Creating a Fitness Routine You Will Maintain and Sustain
You know the benefits of exercising regularly. You could probably rattle them off in your sleep. Stress relief. Improved mood. More confidence. More energy. Better sleep. Let's not forget increased strength, flexibility, and endurance. And then there's reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. I don't need to go on.
You know you should exercise regularly and consistently. You WANT to have a workout routine that you can maintain and sustain.
But then there's...
Work. Kids. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. After-School Activities. Usually the last thing on your to-do list is your workout routine.
So how do you do it? How do you balance it all? How do you fit in exercise among your very long list of daily to-dos? And how do you motivate yourself not to completely drop the ball on those weeks when you feel stressed and completely overwhelmed?
Here are 6 tips to help you battle the overwhelm and create a workout routine that you will actually be able to stick to!
1) Set Yourself Up For Success
I am a huge believer in self-awareness. There is no one that knows you better than YOU. You already have a general idea of what works for you in terms of fitness and what doesn't. The idea is to capitalize on what you know works, ditch any pressure around what doesn't, and learn to be proactive instead of reactive.
For example, some people swear by getting their workouts in first thing in the morning so that nothing else gets in the way. This works awesome for some people but not so great for others.
I can speak to this from first-hand experience. My internal dialogue on the subject used to go something like this: "Early AM workouts. YES! That's the answer!! Tomorrow I will wake up early. I will get it in and nothing will get in my way!!"
I can't tell you how many times I would set my alarm for 4:45 am to wake up for the aforementioned early morning workout. Only to find that I would press snooze half a million times and never actually get my ass out of bed.
It was such a great idea in theory. Until I realized my body wasn't truly ready to workout first thing in the morning. And if I was honest with myself, I didn't really enjoy movement at that time of day. Once I realized this, I stopped setting myself up for failure and found something that DID work for me.
I discovered that I do, in fact, like waking up early. I love the quiet of the morning and my alone time with my cup of coffee. But I DON'T wake up early to exercise. Instead I wake up early and do other things so that I can carve out space to workout later in the day when I feel stronger.
Letting go of what didn't work for me gave me the opportunity to figure out what did. The bottom line is do what works for you. Not someone else. YOU.
And read on, my friend, because the next 5 tips will help you do just that.
2) Pick An Activity You Enjoy And Makes You Feel Strong
When you are thinking about incorporating more physical activity into your schedule, choose an activity that you actually enjoy and will look forward to doing each time you exercise. And choose something that makes you feel strong and powerful.
Don't pick an activity because it burns the most calories and you think it will help you lose weight or tone up for a special occasion. Or because it is the latest fitness trend and your best friend is doing it.
I am not saying you shouldn't try new activities or workout with your best friend. But I am saying that calorie burn and weight loss can't be the driving force behind your decision to incorporate an activity into your fitness routine.
Why is this important? Because doing something you enjoy and that makes you feel awesome will keep you coming back for more. And if you want to create a long lasting and sustainable workout routine, then these are two criteria that will set you up to be successful.
I promise you moving toward your ideal weight and toning up will be natural side-effects.
3) Take The Add In Approach
Begin thinking in terms of how you can add more physical activity into your day. So it's not about what you have to sacrifice or what you have to take away. Your focus isn't on how you are going to get everything done or your very long to-do list. It's simply about how you can add a little more movement into your day.
Maybe it's a walk while your son/daughter is at soccer practice. Maybe it's a quick circuit in the basement when your kids are outside playing. Or maybe it's sneaking in a few more flights of stairs at work.
Keep asking yourself the question: "How can I incorporate physical activity into my day today?"
The beauty of this line of thinking is that it helps us switch our focus and battle the overwhelm. It is not about what you DON'T have time for - it is about what you DO have time for.
4) Flexibly Schedule It And Honor Your Commitment
Once you determine what physical activity you are going to add in, break out your planner and schedule it!
I recommend looking at the big picture of your week - week-at-a-glance style. Identify what physical activity you would like to incorporate and write down your intention.
So for example, you might say: I'd like to walk x # of times this week, do some strength based work x # of times this week, and take a fitness class at the gym.
You can then loosely schedule your intention using an organizer like this:
Did you notice that I used the word loosely?! I say this to allow for some flexibility. I think it is very important to give yourself permission to be flexible from day to day and week to week. You balance a lot in a given day and just because you have space in your day on a Monday of one week doesn't mean you will have the same experience the next week. Take each week independent of the next.
I have found that having flexibility is something that really helps me stay committed. I have always had the "all or nothing" mentality. I'm not really a shades of gray kind of gal. I started to notice that if I was too rigid or overambitious in my scheduling and would fall short of my given plan, I would often say screw it and throw it all to hell.
Kind of like the yo-yo dieting effect, it created a yo-yo exercise effect. I'd be on it for two weeks and then off it for three or four when my life got crazy.
Adding in flexibility to my scheduling tamed that all or nothing tendency as well as that voice inside my head that would give me a hard time if I didn't do exactly what I set out to do for the week.
The ultimate goal is to create a HABIT. I would argue that overall duration and quantity doesn't matter as much as consistency and honoring the commitment you made with yourself. For this reason, I don't recommend attaching an overall quantity or duration (ie: run x # of miles, perform x # of reps with y lbs of weight, etc) to your intention. We are after creating a long lasting and sustainable habit so flexibility is key.
Here's what I mean. Let's say you have set your intention for the week. You have written down what physical activity you would like to do and when you are going to do it. You plan to go on a run when you get off work on Tuesday.
But Tuesday rolls around and the shizzat hits the fan the second you wake up. You now have a gazillion meetings and - what do you freakin' know - you have an obligation that evening that you completely forgot about. You are just a tad ticked and are about ready to throw in the towel and say screw the run.
Listen carefully. Please don't completely ditch the run. Go for a run even if it is only for 5 or 10 minutes. Maybe the run happens on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Maybe the run takes a different form and is a quick walk on your lunch hour instead. But honor the commitment you made with yourself at the start of the week and do some sort of run. Please do not sacrifice the run.
I would be willing to bet that you have no trouble following through on commitments that you make with other people. When you say you are going to do something, you do it. But when it comes to the commitments you make with yourself, they have the tendency to fall through the cracks.
Take the same level of integrity you have with others and apply it to yourself. Follow through on your fitness intentions. This will not only establish a long term habit but it will also help you build pride and trust with yourself.
Allow your fitness routine to be flexible. Aim to create the habit and honor your word. And know that consistency outweighs quantity.
5) Change The Way You Think About It
As women, we have the tendency to put our needs last. Our focus is on taking care of the important people in our lives and we often put their needs above our own. As a result, we can wind up feeling drained, overwhelmed, and stretched very thin.
But what if I could convince you that the opposite is actually true? That in order to really take care of others, we must take care of ourselves first.
Consider what I like to call the Airplane Theory. Think about the last time you rode on an airplane. What did the flight attendant say about the oxygen mask right before take-off? Something along the lines of "please secure YOUR oxygen mask BEFORE helping your child or those around you".
Think about it for a second. Why does the flight attendant say this?! Because you won't be able to help anyone if you are unable to breathe or pass out!!
When it comes to taking care of yourself, the same concept applies. When you take care of your needs first, you will actually have more to give to others. I am going to say that again - just to make sure it sinks in:
When you take care of your needs first, you have more to give to others.
It often goes against our natural instinct as women, but let me be that voice inside of your head giving you permission to put yourself first on this. You will be a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, a better YOU if you begin to prioritize your needs.
And let incorporating more physical activity into your day become a priority. Let improving your health become a priority. Because when you feel healthy and energized, EVERYONE around you benefits.
6) Find Your Key Motivation
We all need motivation that is bigger than a number on the scale or the size of our pants. And to implement any of the above suggestions and ultimately create a workout routine that you will stick to, you've gotta find your "why".
It is your why that will help you stay committed. It is your why that will pick you up if you fall off track. It is your why that will eliminate the yo-yo effect.
And this why is going to be unique and individual to you.
For me, my why has everything to do with my mindset. Sure I like feeling strong, fit, and healthy but this has nothing to do with why I exercise. I exercise because it allows me to get inside my head and it is what I have discovered helps me silence my limiting beliefs and quit arguing for my limitations. It is how I master my mindset.
And once I began to look at my workouts from this angle, I no longer had any trouble prioritizing them in my day. I started to realize that not only do I reap the benefits when I improve my mindset but so does everyone else around me. And for this reason, my workouts have become something I am not willing to sacrifice no matter how busy and chaotic my life gets.
I realize my why is a bit obscure. But my point is to begin to make a connection between maintaining a regular fitness routine and your why.
What drives you? What inspires you? Why do want to be healthier? Think of what your life will look like when you feel healthy and energized. What will you be able to do more of that you aren't doing now? How will this make you feel? And how will maintaining a consistent workout routine help you make a bigger contribution and add more value to those around you?
Once you know your driving motivation, write it down to remind you why it is important. Let it fuel your desire to be stronger, live healthier, and exercise regularly. In the words of Marie Forleo, one of my all-time favorite teachers, "If it is important enough to you, you'll make the time. If not, you will make an excuse."
Commit right now to making your health important.
Putting It All Together And Taking Action
I created a Quick Start Guide to help you put these tips into action and set yourself up for success. Simply click here and I will send you the Quick Start Guide and Calendar Organizer - both designed to help you take action and create a workout routine that you will maintain and sustain for the long-haul.
This article is also published at Thrive Global.