In a perfect world, you'd develop a workout schedule for the next six months, stick to it flawlessly and find yourself at the level of fitness you hoped to achieve. But as many know all too well, life sometimes gets in the way, be it in the form of an injury, lack of motivation or simply running out of time. While sticking to a regular workout schedule is a challenge, there are a number of ways to keep you moving both physically and mentally.
Making your workouts fun, getting creative with both your routine and schedule, and taking a few simple steps to stay healthy are all great steps toward sticking to your fitness goals. Ryan Sutter, a former professional football player who also happened to be the top choice on "The Bachelorette" in 2003, now finds himself in the role as a fulltime firefighter and family man. Yet he still enjoys amateur athletic pursuits to keep himself if shape, such as mountain bike races and marathons.
Sutter offers six tips to fellow weekend warriors looking to stay in shape:
* Set successive short-term goals to keep you going. For example, schedule a 5k one month and a mountain bike race for the next. The feeling of accomplishment you get from fulfilling each goal will help you achieve the next. You can even set weekly goals with rewards, such as allowing yourself to order a pizza after sticking to your schedule for that week.
* Use peer pressure in a positive way. Enrolling in team sports or group activity can help provide the motivation for sticking to your plan. When others are depending on you, you're less likely to skip out.
* Vary your activity. Run one day, play basketball another and hit the weight room the next. One benefit to a varied routine is keeping you interested, but it's also great for your body. Different activities use different muscle groups, meaning a varied workout helps you become more comprehensively fit and can help you avoid overuse injuries. "Focus on being an athlete rather than a specialist," says Sutter.
* Listen to your body. You're likely to have some aches and pains, but those can be reduced with the proper treatment. Always take time to warm up before and stretch after workouts, and ice sore areas after your workout. To make icing easier, keep an ACE Brand Reusable Cold Compress in your freezer at both home and work. More injury prevention tips can be found at www.acebrand.com.
* Get creative with your scheduling. Look for ways to make workouts a part of your daily routine. "I really enjoy yoga in the morning with my kids," says Sutter. Rather than heading out to dinner to catch up with your friend, see if he wants to hit the racquetball court instead. Or maybe you can occasionally bike to work instead of driving, spending the minutes you normally would be sitting in the car working out.
* Always keep your gym bag stocked and with you. This way, you can't back out of your workout because you weren't prepared. "There are three essentials I keep in my gym bag: food for energy, hydration to keep me going and clean clothes to change into when I'm done with my workout," says Sutter. "You may also want to keep an ACE Brand Bandage that offers compression to help you deal with any soreness that might arise."
"The most important thing is to have fun," says Sutter. "Otherwise, it's easy to lose sight of why you're working out in the first place."