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Work Your Body, Work Your Mind

It took me a long time to admit that I wasn’t successfully coping with my depression and anxiety on my own. It took even longer to come up with a plan to fight back against my own...

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Our Getting in Shape Experts

Paige Waehner

Paige Waehner

Personal trainer and author of About.com's guide to exercise

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Gin Miller

Gin Miller

Creator of step training and a top fitness professional for...

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Dr. John Spencer Ellis

Dr. John Spencer Ellis

CEO of the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association...

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Get in Shape

Get in Shape

1. Set a fitness goal.

And give yourself enough time to reach it. Your mission is the motivation that will keep you going on days when you feel like giving up. Be sure to create smaller goals too (such as doing 15 sit-ups), and reward yourself when you reach them, to help propel you toward your big one.

2. Formulate a workout plan.

Aim for three 40-minute workouts each week, at specific times. Your exercise schedule needs to be as important as any other appointment you have. Vary your routine--maybe it's tennis one day and a dance class on another--to challenge yourself and ward off workout boredom.

3. Do a reality check.

Be completely honest with yourself about how fit you are. Getting in shape is a personal journey that requires a realistic self-perspective; some novice exercisers are overly ambitious and begin a workout plan or set goals that are too hard on their bodies. So take it slow. Keep your focus on where you are and the progress you've made.

4. Seek support.

You're less likely to bail on a workout if you know a friend is waiting for you, and having a partner is good for emotional support too. Seek out people who have a contagious "You can do it!" attitude and who embody the fitness lifestyle you want. Don't compare yourself to über- fit types--trying to match their high standards may just make you want to quit.

5. Eat right.

Make sure you're eating the best foods to fuel your body--including lots of fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. And drink at least six cups of water a day--or more on the days you work out--to keep your hardworking body hydrated and energized.

Get-Fit Wisdom: 3 Questions for Ariane


Why is getting in shape so hard?
A: Most of us have tried -- and failed -- to do it before, so we associate it with negative beliefs, like, It's hard, and I'll fail again. I tell people to use what I call their Change GPS. Your car's navigation system only asks for two points: where you are now and where you want to be. It doesn't say, "Yesterday we messed up and arrived late." The same goes for fitness. Every day is a chance to ask yourself, Where am I? and Where do I want to be? Let go of everything else.

How can I stop myself from giving up again?
A: Those who stick with a fitness plan have a strong reason for wanting to succeed. So create a new goal instead of the old "I want to lose 10 pounds." Maybe you want to keep up with your kids or to run a mile -- whatever motivates you and has no association with past failed attempts.

What's the most common excuse people have for not sticking with it--and how do you get past it?
A: Everyone says they have no time. But every person has the same 24-hour day. Make your exercise time a priority. Write down your top reason for not working out, then write on a Post-it note why it's important to do so. Display that message on your bathroom mirror, at your desk, and in your kitchen as a reminder to stop making excuses and start moving.

Posted: 6/1/08