Exercise isn’t easy, even under the best circumstances. It’s something a lot of us know we need to do, but knowing that doesn’t make it so.
But what if you could do a few things to make it easier? There are a few common rules that, when followed, can give you the support you need to make exercise a regular part of your life.
These rules may even make exercise so much easier, you actually start to enjoy it. The key is to think about your approach to exercise and what you do that helps or, sometimes, hurts your chances of success. Here are a few things to think about if you’re struggling with exercise.
1. Give Yourself Time
Establishing an exercise program isn’t just about having goals or making a plan, it’s about time management. In fact, it’s an investment. You need time to invest in the process before you reap the benefits. I know – we all want something that’s more instant gratification-ish, and exercise DOES have that element – when you’re doing it, it feels goods (or it something close to that). But you have to invest in that regularly in order to really get everything exercise has to offer. That time allows you to:
- Figure out what you like – What you start off doing may not work right away, so allow time and freedom to practice different activities. People think that they HAVE to start running or do a certain type of workout. But it’s okay to start with what feels a little more natural or simple. Walking, yoga, stretching…stick with things that feel good to you and you’ll naturally want to do more over time.
- Fit exercise into your current schedule – You don’t have to workout for an hour every time. Instead of trying to change your schedule to work around a workout, fit the workout into what you’re already doing. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, that counts! It takes trial and error to figure out how to fit in exercise and you may not get it right the first time. Or you may need to exercise at a time you normally don’t. That takes time and you have to take it slow. Allow yourself the room to figure that out.
- Learn the exercises – We aren’t born knowing how to exercise. You need to learn the moves, the muscles they work and practice good form. If you follow me in any capacity, you know you’ll always get full instructions for each exercise.
- Build strength and endurance – Your body needs time to get used to exercise before you can work at a level that stimulates weight loss. It’s kind of like learning a foreign language. You can speak it until you learn the ABC’s. Allow your body time to adjust to what you’re doing.
2. Plan Ahead
If you already struggle to exercise, anything can derail your plans – a chaotic sock drawer, a missing eyelash, a bad hair day. It’s worse if you spend half your morning searching for lost keys, shoes or your smartphone. Make it easier:
- Plan your workouts – Map out a plan for which days you’re exercising and what you’re doing. Knowing what you’ll do and what you need to do it makes it easier to prepare ahead of time.
- Pack up – The night before, get everything you need for a workout – Clothes, shoes, water bottle, headphones, etc.
- Bring snacks and meals – Being too hungry to exercise is the kiss of death. Keep quick snacks like yogurt, cheese, fruit, trail mix or energy bars nearby so you’re always prepared
3. Fully Commit to Your Workouts
When you plan a workout, you may feel committed at the time, but there’s often an “unless” behind it. As in, “I’ll do my workout…unless I’m too tired/don’t feel like it/something better comes up.” Avoid too much mental wiggle room by trying these tips:
- Schedule it – Make it official by scheduling it and giving it a name (“6 am PFM (Personal Fitness Meeting)”)
- Make it nonnegotiable – Show up for your workout, no matter what. Even if you only warm up, you’re still showing your commitment. Make it a rule that ANYTHING counts even if you just do 5 minutes.
- Have Something to Look Forward To – Committing to exercise is easier if you know something good comes after it – A soak in the hot tub, a massage after a week or month of workouts or a getaway once you’ve been consistent for 6 months. I like having some wine. That isn’t the best advice for people trying to lose weight but it works for me.🍷🍷
3. Exercise in the Morning
While any time is a good time to exercise, morning exercisers are often the most consistent. Just a few reasons to workout in the morning:
- It’s easier to stick to your routine when you get it out of the way
- You have more energy for the rest of the day
- You’ll boost your metabolism
- You set yourself up for a healthier day overall
- It may help you sleep better
- A Gentle Wake Up – Give yourself extra time to wake up, have coffee or do some gentle stretches before doing anything more intense
- Bribe Yourself – A promise of a treat (a good book, a movie, a glass of wine) can help get you out of bed
- Get Ready Right Away – Put on your workout clothes as soon as you get up and start moving before your mind has a chance to argue
- Start Slow – If you’re not a morning person, morning exercise may feel like torture. Start small by getting up just a little earlier each morning and doing a simple workout – Like this Wrong Side of the Bed Workout. Practice that and slowly add more intensity as you get used to it.
5. Think Before You Skip
When it comes time to your workout, there’s a moment of choice: Will you or won’t you? If you’ve followed the previous rule, there’s no question that you’ll at least try. If you’re having trouble deciding, ask yourself:
- Will skipping this workout help or hurt? – You may need to workout to stay on track or you may genuinely need a day to rest, recover and come back stronger
- How will I feel? – You may not want to workout right at that moment, but how will you feel later? Guilty? Regretful? Think of that before you decide
- Why am I avoiding exercise? – Are you tired? Or maybe your workouts are boring. There are so many reasons we avoid exercise – what’s standing in your way?
We may talk ourselves out of exercise with excuses that disguise themselves as reasons, but being honest with yourself is crucial if you’re going to start exercising. You may be telling yourself things that aren’t true which can set you up for failure. Some examples:
- “I’m too tired” – If you did manual labor all day, you may be physically tired. If you sat all day, mental fatigue is the culprit and exercise will give you more energy. Just start something – anything. Take a walk or try this easy stretch workout. Just starting can raise your energy levels.
- “I’m too busy” – Most of us can find a few minutes each day to exercise. Three 10-minute workouts are just as effective as a continuous workout
- “I don’t know what to do” – Confusion is common, but at its heart, exercise is about movement. Everything counts! Take a walk
One of the best benefits of regular exercise is getting to know your body better. You learn your limits and what your body is capable of but, too often, we ignore signals that something’s wrong:
- Pain – We often ignore signs of a coming injury, especially if the pain is intermittent. When you feel something unusual, stop and try other activities to work your body in a different way. Never work through the pain
- Fatigue – A workout should give you energy. If you feel worse as the workout goes on, that’s a sign you may need to rest
- Stress – While there are signs you should back off, there may also be signs that you really need a workout. Exercise can help relieve tension and stress and even just a 5 minute walk, especially outside, can change your mood in a snap.
8. Find Balance in Your workouts
Many of us have at least one area of fitness we struggle with or completely avoid. Some do all cardio and no strength, some do the opposite. Some workout hard every day, allowing for very few ‘easier’ workouts and others never get out of their comfort zones. Finding balance means:
- Working All Aspects of Fitness – A balanced program includes cardio for the heart, strength training for the muscles, bones and joints and stretching/balance training to work on range of motion and stability
- Pushing Yourself…Sometimes – To make progress, you have to challenge yourself, but too many hard workouts can backfire. Try a mix of intensities and training methods to avoid going too far in one direction and to work all of your body’s energy systems
9. Embrace Variety
We tend to be creatures of habit and once we find a program we like, or at least one we can tolerate, we tend to stick to it like velcro. What long-term exercisers know is that doing the same thing for too long can cause burnout, boredom and injury. To avoid that:
- Change Your Workouts – Every so often, change some aspect of your workout. Try a new cardio exercise or different strength moves. Take a new class or simply do things in a different order. Or replace a regular workout with something fun – a stroll in the park, some stretching, a glass of wine…did I say that?
- Evolve With Your Lifestyle – Allow your workouts to evolve. Our lives change, our needs change and our interests change over time. There’s nothing wrong with seeking out new ways to exercise
10. Allow For Failure
You won’t always be perfect at exercise. There will be times you skip a workout, maybe times you stop for weeks on end. There will be times when motivation is nowhere to be found, no matter how hard you try and you may wonder – “What’s wrong with me?”
We all fail, but that doesn’t mean we’re failures or that we can’t come back from it:
- Get back on track as soon as you can. Ease into it and give yourself time to build back your strength and endurance, both mentally and physically
- Forgive yourself – Rather than waste time on guilt, treat yourself the way you would a friend in the same situation
- Learn from it – Your failure is only a bad thing if you keep repeating it. Figure out what went wrong and plan ways to avoid it in the future