Ever heard of the exercise roller coaster?
No, it’s not the latest ab trimming infomercial gadget. The exercise roller coaster refers to when you start an exercise program and things are going great…until every day life rears it’s ugly head and derails your efforts.
You fall off the ride for a while but eventually regroup and get back into the swing of things. Then another bump in the road bucks you off the ride….again. Sound familiar?
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The problem is that these little setbacks can really suck the wind out of your sails and make you less likely to reach your long-term health and fitness goals.
Consider these ten quick tips to help you get off the exercise roller coaster and back to smooth sailing.
1) Get SMART
Exercise roller coaster riders often set vague goals which sets them up for inevitable failure. Goals without Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-oriented (SMART) criteria leave you directionless and more likely to fall off the exercise wagon. It’s like you’ve got the exercise compass, but there’s no needle to guide you!
Instead of an ambiguous “I want to lose weight,” rephrase this as “I want to lose 10 kg of stored body fat over 20 weeks.” Healthy fat loss is approximately one-half to one kilogram (1-2 lbs) per week, so 20 weeks should be enough time burn it off in a safe and effective manner.
Find additional longer-term motivators to keep you on track. Sign up for a 10 km fun run. Or think about being there for your daughter’s wedding or grandchild’s graduation.
For more information, check out this American Council on Exercise article on setting SMART goals.
2) The E-Factor
Q: What’s the best exercise in the world?
A: The one you ENJOY and will gladly do without any poking or prodding!
Everyone’s so fixated on going to the gym and doing “packaged exercise in a box” these days that they’ve forgotten that innate, ever-so-important natural movement we all loved as kids: PLAY!
Do workouts that don’t feel like a workout. If you love walking and you love the ocean, then take advantage of long morning walks on the beach. Take time to play with the kids. If you enjoy a friendly game of tennis, get out there, have fun, and just forget that it’s also a great form of exercise. Most importantly, pack a smile in your bag before you leave home!
3) Incidentally Speaking…Do Incidental Movement!
You might think you have to go to the gym to get healthy but you may not realise you also get a great workout at home chasing the kids, gardening, mowing the lawn, or even walking to the local shops. Sure, playing with the kids or doing work around the house probably won’t give you massive guns, but there are still a multitude of defined health benefits associated with incidental movement. So next time you’re out pushing that old lawn mower or vacuuming the carpet, just imagine the envy you might inspire in those gym junkies when they see your toned arms and legs!
4) Physical Activity Loves Company Too
Forget misery, physical activity loves company too! Research indicates that social engagement with exercise enhances enjoyment and increases the likelihood of sticking with it. In my research towards my PhD, people with type 2 diabetes experienced very large improvements in their quality of life, not just from exercise, but also from friendly interaction with fellow exercisers.
Get off the exercise roller coaster by getting your friends, family, or co-workers on board and hold each other accountable. Join group exercise classes and make new fitness friends. Talking with them about health and fitness keeps your head in the game and helps maintain momentum. Before long, you’ve got a new habit with a built-in support network in place!
5) (B)log Your Progress
Track and trend your exercise sessions in a private log book. If you’re into displaying your progress in public, then set up a blog site and become an inspiration for others. A log gives you a tangible record of your progress and helps you move forward. For example, try to match what you did the previous session or even do a little more. This is called progressive overload. You need to challenge your body for it to become healthier and stronger. Keeping a log also gives you the opportunity to record your subjective impressions about how GREAT you feel after exercise. Refer to it often, especially when you’re tired. It’s like “bottled” motivation you can take a swig of any time!
6) Physical Meditation
The mental and emotional stresses of life can be difficult to sift through sometimes. Use exercise as a form of physical “meditation” to clear your mind. Go out for a long walk or jump on the stationary bike with pen and paper in hand. Write down and work through all the nagging things in your life that are weighing down on your mind. Exercise is known to reduce stress and improve brain function, all of which can result in mental clarity and help you make better life decisions.
7) Visit the Body Mechanics
When your car’s engine starts making odd sounds, you take immediate notice and usually stop off at the mechanic to find out what’s wrong.
Your body is no different and it’ll often give you a sign if something’s not quite right. There are a lot of “body mechanics” out there, so make use of the specialists. Your body needs high octane fuel, so consider visiting a registered or accredited dietitian for qualified nutrition guidance.
If you have medical problems and want to get into shape, look to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to set you on the right path. There are many professions that specialise in “tuning-up” your body to keep it in top form. Your health is far more important than your car, so service it regularly and it will give you years of satisfaction!
8) Yes, Pain? No Gain
Forget the old adage ‘no pain no gain.’ Despite the popularity of this antiquated gym rat battle cry, it is actually a free ticket to ride the exercise roller coaster.
Nothing like excruciatingly sore muscles to prompt you to fall off the exercise amusement ride! Exercise is not always about pushing your body to its breaking point. While a demanding workout is clearly a good thing, even comparably gentler exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of injury and disease. People fall off their fitness regimens is that they try to do too much, too hard, too soon, all of which can result in feelings of self-defeat.
Exercise is good for you, but like most things: use in moderation. Check out my quick article on overtraining.
9) Swap It, Don’t Stop It
Sometime life just gets in the way of staying healthy. The kids have football practice the same night as your salsa dancing class. Now what? Don’t stop it. Swap it! Focus on solutions instead of giving up altogether.
It might mean trying a different salsa class on a different night or even swapping for a different type of dance class at a different time but remember your health and enjoyment are important, too. Set boundaries and respect them. Place priority on the things that bring you enjoyment, even if it means shifting around your schedule.
Trying new activities is also a great way to meet other healthy, active, like-minded people….and birds of a feather flock together!
10) Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Maybe you’ve experienced some success with your exercise regimen. But did you forget to celebrate your victory? Exercise roller coaster riders are notorious for beating themselves up when things don’t work out, but seldom acknowledge their successes. Go ahead! Reward yourself!
Set goals around your exercise and activities and stick to them (see above discussion on SMART goals). Join a local sports team or walking group and reward yourself at regular intervals. Putting in that effort deserves some recognition. Treat yourself to a well-earned massage or perhaps a romantic dinner for two with someone special when you reach your goals!
Life is full of ups and downs but with a bit of planning, you can keep your physical activity levels on track and live life to its fullest. Some people inevitably find themselves stuck on a never-ending exercise roller coaster and it can be a lot of hard work to get back on track. So take your time and plan for a healthy future. After all, proper planning and preparation prevent piss poor performance every time.