We all know that a good workout helps you run on all cylinders. Not only is it great for the mind, body and soul, but also it will help you live longer, gain focus and a ton of other benefits. But how do you go from being a sporadic exerciser to someone with a lifelong fitness habit that feels as natural as going to work and eating regular meals?

Here are a few tips from someone who has been on both sides.

Why are you doing this?

Are you trying to fit in a wedding dress? Looking to shed pounds to fit into an old pair of jeans? Or are you looking to increase your energy, sleep better, or a heightened sense of well-being?  A long-term focus is key to help create a fitness habit. If you’re doing this for anyone else (for example, your spouse says you need to lose weight) you need a new reason – and your spouse may need to sleep on the couch for a few days.

Set goals you can achieve.

Set both short and long term goals. Make sure your goals are achievable enough that they are not discouraging, but high enough to challenge yourself. A short-term goal can be a 30-45 day strategy, and a long-term goal can be over the course of a year.

 

Let your own two eyes motivate you.

If you’re anything like me, visual evidence is a big motivator. Take before pictures of yourself in your workout gear. Continue to take photos monthly so you have visual evidence of your results.

Log it.

Keep a journal to help you along the way. Write down how your routine is making you feel each day. How your exercise is helping you sleep, meet your weight loss goals, gain strength and so on. Do some exercises have more effects than others? Chart your progress and use your journal as a guide for your short and long-term goals.

Do it the right way.

Make sure to use proper technique. This is important to help avoid injury and unnecessary strain on your body. We always recommend discussing any concerns with your doctor. If you are not sure on how to properly perform a technique, talk to a licensed personal trainer.

Join an online community.

We recommend the In-Shape Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/inshape). It’s a great community of members who share motivational content, tips and tools to succeed. The In-Shape blog is another great resource that includes how-to videos on great workouts!

Hire a trainer.

If you’re feeling lost (and who doesn’t when they are getting started?) or find yourself in a rut, a personal trainer is chock full of knowledge and will teach you new techniques and help motivate you as well.

Take a class or two.

Or even three! There are classes available at most In-Shape clubs throughout the day, and offer a variety of great workouts! Whether you want to groove in a ZUMBA class, or hit the road in a group cycling class and all things in between – you get the benefit of a structured program and the camaraderie from being part of a group that will encourage and motivate you to push yourself further.

Mix it up.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like hitting the treadmill, or need a day away from your group class. On those days, mix it up! Many In-Shape clubs offer a variety of amenities like heated indoor pools, tennis, racquetball courts and more!

Make it about you.

Think of exercise as a gift you give yourself. A way to stay balanced and focused, and time for yourself to get away from your busy schedule to focus on you.

- Mike D.