ALBANY, N.Y. - You just got home from work, and you're sitting on the couch pondering your next move. "I should exercise," you think. But you don't feel like it.
You argue with yourself for a while and finally give in and click on the TV. This goes on for a few days, and suddenly it seems impossible to get back to your fitness regime. Why is this?
The sad fact is it's easier not to exercise than to exercise, and once you've fallen off that exercise bike, it can be hard to get back on.
"They miss one day, and then they fall into their old habits again," says Jeanine Rutt, a personal trainer with a practice in Clifton Park, N.Y. Good habits take a long time to build, and in the beginning, you're particularly susceptible to returning to your old ways, she says.
Building good habits takes consistency, says Ben Luke, wellness director for the Albany and North Albany YMCA. Start slow, work out at least a few times a week and build it into your routine, he advises.
But what if you're tired, or you don't feel like going to the gym? Excuses not to work out are easy to find, Rutt says. The solution is to make exercise a non-negotiable part of your week. It doesn't matter if you're tired, stressed or busy, you still have to make time to exercise, she says. "There's no easy answer," Rutt says. "Some people can do it, and some people can't, and it really depends on how bad they want it."
Another big reason people fail is unrealistic exercise plans, Luke says. Some people are happier swimming, walking, taking a class or joining a basketball team. The secret is to find the activity that works for you.
"Find something that you enjoy that's going to get you fit," Luke says. When designing your exercise plan, think about what kind of help you might need. Some people are fine on their own, and some need supervision to stay on track, says Rutt. Having an exercise buddy or a personal trainer will help you stay focused and keep you accountable. Exercise logs and food journals are another way to keep yourself honest.
People also falter because of exercise burnout, approaching exercise like a sprint instead of a long-distance run.
"I have a lot of brides who come to me right up until their wedding day, and then I never see them again," Rutt says.
"People go super hard, and then they burn themselves out," says Luke.
The answer is to start with a small, manageable routine, he says. If the regime is too hard to accomplish, you won't stick with it.
Now that you know why you fell, it's time to get back in the exercise habit.
First step: Make time. Once you've missed a day or two at the gym, other appointments suddenly crowd that slot and vie for your attention.
"People have to pencil in exercise, just like every other daily happening," says Joanne LeBel, aerobics director for Best Fitness Gym in Schenectady and Albany. "One has to make time and remember their health is important."
Second step: Let go of the guilt, says Luke, and look at the big picture. "I remember what someone once said to me: 'It's not that hard to get in shape, it's hard to stay in shape.'" Staying in shape takes a lifetime, and odds are this won't be the only time you make a misstep. You have to be willing to overlook your mistake and keep going.
Third step: Get in there and do it. The hardest thing to do is to walk through the gym door or put on your sneakers and hit the pavement. Once you've done that, the rest is easier. That's because exercise feels good. It relieves stress and anxiety and chances are you'll feel better than you would if you were sitting on the couch at home. Plus, you feel a sense of accomplishment later, says Luke. "You feel so good afterwards, it's worth it," he says.