You make dozens of fitness decisions every day that can affect your well-being. Some are major, such as whether to join a gym. But most are daily decisions that have an impact over time, such as whether to go for a jog after work or watch an hour of TV.
“If you focus on the most important fitness decisions and strive to get them right, you’ll get into an exercise routine that becomes more automatic,” says Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise. “It’s all about planning, prioritizing, and exercising your options.”
Here are five important decisions Bryant suggests you make now to help you get in the game and stay motivated.
Make it important
Decision 1: How will I make exercise a priority?
This is probably the most important fitness decision you can make, says Bryant, because if exercise is a priority, it will happen.
To-do tactic: Schedule exercise on your calendar like you do other important appointments, and make it part of your daily routine.
What's my goal?
Decision 2: Do I have an exercise goal that’s specific, measurable, and realistic?
Having a goal, such as exercising seven times a week, is an important motivating factor, but to be effective, your goals also should be realistic.
“You want to set a goal that’s going to produce a meaningful result for you,” says Dr. Bryant.
To-do tactic: Instead of saying you’ll exercise seven times a week, which may be hard to maintain, set a more realistic goal. That might be to exercise three times a week for the next four weeks (specific goal) to reduce your stress level (specific reason).
The goal also is measurable because you should feel less stressed after every exercise session and over time.
Monitoring your program
Decision 3: How will I track my progress?
“Anything you can do to give yourself positive feedback is beneficial,” says Dr. Bryant. That’s why wearing a pedometer, with the goal of taking 10,000 steps a day, for example, is so motivating.
When you’re at 6,200 steps, you want to make it to 10,000 steps, or at least take more steps than you did the day before.
To-do tactic: Keep an exercise journal to note what you do each day. Also, find an exercise partner—someone who wants to become more active—so you can cheer each other on.
Have a backup plan
Decision 4: What’s my Plan B?
To reach your goals, it’s important to have a backup plan.
To-do tactic: When Plan A fails, look for opportunities during your daily routine to sneak fitness in.
“Keep a pair of walking shoes with you, so you’re always prepared for a quick workout whenever you can squeeze it in,” says Dr. Bryant.
Where to start
Decision 5: What can I do to get back in shape?
Walking is the safest starting place. Once you’ve done that for a few weeks, consider branching out into fitness classes or recreational activities, such as golf or tennis.
To-do tactic: Experiment and seek out activities you enjoy.
“Forget about ‘no pain, no gain,’??” says Dr. Bryant. “If exercise isn’t fun, the odds are you won’t stick with it.”