Let me start this post by saying I am in no way a fitness expert. But over the last two years I’ve successfully cultivated a regular habit of working out and have managed to stick with it. I’ve been tracking my exercise for the last six months (more on that later), and I’ve averaged 4.5 workouts per week! This is not just about patting myself on the back, though. I want to share what I’ve learned so it can help you build your own healthy habits. Here’s what has worked for me:
1. Find something you actually like doing - For years I had a gym membership and I would endure long cardio workouts on the treadmill or ellipical that bored me to tears. Since I started working for myself I found it much more difficult to get myself to the gym, so I experimented with alternatives that I could do from home. I discovered that I really enjoy weight training, and found a great online source for workout videos that mix weights with cardio: fitnessblender.com. Wife and husband team Kelli and Daniel have over 500 free videos to choose from so you never have to do the same workouts twice. I love the variety and their sane, no-nonsense approach to fitness.
My point here is not to sell you on Fitness Blender, although I do love them (#notsponsored)! But finding an activity that you enjoy, or at the very least something you don’t dread, will help you stay motivated to exercise. If you hate going to the gym, find something else you like! Maybe it’s walking outside, taking dance classes, ice skating, or rock climbing. Try some new things and you might discover that you actually enjoy working out!
2. Schedule time in your days - As with any new habit it’s important to find time in your schedule to accommodate your workout routine. Most of us lead hectic lives so you can’t simply resolve to exercise when you have time. You have to make time for it, and that might mean giving up some other activity to fit it in. Connecting your exercise habit to something else you are already doing regularly is a great way to incorporate it into your life: stopping at the gym on your way home from work is one example.
The optimal time of day to work out depends on a number of personal factors, such as body temperature, hormone levels, sleep habits, and will power. But experts agree that exercising regularly is more important than the time of day you engage in it, so choose a time that feels good and allows you to be consistent. For me, I’m most alert and energetic in the morning, and working out first thing means I’m much less likely to skip it due to responsibilities that come up during the course of the day. Experiment and find a time of day that works for you.
3. Get rid of excuses - I’ve found if I can make workouts as easy as possible I’m less likely to talk myself out of them. I have a designated space to exercise in my home that doesn’t require moving anything out of the way. I keep my weights and exercise mat there as well, and my workout clothes are hung in an easily-accessed spot in my closet that I pass by first thing in the morning.
Think about your own routine and the excuses you often use to avoid exercising. What can you do to eliminate those obstacles? Maybe it’s packing your gym bag at night, planning meals and snacks so you’re not too hungry to work out, or keeping your bicycle tuned up so it’s always ready to go.
4. Track it - The act of tracking your habits makes you more aware of your behavior and increases the likelihood that you will stick to your new routine. You can invest in a Fitbit or some other electronic device, but I prefer taking the low-tech approach and using the simple paper tracker seen above. I keep this in my planner and checking off the boxes every night is not only a little reward for sticking with the habit, it allows me to see at a glance how I’m doing for the month. I take days off but try to avoid missing two in a row, and this habit tracker helps me keep to that plan.
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