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Make Your Exercise Program Stick

These 10 tips will help you to stay motivated and follow through on your fitness goals.

Repeat after me: "In 2010, I will be the best, healthiest me ever!" Start visualizing how you want to look and feel. Then make it happen using these 10 tips for sticking to a fitness plan:

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Find a training partner. Sure, you can work out by yourself, but having a partner helps you to get and stay motivated. Make sure your training partner has the same drive and dedication and shares most of your training interests, abilities, and goals. Working out with someone who's a little stronger, faster, or at least on the same fitness level will challenge you to be your best.

Do what you love and have fun doing it. Exercise should be fun, not a chore or obligation. The key is to pick something you like to do or something you can master. If you're all left feet on the dance floor, then you probably won't feel successful in an aerobic dance class. Why not try something new this winter to spark your interest, like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing? Or if you don’t like cold weather, try walking laps at your local mall.

Follow an exercise routine where there is no routine. To remain interested and focused, I rarely do the same routine twice. A "no-routine routine" means mixing up your activities to keep variety in your exercise program. The body can get lazy, and once it gets used to a pattern, it will work just enough—no more, no less—to maintain that fitness level. To make progress while getting in shape, stimulate your muscles in fresh ways.

Focus on exercise quality, not quantity. Correct technique, not more repetitions, is what makes exercise challenging. Seek expert guidance to make sure you're working out in the right way. Experiment with different kinds of movement and pay attention to how you feel when doing them.

Do your workout first thing in the morning. This is a trick I use all the time. I hop out of bed, jump in my exercise clothes, drink some fresh juice, and start my workout. That way, exercise doesn’t get canceled when my schedule gets tight.

Stay consistent. When you get older, you can’t just take a week off and pick up right where you left off. You have to work out regularly; I do something every day, even if it’s only for half an hour. Your body is like a sports car: the more often you run it, the better it runs. Let it sit for a month, and you’ve got problems.

Focus while working out. Concentrate on your breathing, your heart rate, your technique, or your performance. It’s like flying a plane. When I was taking flying lessons, the instructors taught me to look everywhere, all the time. They teach you to scan the horizon, without zeroing in on any single thing. So it is with exercise.

Breathe through your nose, especially when doing cardiovascular exercise. Breathing this way filters the air that reaches your lungs and improves its quality. It is almost impossible to overdo your workout when you breathe through your nose. If you feel the need to breathe through your mouth to catch your breath, do that.

Make your workouts a challenge by setting goals. Keep track of your progress so that you can chart how far you’ve come and how close you are to your goals. Your workout records will motivate you to even greater performance and better fitness.

Finally, have a plan for when you’re going to exercise each week. If you don’t have a half an hour a day or at least an hour three times a week to spend on yourself, then you need to reorganize your life. Make time for your workouts like you would for other important appointments.

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