No more excuses! It’s time for you to determine how to start working out again so you can start stripping away your winter layers with confidence. Exercise tops the list of New Year’s resolution for almost everyone but bitter cold temps and short days make it pretty difficult to follow through on that goal in the dead of winter and before you know it, months have gone by. Once you’ve gotten out of the exercise habit (or if you never made it a habit in the first place), restarting your engine can be awfully daunting.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is attempting to instantly go from couch potato to tri-athlete. You’re much more likely to injure yourself if you jump into a vigorous workout after an extended break. If you were in great shape before it may be easier to get back into the swing but it’s important to remember that you’ve lost muscle and flexibility that won’t come back overnight. Start slow and focus on stretching and low-impact cardio. Rather than going on a 10 mile run for the first day of your new plan, start small and build up. Take the stairs whenever possible, go for a walk after work and find ways of making everyday tasks, like vacuuming and sweeping, into mini workouts.
It’s always a challenge to squeeze regular workouts into your busy schedule, but it’s not as hard as you think. Fitness guru Jillian Michaels tells Cosmo: “Women think when it comes to fitness, more is more, longer is better. There’s a misconception these days about intensity. First of all, longer is not actually better. If you’re going for a very long period of time at a very high level of intensity, you’re actually compromising form, you’re releasing more stress hormones and you’re promoting injury. Thirty to forty five minutes at a high level of intensity, let’s say 85% of your maximum heart rate, is ideal.” We can all find 30 minutes three or four days a week to get fit.
If you’re having a hard time motivating yourself to get up and go there are several ways you can entice yourself into exercising. Give yourself a little treat—maybe new workout clothes and accessories or a mini blender for making healthy pre-and post-workout smoothies. We all know everything’s more fun with a friend—studies have shown that people who workout with friends, especially fitter friends, workout longer, harder and they enjoy it more than going solo. It’s easy to incorporate a little extra physical activity into your day, you can find a work buddy to take walks with at lunch during the week and sign up for a Saturday morning yoga class with one of your girlfriends.
When thinking about how to start working out, it may help to avoid calling it a workout. You’re much more likely to stick to a regular exercise routine if it doesn’t feel like a chore. Exercise doesn’t automatically mean a trip to the gym or a hardcore spinning class, it’s anything that gets your heart pumping, tones your muscles and makes you break a sweat. According to recent research, people tend to enjoy outdoor, social physical activities. If you aren’t sure where to begin, see if there’s a November Project in your area. It’s a kind of fitness flash mob, it’s totally free and all you need to do find out where they’re meeting and show up. The Fitmob app is another great tool for finding fun classes in your area where you can connect with other members of the mob to cheer each other on.
We all resort to bribery with our kids from time to time so why not indulge in a little self-bribery? You don’t want to spend a fortune on special clothes and equipment that may wind up in the back of a closet in a few months but treating yourself to a cute new workout ensemble may be just the nudge you need to get out and put it to good use.