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How to Keep a Workout Routine after the Military

7/31/14

Recently, VetTalk featured an article exploring the important health benefits veterans receive when adopting an exercise routine. The gist is that with regular exercise, not only will you manage your weight better, but you’ll have more energy, feel motivated and reduce your risk for certain long-term health complications.

If you’re a veteran, more than likely your fitness was a top priority when you served, and you gained these important health benefits. However, many separating military members struggle to keep an exercise routine because new obligations compete for their time and energy. Suddenly, their days are filled with applying for jobs, going to school, supporting the family, or adjusting to a new career.

The only way your fitness will remain a priority post-service is if you choose to keep it that way. It may not be easy, but it’s possible, and most of all, it’s important to your health. The key is to develop a routine that complements your new lifestyle–here’s how you do it:

1. Establish a Routine that Fits Your Schedule

Think about your weekly schedule and what you have to accomplish each day. You may have days filled with errands, meetings, and the kids’ activities. These are probably bad days to work out, right?

Not so. Working out can be a source of dread for those just starting up a routine. By making a trip to the gym just another stop in your day, you can focus on other things until it’s time to hit the treadmill. However, this trick may not work for everyone. Some prefer exercising first thing in the morning because it gives them an energy boost to power through the day. Others would rather stop at the gym on the  commute home from work–which gives an added advantage of missing traffic. Try exercising at several different times and see what you like best, that way you’ll be more likely to make it routine.

2. Stay true to your level of fitness

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Physical Activity Guidelines, the average adult needs at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week to achieve the health benefits mentioned earlier. Aerobic activity involves the movement of your large muscle groups and can be anything from running, walking and jumping rope to biking, playing tennis and swimming. It’s also recommended to add muscle-strengthening exercises to your routine a few times a week.

Depending on your current fitness level, you may or may not be able to follow the guidelines–and that’s okay! Your goal should be to get your body moving so you can be the healthiest version of yourself. Starting out, if your body can’t handle 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week, make it your goal to complete 75 minutes until you can do more. If running proves too difficult, try  alternating walking at a brisk pace with a slow jog until you build up your endurance.

Beginning a workout routine with unrealistic fitness goals will leave you discouraged when you don’t accomplish them, and you’ll feel more tempted to give up. In addition, your workouts may result in injuries if you push your body too hard. Start with a routine that matches your fitness level. After completing each workout you’ll feel encouraged to keep going, and before you know it, your body will be able to handle more strenuous tasks.

3. Communicate with family and friends

Many returning veterans are concerned with providing enough financial and emotional support to the families they missed during their service. While it’s important to meet the needs of your family, making time for your health should also rank high on the priority list. To seriously commit to a workout plan, you need to discuss your fitness goals with your family. Explain you need a few hours each week to focus on your health so when they see you with the gym bag, they know you mean business.

In addition, you’d be surprised what communicating this goal to loved ones can do for your confidence. They’ll give you some much needed encouragement during the first few weeks of the new routine, and more than likely they’ll hold you to your commitment.

4. Remember to have fun

You’ll be more likely to stick with a routine if you have something to look forward to. Load up your iPod, mp3 player, or your phone with music that will amp you up for a difficult cardio set. Time will pass more quickly when working out to your favorite songs.

Or, choose an exercise you enjoy. Running is an excellent cardio workout, but if it makes you miserable, don’t do it! Swimming serves as a great alternative that works your major muscle groups and improves your strength, flexibility, and endurance. It’s also a good option for those with joint pain or arthritis.

5. See the results

Improving your health and increasing your fitness level is a process. It may take a few months to see any results, but when you do, take a moment to celebrate. Knowing your body can accomplish something that was not possible a few months earlier is a powerful feeling, and you’ll want to keep pushing your boundaries to see what you can accomplish next.

Making time for an exercise routine is not easy, but it’s an important lifestyle choice to make sooner, rather than later. These tips will get you thinking about what you can do to find a workout routine that sticks so you can enjoy the healthiest life possible.

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