Setting Goals & Sticking With a Plan (Continued)

Maintaining Motivation

Motivation can be described as a mental process that links a thought or feeling to an action. You are the one to make the decision to engage in physical activity each day. What motivates you? Some people are motivated by external factors such as pleasing a family member, a friend, or even an employer. Although it is helpful to have support from those around you, if the external focus is your only reason to exercise, it often leads to feelings of guilt or frustration if you don't feel as though you measure up to someone else's standards. In contrast, internal motivation focuses on what you want — to look better, to feel better, to get healthier, or to learn a new activity.

Ultimately, motivation cannot be generated from someone else. Rather, motivation is about mobilizing that drive for action that already exists within you. Motivation is a mental process that can lead to positive lifestyle or behavior change. Motivation involves linking your intellectual understanding or feeling with action-oriented steps. This article provides the steps to start or to improve your exercise program, but in the end, the drive to action rests within you.

Checking Progress

Keeping tabs on your exercise program will help keep you on track. Just as regular car maintenance gives you worry-free driving, taking a few moments to check your body's progress will ensure that you are still on course to meet your goals. One way to do this is to write down what you have accomplished each week. A weekly log may provide space to record your activity in each of the three areas (aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, and flexibility). In addition, you can record a summary of the week's workouts and write down some goals for the upcoming week, including things you may want to change.

If logbooks aren't your style, consider simply jotting your exercise accomplishments in your schedule book or calendar. On the first day of each month, take a moment to look back over the previous month. This isn't elaborate but does give you the opportunity to reflect on what you have accomplished.

Deciding to take charge of your health and to improve your fitness is a powerful resolution. Understanding the basic components of fitness — aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, and flexibility — gives you the tools you need. With tools in hand, you must reflect on what is important to you. Putting your goals down on paper and examining your reasons for exercising will give you a perspective that will allow you to create an exercise program that is right for you. Your exercise program will not be static but will likely change over time as you continue to develop new and more challenging goals.

Dealing With Setbacks

Will you experience setbacks in your exercise program? Very likely. Life situations arise that may disrupt your physical activity plan. Don't let this be discouraging. Instead, plan for it! Your exercise program is not an all-or-none endeavor. For example, when traveling for business, you may become stuck in the airport with a delayed flight. Rather than sit and fret about the delay (over which you have no control), take a brisk walk around the terminal. When traveling, consider staying in hotels that have fitness rooms. Although often not ideal, typically you can walk the halls or consider doing some calisthenics and stretching in your room. Ask the hotel staff about safe places to walk or jog in the neighborhood.

When sickness, travel, family responsibilities, work obligations, and other unavoidable situations arise, realize they are just short-term holdups to your exercise program, not permanent derailments. Have a return plan of action in place. When faced with a setback, you might have to reverse your timeline a bit. For example, after an illness, you should start back slowly rather than jump right back to where you left off. Although you may feel frustrated at losing fitness, be encouraged that you are able to start again and build back up.

Click here for ACSM's Program for Balanced Fitness (Part One): Aerobic Fitness.

Reviewed by Sheri Colberg, PhD, FACSM 01/14.


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Last Modified Date: January 13, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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