I’m no expert with exercise. I’ve had a love-hate relationship – mostly hate, let’s be honest – for most of my life, but in the past 8 years, that’s changed a lot for me.
It’s not been an easy or seamless process, but I figured out a way to become consistent with exercise that works for me.
I know it’s really common to struggle with exercising regularly, so I wanted to share my own experience. Of course what works for me might not work for you, but who knows, maybe it will give you some ideas for how to up your own workout game!
If I could go from pretty much not working out at all to consistently working out 5 days or more a week, you can do it too! For most people the hardest part is finding the courage to start.
And when all else fails, be like Nike, and JUST DO IT. 🙂
1. Start small.
I started out with the beginner level of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred program. For years, I did push-ups on my knees and lifted very light weights.
Going hard wasn’t an option for me.
I tried to be patient with myself and accept that change wouldn’t happen overnight. I did the same workout day after day, week after week, month after month, before I felt like I could progress to the next level.
I never felt like I mastered it, and even when it became easier, I struggled to force myself to advance, knowing how hard it would be. Eventually, I’d bite the bullet and step it up.
Since then, I’ve continued to level up incrementally. This has helped me prevent injury and avoid setting myself up for failure by being too intimidated by a workout.
2. Identify the “right” type of exercise.
I’ve never liked going to the gym. I feel overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge of how the equipment works, and I’m not very motivated to figure it out on my own.
I like being told exactly what to do. If I did belong to a gym, classes would fill that need. But then there’s the issue of matching my schedule with the class schedule and having strangers see me work out. Hard pass. The gym just doesn’t work for me.
Fortunately, the prevalence of at-home workouts eliminates the need for a gym membership. I was an avid user of Jillian Michaels’ workouts for years and still do her kickboxing workout. Over time, I branched out and found tons of workouts on YouTube (and saved many of them on Pinterest).
HIIT and strength training work for me. I love the at-home convenience of them, and my workout is generally 30 minutes or less. They incorporate weights to build muscle and cardio to help me stay lean.
I’ve realized that I don’t have to frequent a gym to exercise – I can count how many times I’ve gone to a traditional gym in the past 5 years on one hand. Rather I just had to identify the type of workout that I’d actually do.
3. Create a routine.
This is essential for me. I commit to working out every weekday and allow myself very few exceptions (typically only when I have plans with friends after work or when I’m not feeling well). If I skip a workout, I do my best to make it up on the weekend.
Most weekends, Logan and I do something active together, even if it’s only taking Piper for a walk. I consider these “bonus” activities. Because our weekend plans vary, I never want to count on one of these as my five weekly workouts.
It’s hard for some to stick to a schedule. I would say it’s relatively easy for me, even though I pretty much never actually want to work out. There’s rarely a day when I’m like, “I can’t wait to do Insanity!” But I do it because endorphins make me feel happy and ironically give me energy.
I don’t like the work, but I love the accomplishment of having completed a tough workout.
4. Diversify workouts.
HIIT and strength training are my go-to workouts. Thanks to the Internet, there are tons of options, so I never get bored. I also hike, go on walks, and play tennis.
A far cry from my days of only walking on a treadmill, I’ve slowly built up a range of physical activity. This is a dramatic change for me, because I’ve never liked exercising and have struggled to find any type of exercise that I will do.
Another benefit of switching up my workouts has been to avoid plateauing. This happens when my muscles aren’t being challenged in new ways. Doing the same workout day after day leads to less calorie burn and builds less muscle. I’ve learned that different workouts use different body parts which is necessary to tone my whole body.
5. Understand personal strengths and limitations.
I know how far I’m willing to push myself and have accepted that certain parts of my body, like my arms and butt, may never look the way I’d ideally like them to. It’s difficult for me to put on muscle, and the muscle I do have has taken a lot of hard work to build.
I’ve also learned that comparing my body on social media is a recipe for feeling insecure. I have to remind myself of my strengths – I am able-bodied, have no injuries, and am motivated. This pushes me to continue doing what works for me.
6. Surround yourself with active people.
As my interest in exercise and fitness has increased, it’s become very important to me to date someone who shares this interest. Logan has always been very active. He’s done many triathlons, half marathons, and has been involved in sports his whole life. He swims, cycles, runs, rock climbs, and lifts weights. His interest in and dedication to exercise is exactly what I need to be active on the weekends.
I also exercise with friends. We hike, take neighborhood walks, and recently took a kickboxing class courtesy of Groupon. It’s so much easier to incorporate exercise when I can combine it with friend time.
You may have heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but newer research has shown that it takes much longer, on average 66 days. If I had focused on the need to form a habit, I probably would have failed.
Instead, I viewed exercise through a one-day-at-a-time lens which prevented me from becoming too overwhelmed. In time, I created a habit. Also crucial to the process was testing out different types of exercise and learning more about my body’s strengths and weaknesses.
I think of consistent exercise as an art, not a science. It requires patience and creativity, and the process is different for everyone. There’s beauty in that because there’s no one way to go about achieving consistent exercise. It takes the pressure off feeling like you aren’t doing enough or doing it right. It doesn’t matter what’s right for a friend; it only matters what’s right for you.
It took me a while to learn, but I’m so glad that I’ve become better at letting go of others’ standards and created my own. At the end of the day, no one’s opinion matters more to me than my own.
What’s been your fitness journey? Do any of these tips resonate with you? What’s been the best motivator for you with exercise? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.