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Back in the Fitness Saddle

by Jason Kessler
We all make workout resolutions this time of year, but here’s how to make them stick.

Illustration by Julian Rowe / julianrowe.com

I feel like a failure. For months now–more like a year, actually–I’ve been lying to myself and saying I was going to go back to the gym. At one point, I went five days a week, an hour at a time. It felt great.

Then life took over. I made the unfortunate decision that I couldn’t afford that gym anymore, both in money and time. I vowed to join a new, cheaper gym and get back into the gym habit as soon as possible. That didn’t happen. Well, the joining happened (which means the paying happened), but the going? That never quite got off the ground. Now it’s a year out, and my pants barely fit. Yet I’m stuck in a holding pattern where getting back into a fitness regimen seems like the hardest thing in the world.

How can I break out of this rut?

Clearly, I need professional help and when it comes to fitness that comes in the form of trainers. The first guy I went to is Josh Fingerhut, a beefy dude who used to be my personal trainer back when I could afford that kind of thing. As it turns out, he’s been in the same boat when it comes to falling off the fitness wagon. His advice was simple: “Have a plan. Stick to it. Even if you don’t finish the whole workout, you were there, you burned some calories, you broke down some muscle fibers to only make them stronger.” It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Have a plan and stick to it. Yes. I need to do that.

Next up was Joel Harper, celebrity trainer who works with Dr. Oz. He took the “Have a plan” idea and made it a little more real. “My tip for getting back into exercising is to focus on what you want–be it a 32-inch waist, losing 15 pounds, or doing 100 pushups,” he says. “Be very clear and write it on a Post-It note and put it on your bathroom mirror so you see it every day.” Ah, the classic “Post-It on the mirror” trick. Very useful. That’s why I now have a Post-It that says, “Set a Fitness Goal.” Hey! It’s a start.

I knew I needed something concrete, and I knew I would need to stick to it, but Harper provided more insight about what that should be. “I am all about short workouts that get you results. The key is using your time efficiently and effectively.” With that, I decided to find a workout routine that was fast and efficient. Luckily, I found one rather quickly.

Back in May, the New York Times Magazine published a story called “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout” that detailed the work of Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, FL. It gives you a series of 12 different exercises to be done for 30 seconds each, working all major areas of the body with nothing more than a chair, a wall, and your own body weight. It’s brilliant. You can’t complain that it’s complicated, because it’s not. You can’t complain that it’s expensive, because it’s not. You can’t complain about anything, really. You just have to commit to it.

So here I am, about to embark on a new exercise journey with an incredibly simple workout program that eliminates pretty much all of my regular excuses. I’ve got a new Post-It that says “7-Minute Workout” and a personal vow to stop hating my pants. And you know what the best part is? I don’t feel like such a failure anymore.

Jason Kessler is a lifestyle writer/columnist for Bon Appetit, Food Republic and a slew of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungryClown.

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