The third Monday in April is Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts, but ever since I moved to Boston 10 years ago I’ve thought of it as “Marathon Monday.” Every year I look forward to cheering on the runners, whether it’s humid and 90 degrees or 40 degrees and pouring rain. Whether you’re a runner or a fan, it’s easy to be motivated by the Boston Marathon. Maybe it’s the thousands of people running for charity, the site of the most elite runners in the world, or the amazing Hoyt family, but I don’t have to look hard at the Boston Marathon to be inspired. I walk away from the Marathon every year determined to exercise more regularly and improve my fitness and strength. This year was no different than the others. On April 18, I left the Boston Marathon with renewed energy towards my fitness routine.

In the past, I have managed to stick with my regimen for a few months. And even though the benefits of regular exercise, including decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes, cannot be overstated, I find staying on track can be hard, especially during the summer.

If you struggle with consistency in your exercise, you’re not alone. Most people want to exercise and have great intentions, but life often gets in the way. So how can we improve? 

There are no hard and fast rules for how to get the recommended amount of exercise. Being active every day is the best measure of success, and this will look different for everyone. If you’re like me and were re-inspired by the Boston Marathon or just need a boost of motivation to get started, try to keep these tips in mind:

  1. Enjoy yourself

You don’t need to be a marathon runner to see the benefits of exercise. Other activities are equally good for your health and offer similar benefits. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy. Try a new exercise class you’ve heard about.  Go on a walk with a friend or take a trip to a local park and go for a hike. Belong to a gym? Try using different cardio machines. When you find an exercise you enjoy you’re more likely to do it regularly. And, don’t hesitate to change up your routine to keep yourself engaged and motivated.

  1. Establish a routine

It may take some trial and error, but find a routine that helps you stick with exercise. Routine doesn’t have to mean doing the same thing every day, rather it means setting some good habits. Try to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule by walking at lunch or after dinner. Or start your week by planning your exercise schedule. For me it means checking the weather and planning the best 3 days to run outside. Give yourself reminders of your plan by getting your gym bag ready ahead of time, or if you’re like me and work out in the mornings, lay out your running clothes the night before. Creating conditions that make exercise easier and incorporating it into your day will help you stick with your plan.

  1. Be realistic

It’s okay to dream big but set realistic goals so you can follow through. I’d love to run a marathon next month but I need to put in the training first. You’re also more likely to follow through if you set a specific goal. Instead of “I’ll start walking or running more”, try “I’m going to walk 3 times this week” or “I’m going to run 5 days a week.” Don’t forget to reassess your goals. If something isn’t working, don’t hesitate to change it. Maintaining certain flexibility in your goals will help you stick with your exercise routine instead of dropping it completely. Be honest with yourself if something isn’t working out. Is marathon training too intense? Perhaps reevaluate and train for a half marathon instead.

  1. Have a “Plan B”

Everyone has different reasons for exercising, so what works to help you follow through on a day you’re lacking motivation will vary. Be open-minded when trying to figure it out. Make plans to work out with a friend to hold yourself accountable. Start your workout by doing 5 minutes, and then make a decision whether you want to continue. I usually feel much better once I’m out the door and will follow through with my originally planned run. Try positive self-talk. Remind yourself of how you will have a sense of accomplishment after completing the workout.  If in the end your workout doesn’t happen that day, it’s alright. Everyone has those days. Having a plan B will help you have fewer of those days and also help you to regroup and get back on track more easily.

  1. Celebrate yourself

Focus on your own goals and give yourself credit when you succeed! Celebrate your accomplishments, whether that means getting out for a run on a rainy day, completing your goal of 3 workouts per week, walking your first 5k or running your first marathon. Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t let comparing yourself to others diminish your own accomplishments.

Finding the time to incorporate regular exercise into your life may not always be easy, but using these principles may help you stay motivated. Getting the recommended amount of exercise is good for your heart so commit to a plan and get started today. I’m going to keep this in mind, and maybe in the next year or two you’ll see me running down Boylston Street and crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon.