5 Ways to Get Motivated and Stay Motivated to Exercise

Photo credit: “Mike” Michael L. Baird [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

If you are like many other people, when it comes to exercise, you start out fired up and then fizzle out. Getting motivated is often the easy part. You know you should be exercising more, so why are you sitting on the sofa eating chips and watching television? Exercising often feels like work and sometimes the rewards may be slow in coming, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a long time or if you are trying to lose weight. Getting and staying motivated requires changing how you think about exercise. Change the way you think about exercise and you will see changes in your body and your health.

  1. Do It for You

You may need to lose a few pounds, just want to tighten and tone your muscles, or you are concerned about your heart health. Whatever your reasons for wanting to exercise more, do it for you. If you start exercising to lose weight because your partner commented on your weight, you may not be able to maintain your motivation momentum and may even become resentful and lose your motivation when you don’t see the results you expect – or your partner expects. The benefits of being more physically active include losing or maintaining your weight, stronger and leaner muscles, stronger bones, and reducing your risk of diseases associated with being overweight. The physical benefits of exercise can be a great starting point, but over time you may lose interest unless you have an emotional or psychological reason to keep going. For example, exercise and getting fit may help you feel more confident or help you feel less stressed at the end of the day. Find the internal motivation that keeps you active and focus on that. Soon you will be looking forward to walking for 30 minutes after work to relieve stress or swimming 20 laps to feel energized.

  1. Have Fun

Exercise can be hard work, but if it feels like work you probably aren’t going to stick with it for very long. Find an activity that you love and do that. You don’t even have to have a regular schedule of exercise to get fit and stay healthy. You can find easy ways to exercise every day. Consider it a challenge. Park one block from your work and walk the rest of the way to work 2 or 3 days each week. Instead of driving the half mile to the convenience store, ride your bicycle. Walk the dog or walk your neighbor’s dog. Play games with your kids in the park. Challenge yourself by taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Join a group of friends and walk, jog or ride bikes each weekend. There are innumerable opportunities to exercise and have fun doing it.

  1. Make Time for Fitness

Most of us have busy schedules. Going to the gym takes time and costs money. Between work and family, we have little time left for ourselves. Make fitness your YOU time. It’s your special time that you take for yourself. Even as little as 15 minutes each day can have beneficial effects on your body and on your mind. You can resolve to do yoga, or walk, or do some calisthenics or 15 to 20 minutes each day between the time you get home from work and time to cook dinner. Your fitness program doesn’t have to be set in stone either. Be flexible with your schedule. If you simply cannot find a full 30 minutes in any day to exercise, do it in 10 minute sets. You may also consider adding exercise to things you are already committed to doing. If you have to attend a parent-teacher meeting after school, ride bikes to the school with your kids or walk. You can pedal on a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill while reading the report your boss handed you at the end of the day to prepare for a staff meeting.

  1. Set Attainable Goals

One sure way to lose your motivation and simply give up is to set unattainable goals. It isn’t possible, and potentially dangerous to try, to lose 20 pounds in 10 days. It simply isn’t realistic to think you can achieve such a goal. No matter what the television infomercials claim, you are not going to have the muscles of a body builder in a mere 4 weeks of lifting weights or using an exercise machine. Set realistic and attainable goals for yourself. Start small and reward yourself each time you reach your goal. For example, if you want to be more active and have been sedentary for years, set a goal of walking for 5 minutes every other day at lunch time or after work. Once you have been walking for 5 minutes, bump up your goal to 10 minutes every other day and then 15 minutes every other day for a week. Add 5 minutes of walking time each week. Before long you will be walking for a full 30 minutes three days each week with little or no effort.

  1. Adjust Your Attitude

Be prepared for setbacks by changing the way you think about not reaching your goals. Do you beat yourself up with negative self-talk? Do you think, “I’m such a loser” or “I’m never going to get in shape”? Stop. Just because you didn’t exercise today does not mean you are lazy or a loser or that you are never going to reach your ultimate fitness goals. A thunderstorm or snowy, cold weather may prevent you from walking around the block like you do every day after dinner, but you don’t have to sit down and eat a bag of chips because you can’t go walking. Put on a dance video and dance in your living room for 20 minutes. Run up and down the stairs for 5 minutes or get on your treadmill instead. Walk or jog for an extra 5 minutes tomorrow. Stepping on the bathroom scale may result in disappointment, especially if you set weight loss goals that are too high or unrealistic. One setback does not have to mean you lose your motivation. Adjust your goals and keep going. Are you fitter and more active than you were a month ago? Three months ago? You are already a winner if you are getting more exercise. Think of yourself as a fit, active person, and soon you will be.

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7 Tasty Snacks That Are Healthy Too

The word “snack” often conjures up images of potato chips, candy bars, soda, and other high-calorie snacks. Snacks don’t have to be filled with fat and sugar to satisfy your hunger. Fruit, nuts and grains are nature’s delicious, healthy snacks. Natural snacks travel just as well as convenience foods, such as a bag of chips. Take them to the office, on your walk and keep some in your car for those long waits in rush-hour traffic.

Trail mix isn’t just for hikers and campers! It’s a delicious mix of fruit, seeds and nuts filled with energy-restoring nutrients and natural sugars. You can mix your own or buy ready-to-eat mixes. Try to find dried fruits and nuts that are free from preservatives. Select natural seeds and nuts instead of the roasted, flavored variety. You can mix almonds, walnuts, cashews, dried banana slices, apricots, raisins, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries for a healthy, snack flavor explosion.

Cheese is a great snack to take the edge off your hunger without adding too many extra calories to your diet. Try a slice of brie on a fresh slice of apple for a deliciously sweet, healthy snack. Try a variety of cheeses to find your favorite. Cut small cubes of different cheeses, such as cheddar, muenster, and Swiss, and place them in a plastic bag. Enjoy with whole grain baked crackers. Avoid processed cheese, such as the individually wrapped slices.

Fresh berries are loaded with nutrients and beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants attach to and remove harmful free radicals that can cause cell damage. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are delicious alone or mixed with natural fruit juice for a tasty, healthy fruit salad. Bananas travel well in your purse, briefcase or backpack for a quick snack on the run or at your desk.

If you want a more substantial snack between lunch and dinner, try apple slices (or celery sticks) with peanut butter. Pack some apple slices and a travel-size container of peanut butter or place some peanut butter into a small plastic container. Spread the peanut butter on the apple slices or scoop up the tasty, protein rich peanut butter using the apple slice. Apples are rich in vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Peanut butter provides extra fiber.

Eating healthier snacks does not mean you have to sacrifice flavor and texture. Create a delicious dip by layering black beans, guacamole and low-fat or fat-free sour cream for a low-fat, healthy snack filled with flavor. Shred some low-fat cheddar cheese on top for extra taste without adding too many extra calories. Scoop the dip with low-fat baked tortilla chips.

Potatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Baked potato skins can be a healthy, tasty snack if you avoid loading them up with high-calorie, high-fat toppings. Top baked potato skins with low-fat cheese, low-fat or fat-free sour cream, tomatoes, chives or even olives. Three or four potato skins will satisfy your snack craving and hold you over until dinner time.

Even potato chips can be a healthy snack. You can make your own healthy potato chips by frying thinly sliced potatoes in olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and you have a delicious, healthy snack. If you don’t have time to make your own, select baked, not fried, potato chips. Your local health food store probably carries a natural potato chip without preservatives or additives.

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Healthy Benefits of Drinking Tea

Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A healthy lifestyle means getting plenty of exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and drinking healthier beverages. All your hard work to lose weight and live a healthier life can be undone if you drink beverages that add empty calories and preservatives to your body. Replacing coffee and soda with tea is one way to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, lower your caffeine intake but still enjoy a warm or cold drink.

Teas contain antioxidants. These natural chemicals attach to and help to remove free radicals in your cells. Free radicals are a natural by-product of metabolism, but can cause cell damage. Free radicals contribute to cell damage in your organs and increase the rate of aging in your skin. Food and drinks that contain antioxidants can reduce the number of free radicals in your body. Teas contain powerful antioxidants, called flavan-3-ols, which can reduce the effects of harmful free radicals.

The flavan-3-ols (a.k.a. flavanols) in tea also support healthy blood cells, which are critical to transporting oxygen and nutrients to your cells and removing carbon dioxide and other waste products from your cells. The flavan-3-ols antioxidants in tea also help to protect your blood vessels from plaque build-up that can lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Tea also helps to reduce LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol, which can cause hardening of your arteries. Hardened arteries causes high blood pressure and may contribute to heart disease.

Improving the health of your arteries, promoting healthy blood cells, and reducing bad cholesterol in your body promote heart health. Tea helps promote unimpeded blood flow by helping to keep your arteries free of blockage by plaque build-up caused by high cholesterol. Free flow of blood to your heart muscle helps keep it healthy. Antioxidants, especially flavan-3-ol antioxidants, may even help reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Cell damage caused by high levels of toxins and free radicals in your cells may result in certain types of cancer. Flavan-3-ols antioxidants found in tea are a powerful tool in the fight against cancer by preserving cell health and encouraging healthy cell growth.

Your immune system fights off disease by attacking bacteria and viruses that enter your body. Disease and organ damage can result if your immune system is weak. Your immune system can be affected by the foods and beverages you consume. Much of your immune system is found in your digestive tract. Tea helps to support your immune system by removing free radicals that damage your cells.

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Feel Full and Lose Weight with these Five Natural Foods

Photo credit: Cajsa Lilliehook [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar a year industry in the United States. There are pills, potions, mixtures and lotions. You can even find vibrating belts and fat melting shakes. Some of these weight loss aids are gimmicks and some might actually help you lose weight in the short-term, but usually you gain the weight back in a few weeks. For long-lasting, permanent weight loss you have to eat right and exercise. The right foods combined with exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off while providing your body with essential nutrients and elements necessary for good health. Natural foods help stimulate your metabolism, boost your energy and make you feel good.

A delicious way to get your daily fruit and veggie fix is to enjoy a cool, crisp salad. Salads with light green, dark green, orange, red and yellow vegetables will provide color, aroma and flavor to any ordinary salad. Vegetables are fat free, loaded with fiber and full of nutrients your body needs. The fiber will fill you up and keep you feeling fuller longer. Vegetables are naturally low in calories, but salad dressings can be high in both fat and calories. Choose no salad dressing or a low-fat dressing. Chop up and dice some fresh fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth or to get an extra boost of energy in the late afternoon between meals. Try some fresh fruit mixed with low-fat yogurt for a delicious pick-me-up loaded with nutrients and healthy carbohydrates.

What’s not to love about chicken soup? It’s good for the soul and the perfect food to comfort your body when you have a cold. Chicken soup not only boosts your immune system, it also helps you lose weight. A bowl of chicken soup with a variety of vegetables, such as carrots, celery and yellow squash, is rich in nutrients and fiber to help you feel full and satisfied for hours. Vegetables in chicken soup contain antioxidants to help stave off cell damage. The bits of white meat chicken are low in fat and high in protein. Enjoy a bowl of chicken soup to feel full, while adding important nutrients to your diet without adding calories.

Lean beef is a good choice to help promote weight loss by adding fiber and protein to your diet. You should not sacrifice muscle mass when trying to lose fat. Lean beef and other protein-rich foods combined with regular exercise can help maintain muscle mass while burning fat. Amino acids found in lean beef are necessary to the production of muscle cells. You can also add cooked lean beef to other healthy meals, such as salads.

Whole grains, including oats and wheat and wild rice, are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. A small serving of whole grains helps you feel fuller faster so that you eat less than you normally would eat. Choose grains that have not been processed for maximum benefit. Warm oatmeal with low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast will stimulate your metabolism for fat burning all morning long. Beans, rice, lentils and peas are also a good source of fiber and nutrients. You can eat beans or lentils and wild rice as a side dish or combine them with other foods, such as soups and stews, for flavor and fiber.

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5 Fitness Motivators

Photo credit: Gpavic (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You need to exercise. You want to exercise. You lack motivation. It’s hard to do something if you aren’t excited about it. Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be fun, exciting and rewarding. By exercising regularly and watching your diet, you will improve your health and your appearance. Improved health and appearance can also improve your self-image and self-esteem. If you are experiencing a lack of motivation, there are things you can do to get up and get going.

Change your mind about exercise. Some people view exercise as a chore, something that must be done to maintain health and lose weight. Stop thinking about exercise as a job and think of it as a fun activity that takes you away from the drudgery of your every day routine. Your attitude will help determine your level of success in nearly every endeavor. You have to expect to have fun if you are to truly enjoy your workout. Try a brisk 25-minute walk during your lunch hour instead of thirty boring minutes on the treadmill after work. Getting out of the office for a brisk walk can help clear your mind as you exercise your body. You will return to work feeling energized and more motivated. Reward yourself with a facial after work. Associate positive benefits with your workout to create a positive attitude about working out.

Learn to visualize your success. If you need to lose 10 pounds, visualize yourself 10 pounds lighter and wearing that dress or those pants that have been hanging in your closet for months because you can’t close the zipper. Visualize yourself on the beach for your next vacation showing off your new 6-pack. See yourself successful and you will become successful.

Find a friend to exercise with you. A workout pal can be just the motivation you need to keep going. You and your exercise mate can motivate each other to push yourselves to succeed. Make it a weekly or every-other-day date to exercise together. Exercising with a friend helps to pass the time as well as keeping you motivated. Enjoy a light snack together after your workout. You will soon find that you look forward to your workout dates with your exercise pal.

Involve family members in your exercise program. Instead of sitting on the sidelines watching your kids play soccer or baseball, load the bikes up and go for a ride in the park followed by a light lunch under a shade tree. Your children will enjoy the time spent with you, and you will enjoy time with your kids as you lose weight and get healthy. Saturday mornings can be spent playing games with the whole family. Whether you play badminton in the back yard or basketball in the driveway, the whole family is sure to have fun and get a great workout, too.

Workout when you feel sad or blue. Have you noticed that when you work out you feel better afterward? Exercise stimulates your brain to release hormones called endorphins, which are responsible for the sense of well-being that you feel when you finish a vigorous workout. Exercise when you are feeling a little down by going for a long walk, riding a bike, or hitting the treadmill. Stimulating your brain to produce endorphins can help you feel happier and help you lose weight as you get healthier.

So, get moving next time you are down in the dumps. You will actually be able to turn something negative into something positive.

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Midlife Metabolism Boost

In simple terms, metabolism is the chemical action of transforming nutrients in food into energy. Metabolism is a complex set of chemical reactions between enzymes in your cells and the food you eat. Your metabolism is responsible for using energy or storing that energy as fat cells for use later. Unfortunately, many of us tend to store more energy than we use, particularly after age 40, and you may notice that you can’t eat everything you used to eat without gaining weight. This is due in part to a slowing of the metabolic processes that convert food into energy. This can be due to natural slowing of your metabolism combined with less physical activity than when you were younger. There are ways you can stimulate your metabolism after age 40 to lose weight and maintain your weight.

Be selective about what you eat. It is likely you were able to eat cheeseburgers, French fries and ice cream when you were younger without worrying about gaining 10 pounds. After age 40, you have to be pickier about what you eat. There are foods you can eat that will help stimulate your metabolism without sacrificing the enjoyment of food. Cut back on the junk food and add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. You can get the carbohydrates and protein your body needs for energy and strong muscles and bones by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Replace highly processed foods, such as white flour and frozen dinners, with fresh, whole foods. Whole foods, or those foods that are unprocessed, make your digestive system work harder to digest and stimulate your metabolism. Your digestion will also improve with the addition of natural fiber, as well as help you to feel full so that you eat less.

Balance your diet by taking out foods that make you feel sluggish with foods that energize your body. Replace processed flour, sugars and other carbohydrates with natural foods that will boost your metabolism. Add green tea and water to replace sugary sodas. Switch potato chips and fatty dips with fresh vegetables and low-fat fresh dips, such as guacamole or low-fat sour cream-based dips. Cut out candy and replace it with sweet, fresh berries and fruits.

Exercise will also help to boost your metabolism. Any form of exercise is good for your body. Start slowly if you have been inactive for a long time and get a complete check-up from your doctor. When you receive the all-clear, start by walking or riding a bike for a few minutes each day. Increase the amount of time you spend exercising by 5 to 10 minutes each week until you are exercising at least 30 minute each day. Try some weight lifting or other strength training exercises to increase your muscle mass. Muscle requires more energy than other tissues. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be to provide nutrients to muscle tissue.

Simple changes that include substituting bad foods for good food and exercising will boost your metabolism and keep it working at a peak level throughout your life.

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Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia CommonsThe phrase “whole foods” refers to foods that are raw, unprocessed or as close to nature as possible. Whole foods include whole grains, whole raw fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed chicken and meats. It is easier to improve your diet by replacing processed foods with natural, whole foods than you might think. Whole foods are generally lower in calories and carbohydrates than highly processed foods such as frozen dinners and fast food. Switching from processed to whole foods means meal preparation will take a little more planning, but your health and your waist line will thank you.

Add more whole foods to your regular diet by replacing highly processed white flour with whole grains. Instead of white bread, choose whole wheat, oat and bran breads. Opt for fresh or frozen whole fruits and vegetables instead of canned. The canning process includes cooking and adding preservatives. Many canned fruits and vegetables have added sugar or sodium. The canning process also removes beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that your body needs for good health. Buy fresh or frozen as opposed to canned vegetables and fruits, so that you can enjoy all the benefits of eating vegetables.

Pass by the convenience foods, such as frozen macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and frozen meatloaf in the freezer section. These foods are usually high in calories, carbohydrates and are loaded with sodium and preservatives. Fresh, skinless chicken breasts baked or grilled with whole wheat rolls, fresh vegetables or a salad makes an excellent whole food dinner. Forget the instant mashed potatoes that are loaded with preservatives and other chemicals. Choosing long grain and wild rice as a side dish is another way to add whole foods to your diet.

Beans, rice and legumes can replace high-calorie side dishes, such as macaroni and cheese and instant mashed potatoes. As for potatoes, they are an excellent whole food. If you don’t have time to peel, cook and whip your own potatoes, a baked (sweet) potato is just as delicious and takes less preparation time. Top your baked potato with low-fat sour cream and some fresh chopped green onions for delicious side dish. Many supermarkets offer fresh fish and other seafood. Select local fish or fish that is flown in daily. Fresh fish can be a little more expensive than the fish in the freezer, but one taste of fresh grilled perch or shrimp will convince you it’s worth the price. A salad with a mixture of lettuces, spinach, radishes, carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes is the perfect way to start any whole foods meal.

Many of the preservatives we consume come from snack foods and sodas. Rather than potato chips and snack crackers, satisfy your snack urge with fresh sliced apples, bananas, grapes and berries. You can also enjoy raisins, nuts and other dried fruits. Keep some banana and apple chips in your desk for a quick, naturally sweet snack. Blend up a berry smoothie with fresh berries, ice and 100 percent fruit juice for a refreshing whole foods treat. Keep a bowl of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas on the counter for a healthy, quick after work or after school snack. Tea, especially green tea, is a refreshing alternative to sugary soda. Toss the cold breakfast cereals and fill your pantry with whole grain cereals instead. Whole oats, wheat germ and quinoa are healthy, whole food breakfast choices. Add fresh fruit for extra flavor and nutrients. Avoid using processed sugar. Sweeten your morning oats with honey or natural maple syrup.

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