Seven months in quarantine can do strange things to a person. Suddenly sourdough bread is a passion and Zoom backgrounds are your new fashion statement. Whatever you’ve been doing while stuck inside, it has surely become obvious to many of us that the ways we are occupying our time come and go. A new month, a different hobby.
Exercise habits, new or old, shouldn’t be one of these activities that fall by the wayside. Physical activity matters. Creating new exercise habits can be tough, during a pandemic or not, but making them stick and letting them become a part of your daily routine can be downright difficult. But this hardship makes it worth it, so check out some of our tips on making your fitness goals a reality.
Find What You Like
Not everyone is going to love lifting weights or running, and that’s ok. Countless well-intentioned workout routines have died because people think that they have to go to the gym for X amount of time and run the treadmill for at least 30 minutes. Treadmills, weight-training, even the gym itself, all these things may not be meant for everyone. So, try different activities until you find what works. Find weight lifting boring? Go to a rock climbing gym and lift your own bodyweight to the top of a wall. Hate the treadmill but want to work on cardio? Try running or riding a bike outdoors instead.
Do Things the Right Way
When the inspiration to create new exercise habits hits, it’s tempting to jump right in and do as much as possible before that desire fades. And while you should get started when you are feeling motivated don’t try too much too soon.
Make sure you are creating a routine that is right for your ability level. Maxing out on Day 1 and being bed-ridden with soreness the next day is a good way to fall off the fitness bandwagon before you even really get started. If you’re able to, consult with a personal trainer or a buddy who knows what they are doing. If that path isn’t open to you then use other resources when needed, like YouTube videos or fitness apps you enjoy.
Also, make sure you have the right equipment. Get yourself some moisture-wicking shirts and comfortable gym shorts. And of course shoes: Ever try distance running or weightlifting in your ratty old pair of sneakers? If you haven’t, trust us, buy a good pair of running shoes, and avoid the pain.
Write Out a Plan with Concrete Checkpoints
Setting off on a fitness journey can be intimidating if you don’t give yourself occasional checkpoints to reflect upon your progress. Without these, what are you telling yourself? “Ok, I’m doing this forever or until I can’t/won’t anymore.” Exercise habits should evolve and change as you get stronger or reach other milestones. Having set check-ins with yourself on the calendar means that you can adapt your workout and avoid stagnation in your routine and self-improvement.
It’s hard to be “on” all the time. This is especially true about forming great habits with exercise. Therefore, it is important to figure out a system of accountability that works for you.
Creating rewards systems for yourself when you’ve reached milestones or have put in a week’s worth of consistent, healthy workouts can be a good method for self-accountability.
If you don’t trust yourself, you can also recruit a friend who has an exercise routine you admire to make sure you are sticking to your word. Better yet, find someone else in a similar situation, someone who is new to consistent routines or someone who is trying new exercises. Use each other as motivation and hold each other accountable.
Win the Morning
Timing your workouts can be crucial. When you’re working 9-5 and dealing with other daily responsibilities, it is, admittedly, easy to lose motivation throughout the day.
Choosing to do your workouts in the morning not only helps avoid the drain brought on by hours out in the world, but it also starts your day off on a good foot and gives you a little boost of energy to take on the day. While some fitness fanatics will say a 5:00 AM start is already too late, subjecting yourself to those kinds of rigors could set up unsustainable habits. Start off by waking up 30-60 minutes earlier than you usually would and see how a morning workout routine works for you.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Listen, a week of good workouts is not going to transform you into The Rock. Disappointing, yes, but it also serves as a friendly reminder to yourself that adopting new fitness habits is a journey, not a source of instant gratification. So as you stick to your routines, don’t punish yourself if your results are not instantly recognizable.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a few words of affirmation. Be proud that you’ve made a workout plan that you are consistently chipping away at. The results will come! Also, don’t beat yourself up if you need a day off, or even a cheat day, once in a while, go ahead and take one. A physical and mental break here and there can lead to fresh starts and a renewed hunger to get after those workouts.
From the outside looking in, getting fit may seem like a pursuit of vanity. The “I wanna look good in a bathing suit” mentality. This is no doubt one reason to get in shape, and also a major plus once you have achieved that body-image goal, but this doesn’t have to be your only motivation. Remember, maybe the best reason to stick to new exercise habits is that they are going to make you feel good. Exercise is arguably the most rewarding mood booster and provider of natural energy. So, sure, stop and enjoy looking at yourself in the mirror, but also embrace and revel in the mental benefits of sustained exercise.