The hardest part of exercise is sticking to it. Everybody knows it.
You can follow countless personal trainers and fitness models on social media, pay an extremely overpriced gym membership and buy the fanciest equipment. None of this will matter if you don’t stick to a routine. If you think of it in terms of health, even a simple daily bodyweight training would be better than the most popular workout done only once a week. Nothing beats consistency.
So how do you do it? How do you create and stick to a workout routine?
Where did time go, really?
Let’s be honest. Nobody has time to workout. We, the weird ones that exercise consistently, made the time for it. Planned it. Oh, don’t think we were perfect from the beginning. Most started as you are now. We had to MAKE the time.
It’s time you analyse your weekly schedule. In a piece of paper or an excel spreadsheet make a quick table with all hours of the day as lines (yup, all the hours) and the seven days of the week in the columns. Start filling it with what you usually do (I recommend a pencil for this step). Mark your sleep, your work hours, commute, and the leisure time.
Some of you might work in shifts or have different schedules depending on the weeks/months. I know this is hard and a major drawback for your progress. Don’t get discouraged. Make several examples that represent the different possibilities of your current schedule and do this exercise for all. Use this as a strength instead of a disadvantage. You will succeed in spite of it.
Now analyse your current life. Yes, life. Our life is what we do with our time, every day. Are you happy with how you spend the time? Are you getting enough sleep? How are you using your free time? Notice that this is more than thinking about exercise – it’s about you. It’s about how you are living today. And how you want to live tomorrow.
There are two more steps on this exercise (you can go directly to the last one, but I find this next one also motivating).
Take the weekly planner again and now start putting your ideal life routine. We are used to think of routines as bad stuff – that awful, dreadful, boring things that ruin our lives. But what about coffee in bed? Or a good movie night on a Friday? A game day with friends? Those are good. Would you want to repeat them? Well that would be routine… see my point? What about “healthy” activities, like a walk in the park, cooking good food… exercise? You get the idea.
Some healthy routines you should plan for:
1. Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep on a consistent schedule
Unless you are one of those lucky people that really do not require a lot of sleep (which is highly unlikely…), make time for at least 7 hours each day. Aim to go to bed 8 hours before your wake-up time. This way you can rest/read/fall asleep during the first 30 min and still get more than 7 hours. Sleeping well is even more important than the time you take to exercise, as without sleep you might be hurting your body more that doing it good.
2. Saving 30 minutes a day for exercise
Now we are talking. Exercise time. But 30 minutes only?! Even some gym classes are longer than that. Do I really need so little? Yes. Yes. And Yes. 30 min, 5 days a week, will be all you need for now. Because the key here is consistency. A habit you will implement – every day of the week. Then 2 days of rest to allow your body to recover.
I like to pair the weekend with my exercise rest days, because this allows me to rest both physical and mentally and prepare for the next week. But it is not mandatory, as I know some of you prefer to exercise on the weekends when you have more time. You can do it either way. Just make sure you rest 2 consecutive days and then train for 5 in a row – that is what will allow you to build the routine.
As for the training itself, be careful on the workout you decide to do with this method, as you need to allow the different muscle groups to recover between sessions, or at least change the stimulus you give them. My Active Plan takes this into account, by having what I call Active Rest days. Those are the days you keep the routine but have a lighter exercise. But you can do this also by applying splits – changing the body part you train each day. It’s really up to you.
3. Will you cook your own food?
I had never planned for the cooking time until I started to meal prep. When I first started my job I simply ate in the company cafeteria. But that meant eating whatever was available – there wasn’t much choice there. So, I started taking my own food. In the beginning I simply cooked more at nights and weekend. The main issue was that I cooked mostly unhealthy (amazingly tasty) food. Especially because weekends were the days to eat lasagne and pizza…
So, I started to plan time to meal prep. Deliberately making the food for the week – focusing on what I should eat. I plan the meals, the shopping I need to do, and the time to cook it. There are meals I pair together because they take less time together for example.
I tell you this because I would like you to think if this is something you would like to or can implement in your life, as for me it made a huge difference. I stopped worrying about what to eat, and eating all the right foods (hello vegetables!) and controlling the portions (more on that for another post!).
4. Never forget the time to do something you love
Finally, don’t overcrowd your schedule. That is an easy mistake to make when we want to achieve more but is counter-productive because it will exhaust you. Plan time to rest, do nothing, or do things you love. Maybe it’s going out with friends, see your favourite show or play video games.
Whatever it is that makes your day brighter, save time for it. Never forget to focus on enjoying the process, the day to day.
Now write what your best life would look like.
And take a moment. Really take a moment to compare that with your current week. What do you need to do to get there? Surely you will not be able to do all that in a heartbeat. I didn’t when I first started (there was still a job I needed to attend to…).
Now you know what you need to aim for. Create a different schedule to define the commitment you will make with yourself. What can you do now that will get you to that perfect future? Do not forget the points above (you should aim for those as much as possible).
The Fitness Coach behind coachM. Extremely focused on the path ahead and someone who will make you accountable for your progress.
Always concerned with the proper form, as no results come from half done exercises. But the mind comes first, because it is the one that controles everything.