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Barrier Busters

We know that lots of things can stand in the way of your desire to get fit and turn regular workouts into a permanent fixture in your life. Fortunately, for each of these problems there are relatively simple solutions. Here are 21 ways to break down the most common mental barriers to a consistent, successful workout program and become the kind of guy who gets fit and stays there.

FITNESS BARRIER: MISSING MOTIVATION:

If you're having trouble keeping your fitness plan going, this is most likely issue No. 1. "For most people, motivation is the main obstacle to beginning and continuing an exercise program," says Jay Kimiecik, associate professor in health promotion at Miami University of Ohio and the author of a new book called The Intrinsic Exerciser. "In my experience doing research and interviewing ‘exercise maintainers,' I've learned that the people who are successful develop a strong enough passion for movement that they overcome the motivational obstacles others fall prey to.

You need to make a connection with the experience you have with moving your body."

Break on through:
1) Decide what you're aiming for. Do you want to lose body fat, gain muscle, look better, feel better, be healthier, live longer, be a stronger competitor in sports--or any combination of those goals? Until someone invents a magic superpill, regular exercise is the only clear route to all of them.

2) Learn to enjoy the feeling of exercise. You can learn to take satisfaction from the work your muscles are doing--just as you do when playing any sport-- by being aware of the effort you're giving and the progress you're making in the gym. The endorphins don't hurt either.

3) Focus on the challenge factor. Working out allows you to learn new skills, progress toward new objectives, and gain mastery over your body. After every exercise session, congratulate yourself on having achieved something now, and taken another step toward your goal.

4) Pump up your energy. Instead of just dragging yourself to the gym, do something enjoyable to get yourself "up" before a workout, such as listening to fast music or taking a brisk run outdoors.

5) Hire a personal trainer to work with you, at least occasionally. He or she will help you work harder without injury, and having to pay for the privilege will help spur you to keep working out between sessions. You'll also learn new ways to approach your training--always a good thing for helping prevent the staleness that accompanies doing the same old thing.

6) Have fun with the guys. You can make exercise a social event by working out with friends. A competitive spirit will likely permeate the group, which will help you put on muscle quickly. Or you can train separately and get together with the guys afterward for, say, a postworkout meal.

7) Make it a game. Take up a sport you enjoy and aim your workouts at becoming a more effective competitor. Eventually, you'll probably find that gaining strength and stamina is enjoyable for its own sake.

FITNESS BARRIER: WANTING TO QUIT

There's a reason health clubs are packed in January and half empty in March: Guys get excited by the concept of becoming fit, but often don't follow through when it turns into a day-to-day task that requires actually getting off one's duff and doing something about it. But while most men start to enjoy working out once they've made it part of their routine, many don't even get that far. "I don't think people really get hooked on exercise until they've done it for a while," says Daniel M. Landers, Ph.D., regent's professor in the department of kinesiology at Arizona State University. The point, then, is to get past those first few months.

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