Have you ever noticed how some people can train and stay fit, while others get stuck in an endless loop of weight loss and weight gain? As the daughter of gym owners, I've seen fitness fads come and go. As a yoga teacher myself, I've seen people start health regimes with zeal, only to fizzle out without realizing lasting results. But I've also seen people, year after year, improve their bodies. To find out what makes the difference I asked some of my favorite fitness icons for answers, and here's what they had to say.
7. KEEP IT REAL:
You can't go from couch potato to Iron Man racing. At least not quickly. Yoga guru and author Sadie Nardini (The 21-Day Yoga Body, Random House), says a friend's relationship advice inspired her fitness routine. "Don't act like today is all you have," the friend advised. "Assume 30 years." For Nardini, that means making fitness part of her everyday life rather than trying to add yet another thing to the to-do list. "Make your fitness routine an organic part of your lifestyle," she says. "Create each day (or so) around something healthy you can fit in without having to make sweeping changes. Start naturally. After work, go for a walk. Or do 20 minutes of yoga that challenges you without overwhelming your body. Increase if and when it feels possible, but allow yourself to look at the big picture, and take actions that will benefit [you for the long haul], not just the smaller moment at hand."
6. DON'T WAIT TILL YOU'RE BORED
Denise Mast, president of New York Adventure Racing Association, has been finding new fitness challenges since the 1990s. "Mix up what you're doing," Mast advises. "There's so much out there. After years and years of running I discovered adventure racing. That got me into mountain biking and paddling. Now I do boot camp and obstacle races. Before you find you're getting bored, find something else that interests you."
5. PARTICIPATE IN EVENTS
Ann Marie Miller, a USA Cycling Level 2 Licensed Coach at Chelsea Piers, says that training for a goal or a specific date helps keep her training on track. "And you can monitor your progress along the way," Miller says. "You don't need to do a full Ironman triathlon or a marathon. Start with more attainable goals like a 5K Fun Run or Walk, a Sprint Triathlon or a Charity bike ride. Charity rides usually offer multiple distances, so you can choose the ride that's the right length for you."
4. PAIR UP
Sometimes you need that extra kick. "I met someone who I had to work really hard to keep up with," says Chelsey Magness, a professional acrobat. "I wanted to see how long it would take until [he was] working hard to keep up with me." She says that training, playing and exploring together helps them stay fit as a couple, physically as well as mentally and emotionally.
3. SET GOALS
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The same is true of fitness. "Setting short-term goals allows you to stay motivated," says former professional ice skater Jason Cotnoir. But he's quick to add, "leave yesterday behind. Don't let your past missteps affect your present. Many people get discouraged if they miss a workout or eat something they were trying to avoid. When this happens, people tend to feel like a failure [which] can quickly derail you from your goals. It's important to know that you can only control what happens today!"
2. THE FAME PRINCIPLE
Whether you're experienced or new to working out, a personal trainer can help you get results you never dreamed possible. "No matter who you are it's easy to get in a rut," says Robert L. Kirchner, my father, and owner of the Holiday Health and Racquet Club. "Celebrities and famous hire trainers to keep them motivated, so can you. You can hire a pro at any gym at just about any budget, and it will inspire your routine."
1. DO NOT EXERCISE
This one's mine. Homework is full of exercises, maybe that's why the e-word makes me want to run screaming into the night. Yet I've exercised my whole life. Before discovering yoga, you'd find me at the gym under my headset, flipping through a magazine while riding a bike or climbing stairs. It wasn't until I connected with something that was challenging physically and mentally that I became truly fit. That component was missing was, well, love. I had to love what I was doing, so I wasn't so much exercising as getting to do that thing I couldn't wait to do. Even when it was (is) hard.
Lisa L. Kirchner is working on her new memoir, Toward a Secret Sky. Her current book, Hello American Lady Creature, is out now.