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It’s pretty easy to start an exercise program but creating a habit out of it and sticking with it long enough to keep a consistent schedule can be very difficult. Things happen in life, after all — you can get busy due to work, the weather may not be conducive to your workout, you feel sore and tired, you have plans here and there, and a lot more.
It’s easier to make excuses to not exercise. You may end up skipping your workout today, and pretty soon, you’ll be skipping workouts for a couple of days, a whole week, a whole month, or a whole year. Before you know it, you’re back to square one of starting another workout plan and having a hard time staying consistent with it.
You’re not alone in this dilemma. In fact, a lot of people, even athletes, have a hard time sticking to a regular exercise routine. Luckily, there are tips and tricks that you can take note of to pass the mental and physical hurdles of exercising. Here’s how.
Why Can’t I Exercise Consistently?
There are many reasons why a person can’t stick to a workout routine. As we mentioned earlier, life happens: your job might need you to stay late, your work may have piled up, you have other plans, it’s too cold, or it’s too hot and such.
Sometimes, it’s a case of you simply not liking the workouts that you’ve been doing and you can’t find the motivation to do so.
Things happen, and it’s more than okay to miss exercising. Doing workouts takes a lot of effort, sure, but beating yourself up over not being able to exercise will do you more harm than good. The fact that you’re reading this article is proof enough that you want to start exercising consistently, and you should give yourself a pat on the back for that.
It may seem hopeless — but fret not, because there are things that you can do to help yourself stick to a consistent exercise plan.
How Long Does It Take To Form an Exercise Habit?
Making exercise a habit requires consistency and patience. Research suggests that to make a habit out of exercising, you should commit to about four weeks of exercise.
There is no actual magic number of days it takes to build a new habit but the key to sticking with it is repetition. If you can get that repetition going while you have high motivation, you are more likely to stick to your workout that will last long.
How to Stick to Your Exercise Routine Consistently
You know that you should exercise. But a lot of times, it’s difficult to keep your dedication to working out, especially if you have a busy lifestyle.
According to experts, intentional, strategic habit changes can make a huge difference in whether or not you stay consistent with your exercise plans.
Here are some things that you can do to have the motivation and stick with working out for the long haul.
Set Small Goals
When you first thought of adhering to a fitness routine, you probably set some goals such as wanting to lose fat, getting six-pack abs, or running a marathon. There’s nothing wrong with having huge goals as they can be motivating, but if they’re too lofty, they have the potential to have the opposite effect.
You could end up feeling discouraged if you feel like you aren’t going to reach your target anytime soon. This could then prevent you from sticking to your exercise plans.
When it comes to fitness and health, science shows that it’s better to start with easy goals that you know you can achieve. As you meet them, you’ll be able to build self-confidence and momentum.
To get the most out of your goal setting, it’s important to ensure that they are SMART, meaning specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
For example, one of your reasons for working out is to achieve some weight loss goals. However, that phrase itself is too broad. Instead, a more specific and measurable weight loss goal such as “I am to lose 20 pounds” is ideal as it allows you to focus on a number and stay on track to commit to it.
Setting short-term goals is especially helpful for those who are exercise beginners. Say that you’re new to working out and your physical activity levels are pretty low at the moment. Perhaps your main activity is using a stationary bike.
To improve your physical activity level and commit to working out, you can set a goal of increasing the amount of time you spend on the bike per week.
Being realistic is vital as well because you are able to set your expectations according to your current limits. If you’re lifting weights and you can only lift 5 pounds, for now, don’t set a goal such as being able to lift 100 pounds within a month.
Focus on getting yourself to lifting maybe 7 pounds in a month. You can then work your way up to heavier lifts the more that you stick to your weight training routine.
Prepare Your Workout Clothes
The smallest obstacles, such as having to go home to change into workout clothes before heading to the gym, can make or break your workout plans. The same rings true too if you are someone who aims to exercise first thing in the morning instead of after work.
You’re more likely to excuse yourself from working out if you don’t have your workout gear with you, thus failing to stick to your workout routine.
One incredibly helpful solution to this is to always bring your workout clothes with you, especially if you’re hitting the gym after work. You can also place your gym bag somewhere in the front or center of your workstation as a reminder of your after-work workout session. This way, you can go straight to your workouts without needing to detour home.
If you exercise in the mornings, you can consider sleeping in your exercise clothes (if they’re comfortable) or placing them at the foot of your bed so that they’re the first thing you see when you get up.
Having a physical reminder of working out can help you stick to your plan.
Put It on Your Calendar as You Would Any Other Appointment
Scheduling your workout like it’s an important appointment can greatly help you stay consistent with your workouts. Placing your exercises in your calendar means making time for your workout instead of trying to squeeze it into your day.
As the experts say, the phrase “no time to exercise” is just a mere excuse to not work out. If you can watch TV for hours, then you certainly can make time for workouts.
Treating your workouts like a meeting that you have to accomplish at an assigned time will make it easier for you to build a routine. You can even plan out how long and when you’ll do it. Giving yourself a workout range for the week can also be helpful.
For example, if you set a goal to work out five days and only go four times, you may end up thinking you already failed with being consistent. Instead of doing that, it’s better to set a realistic range for yourself, such as working out three to five days a week.
Create a Program
Have you ever arrived at the gym and had no idea what exercise you should do? Or perhaps you attempted to do an aerobic exercise session only to stop after a half-hearted attempt at working up a sweat.
Research shows that when you don’t have a workout program, chances are, you won’t be able to get the most out of your time in the gym.
One of the most effective ways to stay motivated is to create a weekly workout routine. When you have an actual program layout, you’ll enter the gym prepared and certain of what you need to do. This ensures that you don’t waste any time and that you are able to work out the parts of your body that you need to do.
You can start by creating a two to three days a week gym routine, and then stick to it for a month or two. After that, you can switch to a different program that’s in tune with the progress you’ve made over the past weeks.
For example, if you find low-intensity exercise to be boring after a month, you can challenge yourself by doing moderate-intensity exercise in the following month.
Have a Plan B
Sometimes, even if you have an exercise appointment on your calendar, life can get in the way and force you to cancel. That’s more than fine, but it’s also the reason why you should have a backup plan.
Do you have sudden important work tasks preventing you from hitting the gym? Do desk exercises throughout the day instead. Remember, every movement that you do counts toward your physical fitness level. You can adjust the duration or adjust the activity; the important thing is that you have a backup plan in case something comes up.
Make Exercising Fun
Most people imagine exercise as something that’s miserable and grueling to the extreme. Due to that, exercise has been stuck with an image that makes it more of a chore. But truthfully, working out is something that can and should be fun.
There’s nothing better than working your body and having fun, knowing that you’re doing this for your health and overall well-being.
There are numerous ways to add excitement to your workouts. You can start by doing a fitness regimen that you like and enjoy. You don’t have to limit yourself to the traditional definition of exercise. You can try sports, dancing classes, yoga, and more. You can join a running club and meet new people who share the same enthusiasm as you do.
There are numerous types of activities that you can do and you can mix things up to keep things interesting. Let’s say that you did walking lunges today; in your next session, you can do leg kicks instead. Even something silly as doing arm swings also counts as making exercise interesting.
The littlest things can make all the difference when it comes to staying consistent.
Retrain Your Brain
You’re tired from work and there’s a little voice inside your head telling you to skip exercise and go home instead. It’s easy to listen to that thought, but according to experts, it’s better to immediately squelch those negative thoughts the moment they pop up.
It may sound counterintuitive, but working out is a powerful pick-me-up that can reduce your fatigue and boost your energy levels in the long run. Whenever you feel the exercise excuses popping up in your brain, remind yourself of another statement that can motivate you.
You can tell yourself that working out is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. You can also remind yourself that you have goals to accomplish.
Exercise has a ton of health benefits. It can help keep the body in shape and reduce the risk of health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It can also help you lose weight, and it can even improve mental health.
Those health benefits are just a couple of the reasons why it’s important to incorporate working out into our daily routine. However, for a lot of people, it’s easier to start a routine than to stick with it. Fortunately, there are strategies that one can do to make exercise a habit.
Now that you know how to start working out consistently, it’s easier to reach your fitness goals.
If you feel pain or discomfort during any of your exercise sessions, it’s best to stop and seek the advice of a personal trainer or a medical professional.