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Exercise for Life!

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Steps 4 - 6

4. Have a backup plan

Identify the scenarios that might derail your routine -- vacations, holidays and work deadlines -- and prepare an alternative workout strategy, says Andrea Dunn, Ph.D., associate director of the Cooper Institute of Aerobics Research in Dallas and coauthor of Active Living Every Day (Human Kinetics 2001). Make a list of these potential "barriers to fitness" on one side of a notebook and "solutions" on the other. Whenever you get sidetracked, you'll know exactly what to do to overcome it. Above all, avoid berating yourself or adopting an all-or-nothing attitude. "You think, 'I missed a workout today and I'm going away for the weekend, so I may as well give up and start fresh on Monday,'" says Dunn. "Instead of feeling guilty or frustrated, accept that you missed a few session and simply do better tomorrow."

5. Aim high - but not too high

Whether you want to increase your aerobic endurance or do 25 regulation-style push-ups, having something to work toward is a surefire way to keep you going. You're more likely to stick to your goals, though, if you perceive them as short-term, specific and realistic, like "I will walk 20 minutes every day" (versus "I will exercise more"), says Brian Sharkey, Ph.D., former president of the American College of Sports Medicine and author of Fitness and Health, 5th Edition (Human Kinetics 2002). When you find yourself meeting goals with ease, set more challenging ones and revisit them every four to six weeks.

6. Chart your progress

Keeping written track of your fitness routine and your progress is one of the most effective ways to lose weight and stick with exercise, says Dunn. Research found that people who kept diet and/or workout logs lost weight while those who didn't gained weight. Furthermore, those who kept detailed diaries lost twice as much weight as those who kept briefer logs. Be sure to record the type of activity, duration, intensity, distance, calories burned and location as well as your attitude (were you grumpy, high-energy, stressed, happy), how you slept the night before and any diet "blips" - "gorged on chocolate in the afternoon" or "skipped breakfast." A pedometer, heart-rate monitor or stopwatch can provide the details you need to keep a complete diary and give you immediate gratification as well, says Los Angeles–based Reebok master trainer Jeffrey Scott. Knowing how far and how fast you run or walk, how many calories you burn and how intensely you're working is an excellent motivator, especially if you compare it to your past performance.

Next:  Steps 7 - 9


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