So maybe you’ve finally made it to the gym. You woke up one morning particularly motivated and got a good workout in. But when you wake up the next morning, the task of moving your muscles to get out of bed is the equivalence of moving mountains with your bare hands. Sore seems too dainty a word when sitting down in a chair requires expert positioning and trust that when you fall into the seat, the chair legs won’t collapse from underneath you. Those situations can make you sound like Fat Amy from the movie Pitch Perfect when you think about going to the gym, and then thought “mmmmm….betta not!”
One day turns into two days, a week, months, then years. You don’t work exercise into your busy schedule, and the idea of starting a training program sounds not only painful, yet embarrassing as you consider your current fitness level. You may exercise sporadically, but these won’t leave you reaping the rewards exercise can bring, such as increased bone density in weight-bearing exercise, lower heart rate, and reduced risk for obesity, diabetes II, and cardiovascular diseases among many, many others.
So how do you stick to a routine? Everyone is different. People exercise for different reasons and feel rewarded by different things. However, there are some common habits that people who exercise regularly have in common. Here are some examples:
Be Prepared: Go ahead and lay out your workout clothes or pack your gym bag the night before. Or lay out your running shoes by your bed if you’re going running first thing in the morning. Use visual reminders. Also, plan ahead of time what workout you’ll be doing, even if it’s the day before. That way, if it’s been a long day and you’re already exhausted, you find be daunted with the task of figuring out what you’re going to do or make your workout too easy because you didn’t feel like it.If it’s been a long day and you can’t finish a hard workout, that’s totally fine. But don’t cheat yourself out of a workout. For most people, the hardest part of exercising is to just get started.
Make It a Habit: Going into a training program with the mindset that it is a permanent change can help you to avoid talking yourself out of a workout that you have scheduled that day. Be consistent with when you work out. Set an alarm clock. If you have to think about what time you’re going to go exercise, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with your to-do list for that day and just skip it. Work out the same times of day so that you don’t even think about it as an option, just a normal part of your routine.
Get Support During Your Workout: Social support is a big deal. That’s why group exercise classes are so popular. People tend to work harder and more competitively when working out around other people than by themselves. If this is you, see about joining a group exercise class (plus they are already scheduled for you). Or maybe find a workout partner with the same goals as you. They can give you more confidence to try different exercises because you feel like there’s less attention on you, and you have someone to check your form. You’re also less likely to skip out if you feel like you might let them down by not going to the gym.
Get Support When You’re Not Working Out: The people that you surround yourself with have a big influence on you. If they aren’t understanding of your goals and desire for change, they can bring down your motivation. You may have to sit them down and explain why you’re trying to make a change in your life and ask them to be supportive of your decisions. Hopefully, they will agree to do so. But at least try to surround yourself with positive-minded people who have the same goals as you so that they can hold you accountable and encourage you when you need it.
Discover the Joy of Exercise: Try to appreciate what you are doing for your body. Become aware of its incredible capacity for adaptation to stress and the complex movements it is capable of making. Sure, you probably couldn’t care less when you’re exhausted and collapsed on the floor in a pool of sweat. But developing an appreciation and passion for exercise will motivate you so much more than just concentrating on losing weight in two months or getting buff for the beach. The former motivation comes from joy, and the latter from fear and guilt. Which one do you think would be easier to maintain?
You do You: Be active in finding out what works best for you. Everyone is different. Some people like working out first thing in the morning to get it out of the way, but if you’re not a morning person, maybe just try working out during lunch or after work. Find something to motivate you. Set goals. Think about why you are doing what you’re doing, so that on days you need extra motivation you can remind yourself of that. Then all that is left is to just do it.