5 ways to stick to your workout plan

Only half of those who want to regularly exercise actually do it. Here are proven strategies from an exercise psychology expert to keep you active.

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reaching fitness goals - runners

Wrapping your head around working out — and grabbing the gear that’ll help you do it — are crucial first steps. But how do you know you’ll keep it up? It’s hard for us all: Nearly half of those who intend to exercise don’t follow through, according to a meta-analysis of 10 studies that Ryan Rhodes, a professor at the University of Victoria who studies exercise psychology, co-authored. And for those new to the game, it’s even harder: Rhodes looked at two of his own previous studies and found that only about a third of beginners follow through.

People who are consistent with their workouts self-identify as “active” — which then feeds their dedication. As Rhodes puts it, they go “from exercising to being an exerciser.” And if you’re an exerciser who starts becoming inactive again, he says, it causes stress, which turns into motivation.

While there’s no magic formula for transforming the way you see yourself, Rhodes does have some handy tips to help you stick with your workout this time around.

Don’t go too hard, and work in some fun
If your exercise routine isn’t enjoyable to begin with, it’s less likely you’ll return to it, he says.

Make it a ritual
Tying exercise to another habit, like taking a walk after dinner, can help work it seamlessly into your routine. It’s much tougher to keep to an erratic exercise schedule.

Make it social
Invite a friend out to your post-dinner walk. It will help make it something to look forward to.

Monitor your progress
Keeping an eye on your progress can be a powerful strategy to stay on track, says Rhodes. While there are countless wearable devices that can help you do this, you can also just use a good old- fashioned notebook.

Recognize barriers
You might miss a workout because of a never-ending meeting, a sick kid or an exceptionally crazy day. Don’t sweat the unexpected, but try to figure out a way to sneak in some activity, even on hectic days. When you’re sad to miss your workout because of a crazy day, rather than relieved, you know you’re making progress!

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