One of the biggest challenges I hear about as a personal trainer

Is Motivation, or the lack thereof.

People wanting to improve their health start out with good intentions, but they can’t sustain their enthusiasm for the long haul. It’s a running joke of sorts at the end of each year to get ready for the new crop of folks wearing their new workout gear to hit the gym after Christmas, and then be gone again by February or March.

It happens every year.

Some of ’em stick it out, but more do not.

So motivation …

For the average Joe or Jane, the recommended amount of moderate exercise is 150 minutes a week — two-and-half hours. If you exercise 30 minutes a day, that’s five days a week, right? Three days a week and the number increases to just under an hour a day.

My workouts at the gym usually last about an hour or so, and I usually go four times a week. So what’s that? 240 minutes. Quite a bit more than the standard recommendation, but honestly, it’s not as much as it sounds.

If you want to break it down to the basics, regular exercise is a lifestyle thing.

It gets to be a habit.

There are lots of different viewpoints on how long it takes to form a new habit. One rule of thumb says 21 days. For those first few weeks, it can be a struggle. Mostly a mental struggle, but a struggle, nonetheless. I can tell you from experience, though, that when you become accustomed to working out on a regular basis, you actually look forward to it, and you feel like something is missing if you don’t.

The thing about it is this:

You can’t wait until you feel like starting an exercise program to get started. If you wait until you “feel like it,” it may never happen. When your brain is telling you that you’re too busy, too tired, too whatever, don’t listen. I can guarantee you, after you lace up those sneakers and start moving, you’re going to feel like it. And by the time three or four weeks have passed — you may have to push through some mental roadblocks now and then — you’ll have formed a positive, healthy new habit.

Start slow. Consistency is the key. Set a schedule for when you want to exercise and stick to it. Don’t try to do too much in the beginning. Set small, achievable goals — and celebrate those goals. If you’re trying to lose 20 pounds, for example, you ain’t gonna do it in a week. You’re not going to do it in a month. If you can lose one or two pounds a week, you’re doing great. Right on schedule.

Think about hiring a personal trainer for a while to help you get started on the right track. I see a lot of people in the gym who seem to be trying to do the right thing, but they obviously don’t know what they’re doing. Professional help can be a little expensive, but consider it an investment in your long-term health. Pay me now or pay me later. For me, I don’t expect someone to hire me to train them forever and ever. My job is to teach them as much as I can so they can “graduate” and learn what they need to know to train themselves.

In my opinion, that’s the way it should work.

If you’re a gym member, see if they have group fitness classes. Our gym has a great schedule of all different kinds of classes. You’ll meet other like-minded people and maybe even find a workout partner. You can help encourage each other and keep each other accountable.

Treat yourself.

Like I said, don’t set great big goals that are going to be hard to achieve. That just leads to frustration, which can lead to giving up. We don’t want that. Set reasonable goals and celebrate when you get there. Then, set some new goals.

Above all, have fun with it.

If it’s not fun, chances are good that you’re not going to stick with it.

You got this.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Me at pole vault practice.