Motivational tips to work your core

A core workout is an essential part of a fitness routine, but sticking with any exercise program isn't always easy. Success is more likely to be yours if you set goals and follow a few tips to boost flagging motivation. If you're spending more time making excuses than doing those planks and bridges, we can help you identify—and smooth out—common bumps in the road.

Motivate yourself

You do your best work when motivated, right? That extends to exercise, too. It's not uncommon to launch a new exercise program raring to go, only to wind up back on the couch with your feet propped up just a few weeks later. If your will wavers, the following tips may help.

  • Refresh your memory. Remind yourself how the exercises will help you by reading your goals again. Emphasize the positive aspects. Rather than sternly saying, I should do my core exercises," try saying aloud "My back feels better when I do my gentle core exercises and stretches" or "My balance is better when I do my core exercises consistently."
  • Find the time. Skimming time from your busy schedule is an art. Here are some ideas that can help. Over the course of a week, skip two half-hour TV shows and use the time to exercise. Fit core exercises into commercial breaks or downtime in your workday. Get up 10 to 15 minutes earlier each day to finish a full workout. Throughout the day, be on the lookout for pockets of time. Be efficient: As you advance to more challenging exercises, leave the simpler ones behind to make the best use of your time.
  • Sprinkle core activities throughout your day. Challenge yourself to see how often you can slip in gentle core work. After your morning shower when muscles are pliable is the perfect time for a few Home Stretch options, such as child's pose and cobbler's pose. While on the phone, do 10 soccer kicks and 10 standing side leg lifts. Before shifting from calls to other projects or back again, do a front plank on desk. If you're not working in an office, take five minutes before lunch to do the bridge, ball squeeze, and heel raise.
  • Choose cues to serve as a trigger. While waiting for the light to change, for example, check your posture and practice bracing yourself. Instead of sipping coffee when your computer is firing up, try a few alternating knee lifts. When you finish a task, take an active break to do side leg lifts or reverse lunges.
  • Plan simple rewards. Give yourself a pat on the back for every small or big step toward success. Blast your favorite tune at the end of a workout. Download the "Attaboy!!" app for your iPhone or iPod to enjoy a stream of compliments whenever you need to hear it. A bigger reward for staying on track toward your goal for two to four weeks might be new workout gear or sports equipment you'll enjoy.
  • Get a workout buddy. Exercising with a friend or family member is more fun, plus you're less likely to cancel on the spur of the moment. If you belong to a gym, ask if there is a buddy program. Or try working out online with a friend via Skype. If finding a real-time or virtual workout buddy isn't possible, go low-tech: ask a friend to check in with you regularly—on workout days or maybe just once a week—to give you a pat on the back or a pep talk.

For more on developing your core muscles and staying motivated, read Gentle Core Exercises, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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