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Beat the Dropout Odds: Common Mistakes To Avoid

By: Dianne Villano - CPFI

Many people embark on a new fitness program with high hopes. But within 6 weeks, most of them drop out. Half will quit within 6 months and, less than one third of those who begin an exercise program will still exercising by the end of the first year.

This article is for the person who wants to be fit but just can't stay with any particular program for long. Help is here. If you are ready to step off of the dieting rollercoaster for good, feel better, have more energy, enjoy a better quality of life, and finally fit into "that" dress (or that suit), read on.

There is no magic bullet. Forget the miracle pills, secrets, gadgets, empty promises, "eat all you want" and lose weight while you sleep stuff.

What you need are tips and strategies to help you to make the transition from "beginner" and "dieter" to lifelong exerciser. And that's exactly what you'll find here.

If you knowing what to expect, you can develop strategies to overcome the stumbling blocks. And, thus, you can beat these dropout odds.

When you do that, you can live in the body you desire and never have to diet again!

If you can make it through these four transitional phases to the end of one year, your chances of becoming a lifetime exerciser and non dieter are virtually 100%. As a bonus, the lifelong health benefits of exercise will be yours.

Week one: The critical week

Overtraining. Many injuries--and most exercise dropouts--can be attributed to this cause. The first week of any fitness program has an extremely high drop out rate. Attempting too much too soon leads to soreness, fatigue, and injuries. There is a difference between being injured and being sore. Slight muscle soreness is to be expected after a work out when you are first beginning a program.

Solution. Start slowly and listen to your body. Always warm up, cool down, and stretch properly to prevent soreness and injury. Work at your own level and gradually increase duration and intensity. Be wary of trainers and exercise classes that tout the benefits of "no pain no gain" and that push you past your level of comfort. Donít lift weights that seem too heavy, or stretch too far if it is uncomfortable. Think "Comfort Zone." Later, you can--and should--ratchet up the intensity. But not at the outset.

Inexperience. It is natural to feel awkward and unsure at this point. It is completely natural to have questions about exercises, machines, how often to do cardio, whether you should do cardio at all, how hard to train, what to train and when, what to eat and when, what to wear, and so on.

Solution. Take advantage of the many information sources available to you. Read up on the subject, consult a trainer, or ask the staff at your gym. No one will fault you for wanting to get the most out of your workout and asking a question is much less painful than the injury you could suffer or time you could waste by not asking.

Most health clubs include free orientation sessions with your membership--take advantage of them. Most exercise videos will include additional information pamphlets or explanatory portions at the beginning of the workout--donít fast forward through or ignore these sections.

Keep in mind that you will get conflicting information and you will have to sort through it. Beware the person who is adamant about something--does this person look like a well-trained athlete to you? If not, you have just encountered someone who has recently learned something that may not even be true or may not apply to your situation. This person is not speaking from experience, but insecurity. Thank the person for his or her information, and make a point of asking someone who has some credentials.

Procrastination. Some people like to get their workouts out of the way first thing in the morning. Others simply are not morning people or look forward to evening workouts as a way to bust work day stress. But don't allow yourself to get distracted by other things so you no longer have time to work out. Make a definite appointment and keep it.

Be careful not to get into the "Iíll just do it twice as long tomorrow" habit as you skip your workout to grab a few rounds with your friends at Happy Hour. If your workouts are unstructured, you already have a big strike against you. Make a plan, and stick to it.

Solution. Chose the time thatís right for you. Do not try to fight your internal clock. Schedule your workout just as you would any other important appointment. This will enable you to achieve balance between your work, social, family, and fitness activities.

Weeks 2-4

Unrealistic expectations. Enthusiasm often wanes when pounds of fat donít magically disappear overnight or you haven't packed on enough muscle to look like you've been working out all of your life. You can't undo years of bad habits in just a few weeks.

Solution. Donít expect immediate, drastic changes in body shape or weight loss. Doctors recommend 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week. If you are beginning a weight training program, you may not lose weight because your body loses fat and gains muscle. While you will notice your clothes getting looser, you may not notice a change in the scale. Or you may gain weight while losing fat. What matters is the ratio of fat to lean tissue, not your actual weight. Don't use weight as your measuring tool.

Remember, you are making a lifestyle change, not doing some quick and dirty fat reduction trick. You will slowly reshape your body and keep that ugly fat off--it won't come back. Wouldn't you rather do that than have a quick loss of a few pounds but no real change over the long run?

Boredom. Even the most challenging workouts can get tedious after awhile.

Solution. Change your routine every so often. Add different activities to your routine, use different exercises at the gym, try an exercise machine occasionally instead of always using free weights, try a Yoga or Pilates class, or workout with a partner for a change. Hire a trainer for a couple of sessions to give you new ideas for your workout. You can also add outdoor activities to spice things up. Ttry a bike ride or a walk on the beach.

This good for you emotionally. But, it is also good for you physically. Your body will adapt to whatever you are doing, and progress will stop. So, change things. Take up a sport, so you get anaerobic exercise as well.

Week 12 through month 6: Almost there

Reality hits. Vacations, illness, work, and life in general can cause missed sessions. Not only can this cause a break in the exercise habits you are trying to create, it can also lead to an "all or nothing mentality" of "well I missed this whole week (or session), Iíve lost all my gains, it wonít hurt to miss this one session more

Solution. If youíve been forcing yourself to do something you donít enjoy, you are likely to quit. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy and that fits your goals, needs, and personality. Consider individual vs. group activity, in home vs. health club, morning vs. evening, and so on.

Focus on the things that you enjoy about your fitness routine. Also, concentrate on the positive changes that you are seeing (fitting into clothes, looking better, more energy, better mobility, better capability to cope with stress, better sports performance, fewer aches and pains, compliments from others, increased confidence).

Months 6 Ė 9: Plateau factor

Lack Of Goals. If youíve made it this far, you are probably pretty close to your goals. You are looking and feeling better. You are enjoying improved self confidence, reduced tension, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body fat levels. As the mental benefits become a normal part of your life, you may forget what not feeling good is like. Improvements will begin to level off as you become fitter, and further progression will require greater intensity and/or frequency.

Solution. The key here is two-fold.

First, remember how you looked and felt prior to beginning your fitness program. Think about the clothes that you are now wearing, new activities that you are enjoying, pain you no longer have, and so on. Concentrate on the many positive changes you have been enjoying. Remember, further gains with your present program will be incremental, since you have probably achieved your biggest improvements.

Second, plan your next course of action. Set new goals to take your body and fitness program to the next level. The key is to think long-term. If you are not satisfied with your fitness gains, increase your intensity--but be realistic. Set new goals that make sense to you and your lifestyle. Track all of your workouts in a workout journal. If you started off walking for 15 minutes 3x per week and are now jogging for 30 minutes or making it through an entire exercise tape, thatís measurable progress and something to be proud of. But now you can go from those low-intensity kinds of workouts to high-intensity workouts and see truly remarkable results.


Article written by Dianne Villano, President of Custom Bodies Personal Training and Weight Loss Programs. Dianne is a personal fitness instructor certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine with over 16 years of  experience who specializes in weight loss programs and programs for beginners.


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