Quick, what's the most difficult aspect of your fitness program?
If you're like most guys, it's getting to the gym regularly and eating right every day, even when you don't feel like it. You're a little tired, the dog needs walking, they're rerunning The Sopranos, etc.
It's easy to slag off once in a while. Unfortunately, it's the little slips that can really eat into your progress, or even stop it.
To provide ideas about keeping a fitness program afloat when the going gets tough, we turned to the real experts in the subject—guys who've been following this advice themselves for months, years, even decades.
In addition to a number of fitness professionals and experts in the field, we asked readers to tell how they keep themselves motivated week after week, and they responded with some great suggestions. So the next time you're tempted to skip a workout or gorge on a bucket of tater tots, keep these real-life maxims in mind.
Have a Purpose
1. I write down time-specific goals in my diary, so I can see whether I have attained them when the time is up.
—Gary Lee, reader
2. I write down what I want to achieve for the day, how I will achieve it, and check it when I have accomplished it. And I keep the list posted on the mirror in my bathroom.
—Jason Sablan, reader
3. What helps me the most is setting up short-term goals—I always make sure that I have certain points along the way that I can track my progress with. This keeps me going when times are tough and I don't feel like working out.
—Kevin Valluzzi, in-home personal trainer and triathlete in Bergen County, N.J.
4. I keep a daily journal of my cardio/weight-training workouts as well as everything I eat. This holds me accountable and allows me to chart my progress in a specific way.
—Barry Cook, reader
5. I have to make a million decisions during the week, both at work and at home. Working out may be hard, but it's also an hour when I can relax and focus on one thing.
—Michael Arens, reader
6. My cross-country/track coach has told me to pick one guy on the team and set my goal to beat him. You have to constantly think, If I don't work out today, ‘so-and-so' is going to get ahead of me and have a greater advantage.
—Demetri Limberis, reader
Make Exercise a Habit
7. I make lunch hour on Tuesday and Thursday my “workout time.” If someone wants to schedule something for those times, I'll say, “Sorry, I'm busy then.”
—Lee Carlsen, reader
8. Working out and eating right can be a habit. Establishing a regular routine and following it for two or three months will condition the body to do it.
—Jim Wilson, a 69-year-old personal trainer (and retiree from the oil-refining industry) in Denver, CO
9. I find it helps to start thinking of my next workout immediately after I finish my current workout. This way, when I get in the gym I know exactly what I will be doing, and I'm totally prepared and ready to go.
—Gordon Jack, reader
10. A little planning will go a long way. During the workweek I pack my own lunch and bring my own snacks. And I pack my gym bag every night with the essentials…. It's always waiting for me in the front seat after work.
—Aaron D. Sudduth, reader