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Three Ways to Persevere Through Your Exercise Program

by Tim Lencki

Perseverance…holding on to a course of action or purpose without giving up. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? As you probably already know, when it comes to exercise, it isn’t. In the health club industry, 50% of people quit exercising before the first year of membership is up. I’ll bet this number is even higher for those trying to exercise at home.

What will ultimately determine your success with exercise is your ability to persevere. There is no doubt there will be times when progress comes to a halt. Or a situation comes up in your life resulting in an abandonment of your exercise program for a period of time. There is also a chance of getting injured or sick, making exercise almost impossible for a while. The only way to overcome these unexpected occurrences is to persevere through them.

When you think of persevering through exercise, don’t think of it as a long race you have to endure. Rather, see it as a series of short races in succession. An example of the long race would be like saying, “I have to lose 50 lbs and that’s going to take forever.” Look at it from a different standpoint (i.e., the short race) and say, “This week I’m going to start a walking program…next week I’ll add a few extra minutes to the time I spend walking… Then I’m going to make one or two minor adjustments in the way I eat” and on and on. By winning the small races you make progress toward winning the big race, whatever that may be. In the process you are better able to persevere through the challenging times. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh once said, “In life or in football, touchdowns rarely take place in seventy-yard increments. Usually it’s three yards and a cloud of dust.”

Let’s look at three ways to persevere and make exercise a part of your life.

1. Find a Purpose – in order for something to work you need to know why you are doing it. Having a purpose is the fuel that fires perseverance. You can’t just say, “I need to lose some weight” with that being your purpose for starting an exercise program. That’s too vague. If weight loss is what you want then set a reasonable amount to lose and put a time frame to it. Or forget about weight loss and find another purpose such as running a 5K race this fall, reducing your cholesterol numbers by your next check-up, or being able to keep up with your kids for more than five minutes by the end of summer vacation. Whatever it is, post it where you’ll see it every day. John Maxwell said it best, “Purpose gives passion, and passion feeds perseverance.”

2. Eliminate Excuses – excuses can result in a permanent detour to making exercise a part of your life. If I only had a dime for every excuse I heard I’d be a millionaire! Heck, I wrote a whole book on the excuses people make not to exercise – Fitness One Day at a Time. Learn to take responsibility for your actions. You know when you’re making excuses. George Washington Carver once said, “Ninety-nine percent of failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

3. Find Ways to See Progress – one of the most powerful motivators for perseverance is seeing progress on a regular basis. If you set goals that are too big you will get discouraged while trying to achieve them. We live in a society of instant reward or gratification. We want things now! Review what I wrote above in regards to winning the small races. Winning each small race shows progress that leads to the bigger accomplishment. Paul J. Meyer, author of Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul, says, “Plan your progress carefully; hour-by-hour, day-by-day, month-by-month. Organized activity and maintained enthusiasm are the wellsprings of your power.”

Perseverance begins when you are tired and ready to give up. But every day you stay in the race you learn more, grow stronger and make a positive investment in yourself.

Tim Lencki has a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist. He has spent 19 years in the fitness industry as an author/speaker/personal trainer.

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