Reality Check

Changing your inactive lifestyle into an active one is not easy, but it is possible. Because so many New Year’s resolution-makers and beginning exercisers quit before they see any results, take a look at the pattern of your life and try to start when you’ll have the best chance for long-term success in making fitness part of your life. Just as it is important to know your body, it is important to analyze your patterns and see how you can make them work for you.

Does your job have seasonal peaks and valleys? Would a new workout program help you cope with the stress of peaks? Or are you better off starting during a valley when you are less pressured and might also have more time? Are you a procrastinator who needs to schedule an activity specifically? Or can you generally plug it into your day? Would it make sense to start a workout program when your kids start the school year, go off to summer camp, or spend time with the other parent if you are divorced? There are many factors to consider.

“Examine your own rhythms”

Examine your own rhythms. If you are a morning person, schedule your workouts early in the day so you’ll have the best chance to succeed. Some people get up early for a walk, run, or swim to jump-start the day. Do you like to load activities at the end of the workday? If so, evening is the time when you can make fitness a habit that will stick. Can you break away at lunch to get some outdoor exercise or to spend time at the gym? It’s a more productive way to spend your midday break than chowing down.

When you decide to do something, what’s your willpower level? Do you put things off? Or do you easily stick to a plan after you’ve made it? If you tend to procrastinate, figuring that you’ll go for a walk “later,” select activities that are scheduled for specific times. These activities might include aerobics and other classes, a regular appointment with a personal trainer, tuning in to a TV exercise program that comes on at a certain time, or making a workout date with a friend. If having a workout log that you must fill in every day suffices, you can go for a walk or run at your leisure, plug an exercise tape into the VCR, or go to the gym and lift weights at your convenience.

What about seasons? If you live in the North and love being outdoors when the weather is mild, spring or fall is the ideal time to start walking, jogging, bicycling, or playing tennis. If you live in the sunbelt, outdoor activity might be tolerable only in the winter. Although the weather may be mild, the rainy winters that characterize the climate of the Pacific Northwest inhibit many people from outdoor activities. In any case, joining a gym during the season of maximum outdoor discomfort might work for you. You can take advantage of northern winters and take up snowshoeing or skiing or enjoy sunbelt summers by swimming laps or joining an aqua fitness class at an outdoor pool.