Prepare Your Mind To Change Your Body

The only thing tougher than starting an exercise program is sticking with it. Case in point: Most new exercisers quit within three to six months, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Don’t worry, we’ve got five easy steps to your New Year’s fitness resolution success.

Woman doing fitness drills

Trying to do too much before you're psychologically prepared to take the next step may cause you to backslide and, eventually, give up altogether. Deciding to start an exercise program (or any new habit, for that matter) requires a natural chain of events. Cut short one of these five steps and your skinny jeans may end up tossed on the front lawn, along with your bathroom scale.

Here's how to get real and make this year your best ever.

Stage 1: On your mark (precontemplative)

At this stage you're not even thinking about making a change. You may have gained weight over the years but haven't yet decided to do something about it.

Mindset makeover strategy: Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who tell you "you can do this." Gather information about ways to get started. Research local clubs, gyms and sports that may be of interest to you. Write out the pros and cons of not changing to help you realize the importance of making a change.

Stage 2: Get ready (contemplation)

You may be considering a change now. You've gone from "I could never do that" to "maybe I can."

Mindset makeover strategy: Start small by planning short, 10-minute exercise goals. Look for a motivated friend or join a local tennis team with other players at your level. Think of short activities you can do for part of that time instead of sitting on the couch watching TV.

Stage 3: Get set (preparation)

You've figured out what may work for you and are almost ready to get started.

Mindset makeover strategy: Start planning ways to overcome potential issues. Find a nearby gym or exercise class to avoid long travel time and look at other ways to overcome self-imposed obstacles: For example, find a gym that provides child care or buy a jogging stroller and exercise with your child.

Stage 4: Go! (action)

You've been exercising steadily for three to six months but have not yet made a permanent lifestyle change.

Mindset makeover strategy: Don't beat yourself up if you miss a day or two. Be proud of yourself for what you've already accomplished. Be prepared for relapses; accept them and move on. Realize you're making a lifelong commitment. Start a blog or diary of your progress.

Stage 5: Game on! (maintenance)

The initial novelty of the new program may have lost its bloom, but you've stuck with it for six months.

Mindset makeover strategy: Add variety and new challenges to your exercise program. If you relapse, ask yourself what happened and plan for what you can do the next time the same situation occurs. Revisit your original list of pros and cons periodically and you'll realize how far you've come!

More health tips for the New Year

Jumpstart your New Year's resolution -- now!
5 Healthy habits to start this New Year
Sticking to your healthy New Year's resolutions

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