run a full 26K marathon.
  • Set Time-Based Goals: In short, create a timeline for your goals. Without a timeframe, it's easy to procrastinate or get bored.

Because you continuously will be accomplishing goals, it's helpful to re-evaluate them every two to three months. And before beginning any new exercise, remember to discuss your plans with your healthcare professional, who will be able to help you determine realistic goals and ways to avoid injuries.

Step Four: Change Your Routine

No matter how much you love your fitness routine, it most likely will become boring at some point. Trying something new every few weeks or months may help keep it interesting and challenging and will allow you to use all of your muscle groups. You'll also notice different results every time you change your routine, which might be just the motivation you need.

Step 5: Reward Yourself

Feeling good about yourself is important, so recognize and reward your own hard work and accomplishments. Have you consistently worked out a month? Maybe you deserve a new outfit for the health club so you can look as great as you feel. Did you improve your cycling distance? Why not purchase a new album for your MP3 player that will help motivate you to cycle even farther? If you completed your first marathon, your body would love a massage to celebrate.

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