Having the support of friends is key to integrating fitness into your life.

12 Tips for Making Exercise Part of Your Life

When you first make a change in your life, whether it’s running, joining a gym, or eating healthier, you feel good about it. But it doesn’t take long before you start to get discouraged. Maybe the pounds don’t come off as quickly as you’d hoped, or you still feel out of breath when you run, or you miss eating your favorite foods.

And then it starts to get too easy to say “Not today – I’ll do it tomorrow.” If any of this sounds familiar, here are some of the things I do to stay on track.

1. Put your shoes and exercise clothes next to the bed. Once you’re in your sweats and tennis shoes, 9 times out of 10 you’re going to get out the door and run. So leave your clothes where you can’t help but step on them, then tell yourself  “I’m just going to go for a few minutes.” Once you’re moving, you’ll keep moving.

2. Set tiny goals every day. Make it a daily habit to give yourself a couple of small goals to hit. For example, today I’m going to run for three minutes straight, or today I’m going to eat salad with my lunch. They add up.

3. Give yourself a treat. One trick that works for me: Put a dollar in a jar with each run and then treat yourself to something nice as they add up.

4. Try not to police yourself. Watch out for the dos and don’ts – I can’t have this, I shouldn’t eat that, etc. It’s way too easy to get down on yourself and then you’re likely to give up.

5. Stay focused on feeling healthy. Instead of depriving yourself, keep your focus on living a healthy lifestyle and how good that feels. Make it a part of your overall philosophy and don’t worry about each little thing.

6. Don’t take it all too seriously. People get really gung ho and that’s great, but you want to keep it fun, keep it light, because the minute it’s not fun for you, you’re not going to do it anymore.

7. Ignore the scale. Getting in shape really isn’t about losing weight, although weight is a metric we’ve accepted as a gauge for health. Instead look at other things, like your blood pressure or whether your  muscles feel firmer. Everyone has that pair of pants they want to fit in, right? If your clothes are getting looser, you’re on the right track.

8. Try not to pressure yourself. If you do, you’re likely to burn out. Relax! You’re not doing this for the Olympics – this is for the rest of your life. You’ve got plenty of time.

9. Surround yourself with encouraging people. Having a good support structure is so important. That way when you get in a rut, you have your friends and family to encourage you and remind you of what you’re doing – and why you’re doing it.

10. Don’t let training get in the way of your life. If you have to work, you have to work – that’s reality. If your friends invite you to do something, go – you can exercise tomorrow. (As long as you really do!) Don’t let training keep you from having fun or there’s no way you’re going to keep it up.

11. Let yourself have a day off when you need it. If it’s too dark and cold or you really need that extra half-hour of sleep, that’s okay. Think of it as a reset – just don’t let it become a trend.

12. Make it routine. Look for ways to get fitness ingrained into your life and routine. Find people to run with, or a favorite place or time to run. Trail running along the Embarcadero is a great way to have a conversation! At some point exercise will become such a part of your life that you can’t imagine it any other way.

Francis David is a Finance Manager at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco and is Vice Captain of Kaiser Permanente's teams for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and 5K. In addition to running, Francis competes in triathlons and this year completed his first Iron Man triathlon.