Tasty Mind Morsels

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Making Goals That You Can Stick To (And You Can): Working Out September 6, 2013

Photo by Markus Goerg Photography

Hiking is one of my favorite “extra-curricular” work outs!
This is me hiking through the hoodoos of Utah.

In a previous post detailing my weight loss journey, I described how my lifestyle habits (along with some unfortunate circumstances) led to weight gain. At 26 I weighed 180 pounds and was informed by my doctor that I was pre-diabetic. After years of being in denial about my weight, this was the much-needed wake up call to change. The process was gradual – snail-paced, even – but through it I learned about and established solid and realistic lifestyle habits. I even went back to school to learn about nutrition and health, and become a health coach.

But life will inevitably stand in the way of a schedule on occasion, especially as you grow into your 30’s. Where once I could work out 5-6 days a week for up to 2 hours per day, career, school, and family have gradually chipped away at that excess of time.

At 33, my life looks quite different from what it did when I was 27. I have a full-time job, a part-time practice, I go to school, I am a newlywed, and I have family obligations. What little time I have left is spread thin between cooking, cleaning, a social life, networking, and working out. Sadly, cleaning and working out have been first on the cut list either because of lack of energy, or being just plain overwhelmed.

Enter StickK.com. StickK.com is one of many goal-setting programs that are designed to help you establish goals, create a community of support around your efforts, and achieve goals within a designated period of time. Additionally, this particular program introduces the option of actual stakes – not the “if I don’t achieve this goal I’ll be the one who loses philosophically in the end” kind of stakes; we’re talking monetary stakes akin to placing a bet in Vegas. Only your bet is placed on your ability to follow-through, not on red.

I will use my goal as an example: I am determined to work out at least three times per week, no excuses. “Working out” as defined by me is an actual visit to my gym or a strenuous hike or challenging yoga class, not a walk around the block. The work out must be  30-45 minutes long, so as to not take up my free time to do other tasks. Consequently, my work outs must be efficient and yield excellent results.

This past Tuesday marked the beginning of my 3-month challenge and this blog will help me stay accountable. To do this successfully, I have created and am following a few workout guidelines that I’d like to share with you! Are you ready?

5 TIPS FOR AN EFFICIENT AND CONSISTENT WORK OUT ON A TIME BUDGET

Tip #1: Schedule your work out sessions in advance, at times you know you will want to work out.

Scheduling your work out routine in and of itself is the first big part of this tip. If you have a busy schedule and can’t seem to find a solid place within it to work out, more likely than not you will find yourself going weeks – even months – without seeing a gym or hitting the pavement. Life gets in the way. Exciting things come up. Intentionally setting aside time for yourself and your fitness goals will serve as a reminder that that is an important task, no less important than a business meeting. Look ahead a few weeks on your calendar. Where are your free spaces? Start to populate the empty with the exercise. Then, as time goes on, you can avoid scheduling things in those time slots because they will already be taken.

That being said, timing is also important when scheduling a work out. This is better explained by example. For a blip in time, I tried to take advantage of my free mornings to work out. I would schedule time at the gym at 6:30 a.m., thinking that if I put it into my calendar I would jump right into the habit change. Not so much. I know myself well enough to know that I physically do not function (read: I am not coordinated) beyond lifting a coffee cup to my mouth before 9 a.m. Trying to work out outside of my comfort zone opened a space for me to be critical of myself when I wouldn’t perform as well as I knew I could.

Some fitness experts say that your body can adjust, but mine just didn’t. Ask yourself, “what time of the day am I best suited to working out?” Some people love the mornings. More power to them! The morning is a quiet and lovely time to work out and settle into your own thoughts, relatively undistracted. You can opt to get a work out in during your lunch hour (consider Pilates/Yoga for less sweat and less gear to pack). You can merge time with friends with a hike or a game of volleyball at the beach. You can work out at your desk (this works well for people who work at home). Or, if you’re like me, you can pack a gym back in the morning and stop off at the gym a few times a week for a quick, effective workout before heading home to cook dinner.

Tip #2: Pack a gym bag before you go to bed, or in the morning before you leave for work.

Committing to your work out will be much easier – trust me – if you do this one easy preparatory step. Physically speaking preparation – or anticipation – leads to an action. The simple action of packing a bag prepares you for the activity of working out. Think of packing your bag as you pulling your foot back to kick a ball. Mentally, you are signaling to yourself that today, you will eventually be kicking that ball, or kickboxing.

Tip #3: Create a routine that is flexible enough for periodic change.

In other words, avoid ruts (and inevitable waning of your work out) by creating a routine that is flexible enough to be switched up now and again. If you follow Tip #1, you will create a sacred space for you to focus on your work out, and that sacred space can remain your constant. What lies within that sacred space – as long as you keep it – can change depending on your mood, the season, or the weather. Find a basic routine that works for you – I recommend 15-20 minutes of plyometrics and 15-20 minutes of short burst cardio followed by flexibility exercises – and have that serve as your staple. You can change things up within that type of routine in any number of ways. Allow for the occasional group class or hike, though, within that sacred time space. It will allow a break in the monotony of going to the same gym at the same times, every week.

I once had a friend who never had a gym membership, he just kept purchasing Groupon deals to different gyms/fitness programs, and within 6 months he looked amazing. The body enjoys being challenged through a switch up in routine on a regular basis, and will show its appreciation through weight loss and tone.

Tip #4: Reschedule – don’t just skip – your work out if you have to cancel.

This goes back to the idea of sacred space. You wouldn’t cancel a date with another person and not reschedule (well, unless that person is creepy), would you? Think of this sacred work out time as your BEST FRIEND. There is no cancelling without a rain check with a best friend. You always want to make up that lost time with a friend…so make up the lost time with your work out routine. We’re not being unrealistic here. YES, life is going to throw curve balls. Emergencies will pop up. That’s okay. But make up your work out on another day, don’t just skip it altogether. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your best friend.

Tip #5: Find an accountability partner if you need one.

I want to stress this point: there is nothing wrong with asking for support. The truth is, life is a never-ending carousel of change. What once worked for you may stop working as soon as you get a promotion or new account or as soon as you get married or have children. The tiniest change in life – something as small as a broken toe or strep throat – can sabotage your sacred work out time. It’s okay to reevaluate your routine. Does it need to move to a different time slot? A different day? A different location? And it’s okay to feel like life is too complicated to work things out on your own.

Find an accountability partner. This person can be your domestic partner, your best friend, or a person (or group!) at work. Your accountability partner ideally should be someone who cares about wellness like you do. Going back to StickK.com, I outsourced TWO accountability partners – my husband, and a very good friend who lives in St. Louis who loves fitness as much as I do – to help me get back into the groove of my work out routine. They will keep track of my progress – that I am responsible for updating – and serve as cheerleaders as I take steps to achieve my goal.

You can follow my progress on StickK.com at:

http://www.stickk.com/members/commitment.php/cid/301270

And now it’s you’re turn to weigh in; what roadblocks are you facing when it comes to keeping a consistent work out schedule?

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