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    How to Start Working Out (and Stick With It)

    You know you should exercise. But how do you keep up your dedication to the gym or a training routine when your schedule is overloaded with a million other things, from work to household responsibilities to travel and other social engagements? Or how do you push yourself to start working out if it’s been years (or basically forever) since you last had a good self-imposed sweat?

    MORE ON EXERCISE

    Why Exercise Boosts Mood and Energy

    Ever experience that classic “runner’s high”? It’s not just in your head. Exercising releases hormones called endorphins that promote feelings of euphoria and help you focus.

    Working out also improves cardiovascular health and sleep quality, both of which improve your energy levels throughout the day and reduce the risk of a variety of other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

    Moving your body more is also associated with a reduced risk of depression.

    And exercise may help people who already have depression.

    Pretty impressive. But the truth is, you may have all this knowledge and still find yourself wanting to hit the snooze button when it comes to those early morning workouts — or your couch if you’re an afternoon exerciser.

    That’s why intentional, strategic habit changes, based on your personality, schedule, likes, and dislikes can make all the difference in whether or not you stick to your workout plans or get thrown off track.

    We asked sports psychologists and other fitness pros to share their top tips for finding a workout you’ll actually enjoy and sticking with it for the long haul. Here’s what they say:

    1. Find a Workout You Enjoy and Look Forward To

    Just because all your friends love spinning or CrossFit doesn’t mean you do, too. Finding a workout you genuinely like will make you that much more likely to stick with it over time, says Kristen Dieffenbach, PhD, an associate professor at West Virginia University’s College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences in Morgantown.

    “Begin by really thinking about the things you enjoy — nature, group settings, playing sports, quiet time, or being challenged. Then look for activities that meet one or more of your criteria,” she says.

    Consider your personality, too, suggests Dr. Dieffenbach. Do you like competition? Then working out with a friend who challenges you or taking a group fitness class may be helpful. Do you like immediately seeing the results of your efforts? Then workouts associated with an app that tracks your progress, like Strava for running and cycling, may be very motivating.

    2. Pick Workouts That You’re Good At

    “We know from motivation research that humans have a desire to be ‘good’ at something,” says Brandonn S. Harris, PhD, an a professor and the program director of sport and exercise psychology at Georgia Southern University School of Health and Kinesiology in Savannah and Statesboro. “So I’d encourage people to not only seek out things they find pleasurable and enjoyable, but also things that they’re confident doing or would like to become more proficient in.”

    That doesn’t mean the activity will necessarily be easy for you. Unless it’s an activity recovery day, every workout should push you in terms of endurance or muscle building. But, there’s no need to struggle through a Zumba class because you hate memorizing the combinations.

    On the other hand, if you excelled in sports as a kid, joining an adult basketball or soccer league may be a huge confidence booster (as well as deliver all the health and fitness benefits of a workout). Or if there’s a physical skill you’ve always wanted to be able to do, such as self-defense, you may love suiting up for kickboxing or jiu-jitsu.

    3. Put It on Your Calendar as You Would Any Other Appointment

    Once you have a workout (or even a few) that you want to try, give yourself a slow and steady break-in period. “Don’t start off by trying to make radical changes,” says Dieffenbach. “Schedule a few days a week and put it on your calendar like any other important appointment.”

    Giving yourself a workout range for the week can also be helpful. “If you set a goal of working out five days and only go four times, that’s often perceived as a failure,” says Dr. Harris. “Instead, give yourself a more realistic range, like three to five days a week.”

    This content was originally published here.

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