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Stay the course

Tue., May 8, 2012

Kristin Ludwig, pictured at the Kroc Center trailhead in Coeur d’Alene, heads a group of runners with “accountability partners.” (Kathy Plonka)
Kristin Ludwig, pictured at the Kroc Center trailhead in Coeur d’Alene, heads a group of runners with “accountability partners.” (Kathy Plonka)

Don’t let the completion of a major event prevent you from setting new fitness goals

The post-Bloomsday glow is sweet, lending its aura of accomplishment and fitness over all who slip on their hard-won T-shirts.

Bad news: The glow dims. Some runners and walkers who’d stuck to a countdown-to-Bloomsday workout routine scale back – and back some more – until all they have to show for their weeks or months of efforts are a snapshot of a giant vulture and the shirt. The good feelings go away, as do the health benefits gained from their Bloomsday training schedule.

Trainers say it’s not unusual for people to peter out post-race, whether it’s Bloomsday or another event. When the big day is past, they have no goal in mind, and they stop working out.

But lack of a clear goal isn’t the only reason we quit exercising. Here are 10 common reasons we hang up our gym shoes, according to physical trainers – and some ways to overcome them.

1. Bloomsday is over.

We all know the benefits of exercise. For whatever reason, health improvements and stress reduction alone aren’t enough to keep many of us moving. We need clear, defined objectives.

After you’ve accomplished one goal, pursue the next, said Gloria Vitagliano, a lead fitness trainer at the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene. Keep setting new goals, one after another.

“Whether it is the scale, or you’re going to go somewhere, or it’s a pair of jeans you want to put on,” always have a workout or fitness goal in mind, she said.

2. You’re not losing weight.

Medications, thyroid problems or hormones can inhibit weight loss even when you exercise regularly, said Angela Purdy, a personal fitness trainer at Get Fit 360 in Spokane. 

But often the problem is more obvious – even considering their workouts, people eat too much, or they eat too little protein and too many carbs and saturated fats, Purdy said. Some even boost their caloric intake once they start working out, figuring they’re burning extra calories, she said.

Purdy asks her clients to record everything they eat for a week, along with the time they ate it and how they felt at the time. Many are surprised at the quantity and quality of what they’re eating – and for what reasons, she said. She also asks them to make other changes, such as reducing their alcohol or latte consumption.

“Everything in moderation,” she said. “If you deprive yourself, you’re probably not going to succeed.”

3. Working out is harder than it used to be.

Purdy said people who leap into a workout expecting to match their past athletic feats are often unpleasantly surprised – and discouraged. 

You might have been able to run 5 miles with ease a decade ago. That doesn’t mean you can do it today, right out of the gate. 

“If you do that, you’re going to be so sore you’re never going to go out and do that again,” Purdy said.

Start slowly, Purdy advised. If your goal is a 5-mile run, walk first. When that’s easy, switch to jogging and walking intervals. When that’s easy, then try running.

4. You’re bored.

If the three-mile loop around your neighborhood is as familiar as the tops of your running shoes, change your routine. Carry weights. Do lunges. Find someone to walk with. Cross-train – swim once a week, play soccer another day and jog another.

“Find out what it is that’s missing, why you’re bored, and then change it,” Purdy said.

For Kristin Ludwig, a Hayden resident who’s finished an Ironman and three marathons, the key was finding an activity she loved: running. 

“That’s the bottom line,” she said. “If you don’t find something you love, you’re not going to (exercise). You’re not going to incorporate that into your lifestyle.”

5. You’re busy.

Here’s a trick from the Kroc Center’s Vitagliano: Pack your workout bag– clothes, shoes, water and snacks – in a backpack the night before and toss it into your car. It’ll take the hassle out of getting your gear ready during the day. 

“When you have it in your car, you’re more likely to work out,” Vitagliano said. “You can run right into the gym.”

Got kids? Constantly telling yourself you’ll exercise after they go to bed, only to find yourself exhausted and prone instead?

Work out during your work day, while the kids are at school or with a sitter, Vitagliano said. Go to the gym after you drop off the kids and before you get to work. Go for a walk during your break.

6. You think you have to choose between exercising and spending time with your kids. You choose your kids.

Some busy parents worry that taking the time to exercise means less time for their kids.

“You kind of have to be a little bit selfish,” Purdy said. “You have to allow yourself to be that way.” 

Women in particular tend to care for themselves last, Vitagliano said.

“You will be a better caretaker for your husband, for your family, for the whole world if you are healthy,” she said.

Explain to family members why it’s important for you to take time for yourself to exercise, Purdy suggested – “because Mom’s a much nicer person when she exercises,” for example.

Or make exercise a family affair. Play games in the yard. Explore the trails at Riverside State Park. Ride bikes. Go swimming. Your kids will learn exercise equals fun – no gym equipment required.

Sheri Bullock, of Coeur d’Alene, runs three or four times a week. Her three kids, ages 5 to 12, ask to go for hikes or bike rides rather than for trips to McDonald’s, she said – exercise is part of her family’s routine.

The fact that her husband is health-minded makes it much easier for her to be the same way, Bullock said.

“He and I, more than anybody else, can motivate each other when we have a couple of days when we’re just not getting up off the couch,” Bullock said.

7. You’re tired.

Especially if you get too little sleep at night, you just want to put your feet up at the end of the day. It might be hard to believe, but you’ll actually feel better – more energetic – if you got 20 or 30 minutes of exercise instead, Purdy said.

And then skip late-night programming. Go to bed.

8. You let yourself off the hook.

If you have trouble staying accountable to yourself, put yourself on someone else’s hook. Trainers call them “accountability partners” – they’re people who’ll check on your progress, hold you to your goals, and call you on it when you make excuses for skipping workouts.

They might be workout partners, but they also could just be one or more people willing to hold you to your word. 

Ludwig has three accountability partners, along with a group of a dozen or so women who run together and share their running progress and goals in a closed Facebook group.

9. It’s really not a good time.

Maybe you know you need to exercise, but you can’t get your head in the game. That’s fine, Vitagliano said. Set a date. Choose it wisely, for a time when you really think you’ll be ready – maybe even a couple of months ahead. Mark it on the calendar. 

Spend the interim thinking about what you’ll do and getting any workout clothes or gear ready. When the date arrives, get started.

It’s more effective than dragging yourself to workouts you resent, looking for any reason to stop.

“I want them, in their own heart and mind, to make that decision for themselves for the rest of their lives,” Vitagliano said.

10. You can’t afford a gym membership.

You don’t need a rowing machine or a treadmill or a Spinning class to sweat. 

Turn up the music, and dance in your living room – dancing is great exercise, Vitagliano said. Take a ball to the park and kick it around with your kids.

“Remember the olden days, before there were gyms?” Vitagliano said. “People ran around outside.”

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