In the past 15 months, I’ve gone from a cigarette smoking couch potato to a smoke-free, fitness fanatic who hits the gym 6 days a week. The story of how I finally quit smoking is for another day. However, I came up with the top reasons I’ve become a full-on workout warrior in hopes that something will help you get your exercise on.
10 ways to start and keep an exercise routine:
- Build it into your schedule.
Ever forget to have your morning cup ‘o joe, or have a really great excuse not to brush your teeth? I doubt it. They are a part of your daily routine, so you do them. If you want to have a healthy lifestyle and not just another failed attempt to lose weight, your exercise must be a part of your weekly schedule.
Google’s dictionary defines routine as a noun as, “a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.” The adjective definition is “performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason.”
Stop thinking of exercise as something special. Make it your standard operating procedure. Write it in your planner, if you’re old fashioned like me. For the rest of you, put it in your Outlook or set a reminder on your phone. There are plenty of apps too!
The tools are abundant, but it’s up to you to make this a part of your life so you no longer need a reminder. It’s just what you do when you first wake up, or after work, or whatever time works for your schedule, but build it into the schedule.
- Find a place that you like.
If the gym you pick is too far to be convenient, you won’t stick with it. If it’s dirty, if the staff is rude, if the members make you feel self-conscious, if you don’t like it for whatever reason, you won’t go. And why would you? It’s your money; it’s your life. You should enjoy it on some level.
I’m not saying you’ll love the muscle fatigue necessary to build new muscles. The winded, sweaty feel of an intense cardio work out may have you doubting all your life choices in the moment. After, however, when the endorphins kick in and the results are seen, you know, this is a place that you feel comfortable.
- Do exercises you enjoy.
Similarly, if you hate what you are doing you won’t stick with it. I used to run. I lived in Miami, and I would run at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Let me tell you, that is the hottest, most humid time to run in Miami. How I did that, I don’t know. But at that time in my life, I somehow didn’t mind.
Well, fast forward 20 years, and I now would rather sit on my butt and grow larger than the house than go run in South Florida at any time of the day. I had to accept that I was no longer a runner and find something I was willing to do.
I found it. It costs a lot more than running, but I do it. I may curse my way through the workouts, but I love the feeling after and the results. So, if yoga makes you cringe (after trying it! Don’t be like a toddler with a new food!), then don’t make your goal to go to yoga 3 times a week. There are so many options, saying you don’t like cross fit doesn’t mean you can’t exercise!
- Tell someone you’re going.
Make yourself accountable. It can be easy to let ourselves down, but harder to admit you didn’t do what you said you would to someone else. Tell a partner, a friend, or heck, blast it on social media.
I’m pretty good at making it to the gym, but if I’m ever thinking, no not tomorrow, I’ll post on our gym’s member’s page. Then, I have some good peer pressure to make it in.
- Ignore your feelings.
As Nike said, just do it. Mel Robbins often says, you’ll never feel like it. Especially, if this is day one for you. It is going to feel bad, physically and emotionally.
When I stepped in my gym for my first workout in five years, I was 41 years old. But I felt like I was 12 and back in middle school. It was painfully difficult to not turn and run out. You just do it any way.
I fell on my face twice trying to do a push-up that first day. I had to suck up my embarrassed feelings and come back the second day. Don’t worry about what those meat heads and skinny chicks make you think, it sucks for most of us to start.
Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s walking through your fears. It’s swallowing the embarrassment of having to modify exercises. It’s embracing the sucky feelings of the first days and weeks.
After the first day, there will be times you don’t feel like it. After the first year, you will think, really, I still have to go this often. Yep.
The true suck is that you don’t get to work hard and then stop and maintain health and a nice physique. I think we need to stop calling it a “fitness journey,” actually. Journeys have a destination. Health and fitness is life, every day.
That’s why I started with saying you better like where and what you are doing folks, because if you are only in this until you lose that x number of pounds, then keep enjoying your yo-yo diet life.
- Don’t critique your performance.
If you are just starting an exercise routine, you’re not going to be any good at it. Period, end of story. Your first day, just showing up is a win.
Coming back after recouping from the muscle soreness of the first day is a win. Once you’ve made it a habit, then worry about “killing the workout.” But don’t psych yourself out of taking the first steps because you are worried about your performance.
Show up, later you can show out, but this is about getting in the door! That’s not going to happen if you are worried about how you will perform at first. Just accept that it won’t be great. That’s not the point! The point is to start!
- Don’t rely on a “gym buddy.”
Here’s where I diverge from a lot of the standard advice. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert. Maybe it’s because I like dogs more than people, but hear me out.
Even if you would never consider going anywhere alone, I encourage you to not depend on a “gym buddy.” In my experience, when you must have Sally come with you to work out, then when Sally is sick, you won’t workout. When Sally is on vacation, you don’t go either, because you never became comfortable doing this for you. You never stepped up and said this is my health and fitness, and I am responsible for it.
Take that responsibility. Don’t put it on a buddy. That’s not fair to your friend, and it potentially cheats yourself. Ideally, you find the buddy who texts, “hey, I’m sick today, but don’t you miss because of me, or I’ll kick your butt when I’m feeling better.” Now, that’s a healthy gym buddy relationship.
- Find people that encourage you.
Not needing a gym buddy to hold your hand does not negate the importance of having supportive people. We all need accountability. You might need new ideas, when you plateau or “don’t feel like it.” I just encourage you to find more than one supportive person, so that you don’t make that person’s excuses yours.
Other people will slack off for their own reasons. Fine, you be the one waiting for them and encouraging them to get back at it, but don’t have a person that is nonnegotiable to your routine. Your exercise routine should be the nonnegotiable, and then the people will come.
You will find the people who are there all the time to encourage you, or you can find them on-line. There are lots of groups and bulletin boards. You can follow them on Instagram and Twitter. There are people out there to lift you up along the way, but only you move your body.
- Give it time.
I recently saw a meme that said you didn’t like coffee, wine, or beer at first either. How true? If you are reading this far, it’s likely that exercise is not your first love…yet. So, give it time to grow on you like wine did. Soon you may be a raging gymaholic.
- Realize your worth.
My favorite exercise mantra is “you are worth some of your time and energy.” I was a mom, professional, and wife who gave so much to everyone around me. I’d then tell myself the lie that I didn’t have any time for myself.
Now, I take the time. I’m worth it. I deserve to use some of my time to improve myself, and so do you.