Most people greet the start of the New Year with a vow to get in shape ... Every. Year. And every year the gym is crowded with "resolutionaries" who show up, sweat all over everything for a few weeks, and then are never seen again.
The best way to avoid that is to figure out what usually stands in your way. What is the obstacle getting in the way of your success? And then -- here's the hard part -- figure out a plan to work around it. One (or more) of these tips ought to help you get started.
You haven't stopped reading, have you? You can do this! Here's to a healthier you in 2012.
1) Get over your fear of being the fattest person at the gym: Chances are excellent that you won't be, and even if you are, so what? Most people are too focused on their workout to care, and everybody who isn't a tremendous jerk will be impressed with you for doing something to get healthier. And if you do feel singled out because of your weight by someone who works for the gym, find a different place and tell the management exactly why you're leaving.
2) Carve out the time: This is probably the single biggest hurdle for most people trying to get into an exercise routine, especially busy moms. When you're dealing with work, your kid's schedule, your spouse's schedule, and the need for crazy indulgences like sleep and regular meals, those few hours a week to work out are often the first thing to go. You can get up super early to work out, go late, find a gym with childcare, or one that has classes or activities for your kids so you can work out while they play basketball or swim. And there's no shame in sandwiches for dinner if it means you have time to get a workout in.
3) Trade some cardio time for weights: While cardio is important to build a strong heart and overall endurance, it's actually weight training that will help you tone up, lose weight, and be a generally fitter person. Adding muscle mass means your body burns more calories even at rest, and a more toned body looks and works better even if you don't actually lose an ounce.
4) Consider a session or two with a personal trainer: Many gyms are running specials right now that can make training sessions surprisingly affordable, and sometimes you and a few friends can share a package. Trainers can show you how to perform exercises safely if you are a newbie and show you how to shake things up if you are experienced.
5) Netflix your workout: Netflix has a decent selection of workout videos available in both streaming and DVD-by-mail versions, and there are a few on Hulu too. Check out your cable package's "free on demand" section as well -- I've found fun things I would never try in public, like a Bollywood dance workout.
6) There's an app for that: Pick your pleasure ... yoga, running, weights, whatever, and you can find apps with workout ideas and/or motivation.
7) Reward yourself: It takes about 21 repetitions for something to become a habit. Once you have racked up 21 regular workouts, reward yourself with a prize that will reinforce your goals, like a new workout outfit, some new songs for a motivating playlist, or a subscription to a fitness magazine.
8) Avoid boredom: Once the excitement of developing a new healthy routine wears off, it can get awfully hard to get yourself off the couch for the same old thing all the time. Take a new class, ask friends at the gym, or experiment with a new piece of equipment.
9) Set a goal: Train for a race that supports a cause you believe in, or even decide that by your vacation this summer, you will be able to walk all over the city you're visiting without a rest.
10) Have fun: Believe it or not, exercise is a blast when you find something you really enjoy. Think about what you loved doing as a kid, like running, riding your bike, rollerskating, dancing, or swimming, and figure out how to incorporate that for a workout once a week or so.
What helps you stay fit? Are you planning a new routine in the new year?
Image via Rance Costa/Flickr