If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried dozens of exercise programs over the years. I have been watching my weight, or actively trying to lose weight, for as long as I can remember. While healthy eating is important, I know that regular exercise is essential, too. For years I’d try a new regime and do great for a few weeks—then start losing motivation. Before long I would give up and stop exercising at all, only to start the cycle all over again. But after many false starts, I finally have an exercise program that works for me. If you follow these five tips, you’ll find one, too!

1, Choose What You Enjoy

I don’t like gyms. I feel self-conscious and awkward, and I don’t want anyone to watch me while I’m exercising. I signed up for a gym memberships two different times because I was certain I would make myself go. I didn’t, and I wasted a chunk of money. Now I only choose exercise I know I will enjoy.

2. Be Realistic About Time and Ability

I’m a relatively healthy woman, but I am sedentary much of the time. While I may have the best of intentions, I am not going to run a 10k every night after work. I don’t have the time or the ability. Instead, I choose to walk after dinner. Some days it’s a mile. Some day’s it’s three miles. Be realistic, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your program.

3. Watch Your Budget

Don’t commit to an exercise regime that stretches your budget. That high-end gym or ballroom dancing class may be great—but you won’t stick to it if you can’t afford it. Consider a membership at your local YMCA, or a dance class at a community college. Remember, you want this to be an ongoing habit—not something you’ll only be able to do until your savings run out.

4. Try it First

Before you commit to a new exercise program, make sure you like it. Many gyms offer trial memberships, often at no cost. Sit in on a dance class. Pay for an hour at your local swimming pool. Rent a few exercise DVDs from the library before you buy the whole set. Don’t plunge in until you find an exercise program that’s a good fit.

5. Enlist a Friend

It’s always much easier to exercise when you do it with a friend. Having an exercise buddy will help get you to the gym, running track, or swimming pool, and you’ll have more fun when you get there.

What are your tips for choosing a successful exercise program?