Maybe your fitness routine has been less than consistent over the past few months. Perhaps you made a New Years resolution that’s been tough to stick to or you’re simply ready to kickstart a regular workout regimen. We all know that consistently is key when it comes to fitness. And while 79% of American adults say they feel generally happier when they stick to a regular exercise routine, 48% also said they’re too busy from work and other obligations to exercise at all.
It’s an important distinction: desiring to exercise and actually doing it. So how do you adapt your lifestyle to incorporate exercise as a daily habit? By being proactive about the process. Here are five crucial steps to take in order to develop a healthy routine that you can stick to going forward.
Choosing a specific time for your daily workout is one of the most effective strategies to making it a habit. Having an allotted time for fitness will mentally prepare you for the work and help keep you accountable. You’re less likely to skip a workout when you know and have planned for that time. Of course, when you should plan it is entirely up to you and your lifestyle. A lot of people want to kick off their day with a workout—it jumpstarts their energy, plus it’s harder to let the day slip away if you exercise first thing. But if you’re not a morning person, don’t sweat it. Researchers at the University of South Carolina found that we are at our fastest and strongest between 7 pm and 11 pm, thanks to our circadian rhythms. So there’s no harm in evening exercise.
A big mental hurdle when it comes to fitness is feeling like you’re not prepared. New equipment or a refresh of your workout wardrobe and sneakers will give you a boost of confidence and motivation. It will help you try new things at home or check out a class you’ve been wanting to join or simply feel damn good about yourself while you’re getting in your reps at the gym. New stuff doesn’t completely take the sting out of an early workout on a cold, wet morning, but it sure helps.
Stephanie Mansour, a personal trainer and wellness coach, says that skipping a workout is okay now and then but you have to make it an active choice that we have control over, versus something happening to us. She suggests putting your gym bag or yoga mat on your couch, so that before you sit down to watch TV after work, you have to physically move your workout gear off the couch to sit down—making a conscious decision not to exercise. Another idea: put on workout gear before you leave work so that you have to choose to take them off without exercising. Chances are, when you have to exert extra effort to not workout, you’ll be more likely to follow through with your original plans.
Get Ample Sleep
Think of sleep as a superpower. The more you get, the more energy you’ll have and the faster you’ll recover—meaning you’ll be a lot less sore. When you don’t get enough rest, skipping a workout or quitting early is way more common. Pete McCall, MS, CSCS, is a certified personal trainer that says when it comes to planning your workouts, keep in mind that “the end of one workout is the beginning of the next, and how you recover (refuel, rehydrate and sleep) will allow you to be fully prepared so that you can achieve the best results possible.”
Don’t go overboard and burn yourself out. When you’re trying to make exercise a daily goal, the key is to start small and gradually increase your intensity over time. When you push yourself too far, too quickly, you’re much more likely to give up. “The all or nothing approach does not serve you,” says Mansour, who has found that the majority of her clients suffer from this mentality. Even if your goal is to workout everyday, you don’t have to start out that way. Twice a week is fine, as long as you’re focusing on being consistent and putting in effort with each session. Once that’s consistently sessions achievable, start adding additional until you reach your ultimate goal.