If you’re like most people, you set some fitness goals (formerly known as New Year’s Resolutions) for the year ahead. Now we’re into February…are you still committed?
Hopefully, you’ve found some activities that you really like. If not – keep looking, keep trying new things until you find what fits you best. But once you’ve figured out what’s the best kind of exercise for you, then comes the really hard part: getting into a regular routine. After all, everyone’s busy and these current crazy times impose even more challenges to our schedules. Read on to learn how.
Commitment is Essential
By fully committing to your workouts, you’ll make progress. And isn’t that what you want? Only doing a specific workout just once a week doesn’t give your body enough of a challenge to become accustomed to the stress and adapt. [Read this article for more about how the body reacts to training.] Regular, repeated physical activity will cause your body to build strength, endurance, and stamina as it responds to the physical “stress” of exercise. Once or twice a week just isn’t enough to trigger this response.
Exercise makes you feel good (really)
Another reason to exercise more is that doing so just feels better – and the more you exercise, the better you’ll feel. The reason is those feel-good endorphins – brain chemicals released during exercise that produce a feeling of positivity and even elation. The more you work out, the more you’ll feel great from those endorphins, and soon, you’ll feel more excited about working out in general. As a plus, regular workouts will add energy to the rest of your day. It’s very common to find yourself more productive at work and your everyday life after exercise. Workouts can help boost focus, reduce stress, and even help you sleep better. Frequent – but not excessive – exercise (more on that below) is the best way to reap all these benefits.
Build Up to It
If you’re just getting started, going from only one workout per week to nearly every day isn’t such a good idea. It’s too drastic a change for your body, and you may find yourself sore, fatigued and burned out. This is because of your body’s response to the physical stress you’re imposing on it. A better approach is to gradually build up to the level of activity you’re ultimately aiming for. While you’re working your way up, it’s important to remember that every little bit counts. Small bouts of activity really do add up. For example, take a 10 to 15 minute break from work and do a short bodyweight strength session, go for a brisk walk, or dance to a couple of your favorite songs (although not really recommended at the office!) For more, read How Often Should I Exercise?
How to Make Time for Exercise
You’ve no doubt heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: schedule your exercise sessions in your calendar as meetings with yourself. (If coworkers can see your calendar, set the meeting to “private.”) Though it might seem a bit of overkill to make an exercise schedule for yourself, it works. Take some time on Sunday evenings to review your upcoming week, and decide on your top priorities. Then find blocks of 30 to 45 minutes to fit in your workouts. Remember that ‘me’ time is a good self-care practice that benefits you in every area of your life.
Once you’ve found the time slots where it’s possible for you to exercise, the real challenge comes up: prioritizing exercise over all the other ways you could spend those blocks of free time. Maybe it’s spending less time on social media, skipping that evening TV show, or prepping meals ahead of time so you don’t need to worry about cooking.
But what happens when the time arrives and you just don’t feel “motivated” to work out? First of all, understand that motivation follows action – not the other way around. So just get moving! A favorite trick of mine is to promise myself that I only have to do [blank] for 10 minutes. If at the end of 10 minutes I still don’t feel like it, I can stop. Sometimes it takes two or three of these 10-minute commitments to get me going – but it works 99% of the time. Be sure to keep that promise to yourself though – if you really don’t want to continue after 10 minutes, there’s probably something going on with your body that’s signaling it’s not a good time for physical stress. For more on exercise motivation, read Why You should Exercise, Even if You Don’t Feel Like It and Momentum to Move – Igniting Motivation to Exercise.
Finding a workout buddy or “accountability partner” can make your workouts not only more fun, but also more frequent. If you know you have someone counting on you, you’ll be much more likely to do it. It’s also a great way of keeping in touch with a friend you may otherwise not have a lot of time to spend with.
Exercising first thing in the morning is another way to ensure you get your workouts in before the hustle of the day starts. However, this isn’t for everyone – despite all the hype from the fitness industry about it. Each of us has our own body clock, and times where we’re more mentally and physically active during the day. Trying to force a change to this clock may or may not work, and I’ve learned this from personal experience. I have very low blood pressure, which drops even more during sleep. It takes me at least an hour of “being vertical” after waking to feel ready to start the day. Over the years I’ve tried all the tricks to make myself into an early-morning exerciser. Each time, I wound up feeling weak and exhausted throughout the rest of the day, and eventually would get sick with a cold or sinus infection. My body was telling me to stop this nonsense – so I did. My peak time for exercise is late morning through late afternoon, so that’s when I do it – and I feel great.
Make Your Routine Sustainable
Once you’ve made it to your goal number of fitness days each week, make sure your routine is sustainable. The ideal way to do this is to incorporate regular rest and recovery days. Recovery is essential to making progress, because that’s when tissues rebuild stronger than before, and adaptations to the physical demands of exercise become real. Following a hard workout day with an easier day helps a lot. Vary your workouts in your weekly routine to introduce different types of stressors, such as walking, biking, strength training, a cardio exercise class, and of course rest and recovery – and you’ll see even greater fitness gains.
The Ultimate Goal: Consistency
Consistency is the number one success factor in achieving your fitness goals. Find activities you enjoy, build a sustainable routine, and recognize that this is time for *you* that will make you better in every other aspect of your life. Even if something urgent comes up that forces you to miss your scheduled exercise time, immediately commit to a different time, and if necessary, a modified version of what you planned. It all counts!
Still need help with creating an effective routine that you can stick to? Let’s have a conversation! As your fitness and nutrition coach, I have a variety of solutions to help you reach your goals while maintaining your sanity. Reach out to me here and let’s talk about how to get you where you want to be.
About the Author:
Laurie Kelly, CPT, CES is a Fitness and Nutrition Coach who works with clients online and virtually to help them transform their health and fitness. She takes a holistic approach to her clients’ wellness through strength training, cardiovascular exercise, real life/behavior-based nutrition strategies and recovery techniques. She’ll work with you one-on-one to help you live a healthy and active life and achieve your unique fitness goals. Contact her here or follow her blog at www.dragonfly-fitness.com.