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Tips to Help You Stick to an Exercise Routine

No matter what obstacles you face sticking to an exercise or healthy-eating routine -- for me it's living in the Northeast where it's the dead of winter and cold and dreary most of the time -- you can do this. Here are a few of my tricks.
02/18/2016 02:00pm ET | Updated February 18, 2017
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"Can you let me know when you have 10 minutes? I want to get your feedback on something," an office colleague emailed me this morning.

"P.S. And can you please start harassing me about exercising?"

Two months into the new year and fitness resolutions are already a dim memory.

No matter what obstacles you face sticking to an exercise or healthy-eating routine -- for me it's living in the Northeast where it's the dead of winter and cold and dreary most of the time -- you can do this. Here are a few of my tricks.

  • Register for a race or walk. So far I'm registered for half marathons in March and April and a triathlon sprint in June. If it's your first race, make it a friendly one. Check out the race cut off and make sure there's plenty of time for you to take a reasonably leisurely pace. Lots of races have a walk/run option, and I've noticed a ton of 9ks and 7ks out there. Once you sign up, tell everyone you know and make it a point to talk about the race and your worries. A lot.

  • Make a training calendar. Talk to basically everyone about your training calendar. That way there's a good chance at least one person will ask you about your swim or your run and you'll be able to share every detail. I've considered setting up a group text where a bunch of us wake up and first thing let the rest of us know our exercise plan for the day. If you have a trainer or a sports doc or a physical therapist, that's an easy one, but don't rule out the checker at the grocery store. As in, "I've just finished a swim and am making 5-Minute Protein Peanut Butter Energy Bites, can you tell?"
  • Use a fitness app to track your workouts and friend everyone you kind of know. I use MapMyFitness (for activity) and MyFitnessPal (for nutrition) -- these two work together -- and I get live notifications whenever my "friends" or family members log a workout. Okay, my mother's 2-mile walk along the beach in Miami yesterday was a little braggy, but the chirp spurred me to fit in a 2-mile walk before dinner and before it got too frigid. (I've been able to disable the sound in everyone's notification except my mother's. Creepy.)
  • Get extroverted. Even if you're an introvert. It's great to have an exercise partner, but since this is not always possible or feasible, you can feed off the mojo of random people exercising around you. Whether you're out for a run on a trail or in the neighborhood or at the gym, make sure your body language is just a little friendly. I've noticed even a slight wave or a hello from a passing runner pushes me to go a little farther. At the gym, take the treadmill next to someone else and turn and say hello. Guaranteed even if that person is deep into a TV show he or she will snap off those earbuds and chat for a second or two before saying something supportive like, "Have a good workout."
  • Regress. As in the opposite of progress. I was introduced to the idea of "regression" as it relates to exercise when Kevin McGuinness, my Washington, D.C., physical therapist began suggesting ways I could make changes to an exercise or even my exercise routine in order to rehab my hamstring injury. For example, reducing mileage, load, or reps or even squatting on a chair as opposed to squatting. Basically there's more than one way to regress so live it up. I'm thinking circa 1990s at the height of the rollerblading era and taking mine out of the bag the first dry day this weekend.
  • Get new gear. Maybe a different brand of running shoes or a game-changer pair of goggles. It doesn't have to be something you truly need but should be something really great. I'm a Brooks stability girl but just ordered the Saucony Guide and the Nike Air Zoom Structure 19. Talk to everyone about your new gear, why you ordered it, where you got it, what they think about it. If it's an item you ordered online, track the delivery progress and when the package arrives, Instagram the hell out of it.
  • Talk about it. When I returned from my first marathon in Jamaica and was reading up on different approaches to recovery I came across a suggestion that it is overwhelmingly therapeutic to talk about the experience. In excruciating detail. After your run make sure you tell someone about it. Don't wait for someone to ask you. Grab a kindred spirit and say, "Do you want to hear about my run?" And then be sure to ask your co-workers, friends, and family about their workouts. You might be opening the floodgates but it's worth it if you get to talk about you for even 5 minutes. An added bonus is you might learn something clutch.
  • Hydrate. Especially in winter we know we feel better when we drink more water. I use an old bartender's citrus juicer to squeeze the juice of one lemon into a large shaker and add a handful of fresh mint leaves and a teaspoon of agave before filling the whole thing with water and ice. I take this with me to work and save it for the afternoon when I feel like crawling under my desk. Berries and cucumbers are great too.
  • Have fun. There are a lot of people out there having fun exercising and you should be one of them. It's not like there's a finite amount of fun available. Everyone can have some. You're at work all day and hopefully you love your job but still even so you can love exercising, too. Figure out what aspect of exercise makes you smile, even if it just means quality one-on-one time with yourself, because even when you're approaching your edge and sweating like crazy I know for a fact there's a little smile in there.