7 Tips for Creating a Sustainable Workout Plan
How many of you can relate to this scenario? You decide it’s time to make a life change and start exercising, so you make a plan and get started. After four days of doing the same exact moves and not making any progress, you decide to take a day off. At that point, it’s already too late, and you never return to your exercise habit.
It’s okay, this happens to everyone. In fact, it happened to me multiple times before I finally developed a routine that stuck. The thing is, not every exercise plan is sustainable for every person, so creating a good workout plan requires some thought and intention. I believe, however, that everyone is capable of exercising consistently, so here are seven tips to help you get a long-lasting workout routine.
- Know that being a beginner is fine.
Everybody has to start somewhere, and it’s okay to feel awkward and out-of-shape when first starting to exercise. After all, that’s the whole point. You’re exercising to improve yourself, to lose/maintain/gain weight, and to get stronger. Don’t compare yourself to trainers, athletes, or even your neighbor down the street who’s been exercising consistently for a year. Instead, focus on doing your personal best every single day. Maybe that means doing only 1 push-up and 10 sit-ups every day. That’s completely fine. Even those few moves will make you stronger, bit by bit.
- Start with what you know.
When you’re just starting out, choose a type and amount of exercise that you know you will succeed at. There’s nothing more discouraging than finally getting the motivation to exercise only to be unable to complete your plan every day. When I began exercising, I started with 31 days of yoga. I have taken dance since I was three years old, so I was already flexible and had a good sense of balance. Yoga seemed like the natural extension of those skills, and I was able to do every routine successfully. This was instrumental in giving me the motivation to try more challenging things.
If you choose a type of exercise that allows you to be successful early on, you will feel empowered and capable. Then later, you can try things out of your comfort zone, and if you fail, it won’t drain you of motivation. If you know you have strong legs but weak arms, start with leg exercises and tackle arms once you’ve been exercising for a while. If you have a lot of endurance but not a lot of strength, do a form of cardio. If you’re not strong in any area, then just limit the difficulty of your exercise, that way you can succeed every day. You may not see results as quickly at the beginning, but it will be worth it in the long run.
- Do what you love.
Choose a form of exercise that you actually enjoy. Running on a treadmill may be an efficient way to do cardio, but if you find it boring, you won’t be able to force yourself to do it every single day. Instead, try something like Zumba, which provides variety and fun music while still giving you a good workout. Determination won’t be enough to keep you exercising long-term if you hate what you’re doing, so figure out what you like and stick to that, at least in the beginning.
- Find a friend.
Having a friend along can make lots of activities more fun, and exercising is no exception. Sharing the struggle makes it more bearable, and you can talk, laugh together, and encourage each other during the whole ordeal. Perhaps more importantly, a friend can help motivate you to work harder and exercise more consistently than you would on your own. Seeing your friend do 25 push-ups might give you the motivation to do a few more than you normally would. Plus, it’s hard to give yourself a day off from exercise when your friend is waiting for you at the gym.
- Train for an event.
If you try all the previous tips and you still have trouble exercising consistently, there’s another, more radical way to get you moving—sign up for a fitness event. You can go as big as a marathon or as small as a 5K, as simple as a walk for cancer or as complex as an obstacle course race. The point is that when you sign up for a fitness event, you commit yourself to doing it. Once you’ve signed up, you’re locked in, and you have two options: either you anxiously await the day of your event and waste your money when you don’t finish, or you get off the couch and start training. Having a fitness event hanging over your head may be intimidating, but that’s exactly what you want. You will be forced to exercise in preparation, and when the day comes, you will succeed. And when you succeed, you will learn that you are capable of doing a lot more than you think you are.
- Get a streak going.
If you can force yourself to exercise every day for one week, you have a much higher likelihood of continuing to exercise, simply because you have a streak going. When you’re tempted to skip a day of exercise, if you can think back on how many days you have successfully worked out, you won’t want to break that run just because you’re not in the mood. The longer the streak, the less you’ll want to ruin it, and so your exercise habit will reinforce itself as you make your streak ever longer.
- Remember that it gets better.
If you continue to exercise regularly, there will come a time when it will become a natural and even enjoyable part of your life. It may take weeks, months, or even years to get to this point, but once you start to move and get stronger, you will dread the absence of exercise more than its presence. When I took dance, I would usually be in the studio five days a week, and it became such a regular part of my life that I could feel my joints stiffening uncomfortably after only three or four days off. Going back to dance was the only way to find relief. That kind of thing also happens with other forms of exercise. When you work out regularly, taking a break for more than a day or two will make you feel antsy and unhappy. So just remember that if you keep working, it will become satisfying and even enjoyable to exercise daily.
Hopefully, these tips will give you the boost you need to get into the habit of exercising. Although it may be hard sometimes, working out regularly will seem entirely worth it when you are strong and in shape. Thank you so much for reading! I do not claim to be an expert but merely wish to share my experiences so others can see that regular people can achieve dreams.
My name is Sarah Welton-Lair, and I have big plans for my life. My dad took me on my first real hike when I was three years old, and since then I have been hooked on adventure. I hope to live my life the absolute fullest, and I have created a blog called The Journal of Impossible Dreams to help me do that. To see what’s on my bucket list, go here. To learn what led to the creation of this project and why I’m doing all this, go here. Also, follow me on social media: Instagram, Google+, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube.