After a summer spent taking it easy, September is for getting down to business. School starts, shorts are put to the back of the closet and summer Fridays are a distant memory.
Officially registration season, gyms and recreation centres sign up scores of new members and participants trading in summer’s chill vibe with a more structured approach to their fitness routine.
But the earnestness of September often transforms into indifference by October, followed by downright idleness in November. The dropout rate for exercise programs is staggeringly high, with one-third of those registered for unsupervised training dropping out within three months. After 12 months, only about four per cent are still working up a sweat on a regular basis. Why do so many people abandon their fitness commitment only a few months after signing on? There’s probably no single reason, but rather a series of small missteps along the way.
To help avoid fitness club dropout syndrome, here are some suggestions on how to keep your exercise commitment from waning.
Before signing on to the latest fitness fad or buying a membership at a trendy gym, ask yourself what type of workout will keep you coming back for more.
Some people like working out in a group while others are more comfortable doing their own thing. Some like an anonymity of a large-scale club while others prefer the community of a small studio gym or group exercise class.
Whatever your choice, make sure your workouts have structure, align with your fitness goals and are geared for success. If you don’t have the knowledge or confidence to make it happen on your own, get expert help. One of the primary reasons people abandon exercise is they don’t know how to structure a good workout.
Hire a trainer to build a program based on your goals and help you become familiar with the exercises and fitness equipment. Or join a group exercise class and let the instructor take you through your paces and demonstrate technique. The more efficient and effective the workouts, the more chance you have of leaving the gym feeling good about yourself and about the effort you put in.
Ride the wave of enthusiasm that generally accompanies those first few weeks of a new exercise program, but don’t make the mistake of biting off more than you can chew. Thirty minutes at the gym two to three times a week is a good place to start. The same goes for group exercise classes: twice a week is plenty if you’re a novice.
The idea is to leave the workout feeling like you have more to give rather than spending the next day nursing sore muscles. If you want more physical activity to round out your week, go for a walk or bike ride or add a yoga or mobility class to your schedule. Workouts don’t need to be sweaty and uncomfortable to reap rewards, so work out at a pace and frequency that’s comfortable and sustainable.
Get friends and family on board
Fitting workouts into your weekly schedule probably means that something has else has to give, like time with family and/or friends. Create a mutually agreeable workout schedule that gives you the time you need without feeling guilty for stepping away from home or social events. You need someone in your corner who will encourage you to pull on your workout gear on days when your motivation is low, so everyone needs to buy in. Without cheerleaders to help achieve your goals, you’re more likely to become another statistic in the exercise dropout column.
Find your people
A workout crew that shares your interests and is always ready with a high five when you need one can make even the toughest workout more enjoyable. So take a look around the gym or fitness class to make sure the vibe is right. You want a crowd that is skewed toward your own age, sex and fitness level. Being the only male in an all-female class or vice-versa might make for a very different environment and might not feel as comfortable as when you’re surrounded by like exercisers. Don’t underestimate the importance of the social element of exercise. There’s nothing better than sweating alongside fitness enthusiasts who challenge and support you in all the right ways.
Focus on health, not appearance
If your motivation to exercise is based on looking better rather than feeling better, you’re likely to end up disappointed. Exercise alone doesn’t result in significant weight loss. Nor will it help you look like you did in your 20s. What it will do is boost your energy levels, help you sleep, improve your mood and reduce stress and your risk of chronic disease. It also slows the effects of aging, including the loss of muscle, balance and mobility that starts in your 30s, 40s and 50s.
If you’re feeling good, you’re probably looking good, which is more important than the numbers on a scale.
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