I could easily spend hours building a case for why it’s vital to make fitness an integral part of your daily routine. However, I’m also under no illusions. The thought of maintaining a regular workout regimen can seem both daunting and downright exhausting if you’re not in the habit of doing so.
So, what's the most straightforward approach to changing your view of exercise from a torture tool to a lifestyle staple your body will crave?
I’m glad you asked! Simply start by developing your own “workout game plan” with realistic goals, a structured schedule and long-term sustainability. Then, once you’ve determined how to proceed, you might just surprise yourself by successfully putting that plan into action.
I should know. Almost a decade ago, yours truly decided that healthy and active living would become a permanent commitment — a decision I've yet to regret! The following strategies proved highly effective for me, so here’s hoping you'll find them equally useful in your own pursuit of habitual and sustainable fitness.
1. Commit to exercise during a specific time of day.
Whether you’re a morning person or night owl, your body innately responds to activity when it feels the most energetic. So, during this prime period, set aside at least 30 minutes to work up a sweat. This could mean exercising immediately after waking up or before going to bed, but choosing a consistent time each day will remind you to make fitness both a priority and regularity.
2. Associate exercise with another routine activity.
If you habitually watch TV every evening after dinner, try incorporating a workout into this “creature comfort.” Do crunches, push-ups, leg lifts or other strength training exercises while catching the latest episode of your favorite show. Depending on the program’s length, this can add up to one hour of continuous physical exertion. Plus, you probably won’t even notice those burning muscles with the TV serving as an enjoyable distraction.
3. Sneak exercise into errands or office/housework.
Instead of riding the elevator up to your cubicle at the office, opt for the stairs. When you’re out shopping, park some distance away from the store’s entrance and walk briskly across the lot. If you live in a relatively urban area, bike around town rather than drive. Turn mundane household chores — cooking, vacuuming, washing the car — into a legitimate workout by exerting vigorous movement and muscle power into each task’s completion.
4. Assign a different type of exercise to each day.
A regimented fitness schedule will keep you both organized and on-task. For example, Monday could be “leg day,” Tuesday “core day,” Wednesday “arm day,” Thursday “cardio day” (e.g. running, biking, etc.), Friday “yoga day,” Saturday “interval day” (e.g. Tabata, or cardio and strength training circuits) and Sunday “recovery day.” Planning which physical activities you’ll be doing throughout the week is crucial to creating a workout routine that’s built for longevity.
5. Vary your exercise regimen frequently.
Boredom is the most common culprit of fizzled fitness ambition. Anyone can start strong by investing in a gym membership or running around the block every morning. However, many people gradually scale back on these healthy initiatives until they’re no longer built into muscle memory. Monotony prevents you from moving forward, which is why it’s imperative to switch up your workouts on a monthly basis for fresh jolts of invigoration.
6. Enlist an exercise partner to keep you on track.
Grab a friend, family member or even your significant other and commit to get moving together. Whether you meet at the local yoga studio a few evenings a week, hit the pavement side-by-side for a jog or alternate “spotting” each other while lifting weights, chances are you’ll find the prospect of physical exertion more appealing if there’s a social aspect involved. Working out with another person provides both accountability and friendly competition, to boot!
Developing sustainable exercise habits doesn’t require exorbitant amounts of will power or superhuman strength. I firmly believe that gradual progress, steady commitment and a perseverant attitude are all you need to start discovering your own lifelong love for fitness!