Think you have what it takes to get in shape? Spring is "gut check" time. And if those abs — or arms or thighs — aren't ready for public display, here are some ways to start a new workout routine:
If you are working out but have reached a plateau and are bored:
Spring clean your routine. Try one new cardiovascular workout each week for a month, said Mark Verstegen, founder of Athletes' Performance and Core Performance, which specializes in athletic training, nutrition and physical therapy. "If you're a hard-core runner, try the Versaclimber for an intense cardio challenge. Avid cyclists can try a kickboxing class or swimming." Also try running or riding your route in reverse or mixing up your workout playlist," said Verstegen. "Adding variety to your cardio routine is good for your muscles and your mind. It'll help keep you engaged and motivated."
Amp it up. "Increase your sets, reps or mileage," said Amanda Visek, an assistant professor of exercise science at the George Washington University. "In order to continue to see fitness gains you have to continually challenge your body.
Set a new goal: Sign up for a new event or work toward setting a personal record. It's much more fun to work out when you've got something to work toward.
If you've blown off your New Year's fitness resolution:
Troubleshoot: Figure out why you quit working out so you don't repeat the pattern. Were your goals realistic? Did you have enough time to accomplish them? We often set ourselves up to fail because we start with unrealistic expectations, said Visek, who calls this "false hope syndrome." We tend to underestimate how hard it is to incorporate exercise into our lives and overestimate how much and how quickly it will change our body, Visek said.
Plan ahead. Eliminate common excuses, said Verstegen. Pack your gym bag the night before or store extra workout clothes and an old pair of sneakers in your car so you can never say, "I don't have my gym clothes," said Verstegen.
If you've been sedentary all winter:
Change one thing at a time. "Don't both diet and exercise all at once," said Michele Olson, research director of the Human Performance Research Lab at Auburn University Montgomery. "Stick to one change at a time and add on other changes after you have tackled one. It's better to succeed at one thing than to fail at a couple."
Add basic — even mindless — activity to your day, said Verstegen. Start by taking the stairs, parking your car farther away in the lot, and walking a few laps around your son's soccer game rather than sitting the entire time. These small steps help you become more active and burn significant calories over time.
Break it down. Several 10-minute bouts of exercise can be as effective as one 30-minute workout. Olson suggests starting with 10 minutes of something like walking or basic yoga. After 2 weeks, add on another 10 minutes — and know that you can do the additional 10 minutes later in the day. In another week, tack on 10 more minutes of something moderately physical so that you are accumulating 30 minutes most days of the week.