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Cooper Wellness Offers Tips for Sticking With an Exercise Program

Dallas — ( — At some point, you may have started a diet-and-exercise plan with the best of intentions, only to abandon it several weeks later because you'd pushed yourself too fast and hard. During healthy stay-overs at Cooper Wellness, certified trainers explain how to stick with an exercise program over the long haul.

Losing interest weeks after starting a program can occur if early results don't meet high expectations. Lack of patience and discipline, particularly when it comes to working out in a gym, are other reasons. Results can't be forced, and a new regimen may be inconvenient or even uncomfortable. Exercise programs started after New Year's often fall by the wayside before February.

"The best exercise plans and diets let you ramp up slowly, to get accustomed to change gradually," says Todd Whitthorne

, executive director at Cooper Wellness. "It may take six or eight weeks before you start to see real results." He adds that you need to stay focused during that time, and don't want to get into a stop-and-start pattern.

A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that weight gained during an exercise hiatus can be tough to shed when activity is resumed at a later date. The study, conducted by the lab's Life Sciences Division, revealed that the key to staying trim is to stay active year-round.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of The Cooper Institute, advises starting a fitness program slowly and speeding it up gradually. Accept the fact that it will take time, he says. That way you will avoid injuries that can result from beginning too fast. Think of fitness as a journey, not a destination, he advises. Since people get out of shape over time, it takes a while to become fit again.

Weeks into an exercise program, some individuals feel better and may see their clothes become a little looser. Their workout performance improves. But after a while, doing the same routine at the same intensity doesn't produce the same results and can feel monotonous.

"If an exercise regime becomes a chore, you've probably hit a plateau, and then it's time to mix up the routine with cross training," says Susie Kania, exercise physiologist at Cooper Wellness. Cross training methods like stair-stepping, taking a spinning class, hiking or swimming, can relieve the boredom.

"In your workout, include types of activities that achieve similar results," advises Dr. Riva Rahl, medical director at Cooper Wellness. "If you're doing a cardio workout, you could start with an exercise class followed by jogging on the treadmill," she says. Or,  during the week, alternate by days. You might bike on Monday and Wednesday and work out on equipment the other days. "Try different machines or outdoor sports to use muscles in different ways," she says.

Kania says another tip is to focus all your attention on the exercise in order to keep at it. Using "pre-suggestion" techniques, you can accomplish almost anything, she says. "Tell yourself: 'I'm going to do this as well as I can. I'm not going to think or worry about anything else for the next ten minutes." The mind instructs the body to get going with the exercise at hand.

Someone who has taken time to start a fitness program has already shown that they're interested, Kania says. But the fire to work out must be kept alive, and it can be fueled by concentrating on the health benefits of exercise. By regularly practicing pre-suggestion techniques and reminding yourself of the many benefits of working out, you should start to enjoy exercising more.

Whitthorne says an individual's performance should not be compared to that of others in a gym, on a track or in the pool. "People join fitness programs for various reasons," he says." And you don't know how long others have been coming to the gym. It can be discouraging to compare your own physique with those of long-time regulars."

To keep motivated, it helps to notice any recent changes in your body and muscles as the weeks progress. But don't get discouraged if you're not the size or shape you want to be, Cooper Wellness trainers say. And keep a record of your progress, noting dates and times. Facts to include in your record are the ease with which a movement can be done, the number of times an exercise can be performed without tiring, and changes in your weight or muscle measurements.

Remember, too, that finding the time to exercise may call for alerting family members and employers about your plans and soliciting their cooperation, Whitthorne says. Cooper Wellness hosts clients for healthy stay-overs of two or six days at the Cooper Guest Lodge, an elegant 62-room hotel in Dallas.

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