I think we can agree that sticking to a workout routine is HARD. On some days, it’s literally the last thing we wanna do, especially with everything else on our minds. Not to mention the fact that most of us are physically exhausted most of the time and can barely make it off the couch. So how do some people make it seem so easy? And how are they able to stick with it for months or years at a time?
The truth is that it’s different for everyone. The key to working out regularly is figuring out what works best for YOU. What are the things you can do to make working out more enjoyable? And just as important (maybe even more so), what are the things preventing you from succeeding? In other words, what makes you hate or avoid doing your workouts?
To help you sort this all out, below is a list of common pitfalls that can make working out a miserable experience along with some tips on how to turn it into something you actually look forward to. Once you get this squared away, you may find yourself looking forward to your workouts and actually sticking with them for the first time.
Don’t start a strict diet at the same time
Starting a diet the same time you start a workout routine is like shooting yourself in the foot. Diets, especially extreme ones, can throw your body into a tailspin both mentally and physically. So unless your doctor recommends an immediate and drastic overhaul, start with small diet changes. The last thing you want is to do is start a new exercise routine when you feel deprived and miserable.
Keep it short
When you’re starting a new workout routine, keep it short. Just 5-10 minutes per day is a great way to get you used to exercising on a regular basis without overexerting yourself. And as time goes on and it gets easier, you’ll be surprised how much you want to increase the length of your workouts.
Only do exercises you enjoy
Do you hate doing lunges? If the answer is “yes” (which is true for many of us), then don’t do them. There are dozens of other exercises that will work the same muscles and you can find them all for free on YouTube. Just do a search for “lunge free workouts” and you’ll find plenty of alternatives.
And remember, you can use this technique for any exercise you don’t enjoy. Hate doing crunches on the floor, for example? Search instead for “standing ab exercises” so you won’t have to hurt your neck anymore.
Track your progress
Tracking your progress keeps you motivated by reminding yourself how far you’ve come. This doesn’t mean you have to weigh yourself twenty times a day or even at all. You can start by marking on a calendar the days you complete a workout (even if it’s just five minutes). Or you can use a fitness app to track things like the number of steps you take each day. Just remember to keep your goals small at first while you grow accustomed to keeping a workout routine.
Work around your disabilities
Many of us have current or past injuries that make certain exercises difficult or even painful. Whether it’s bad knees or a sore back, it can make us fear any type of exercise. Luckily, YouTube and other workout-focused sites have us covered. If you do a simple search, you can find videos that are tailored made to work around certain injuries or body parts that need to be kept stationary.
Don’t try to do it all in one day
Sometimes when we first start working out, we expect too much too fast. We may even think that working out for 5 hours straight will magically tone our bodies in just one session. But in most cases, doing so just leaves us exhausted and sore, making it much less likely we will continue working out. It can be tough but take your time by starting with short, easy-to-complete workouts and you will be in it for the long haul.
Learn to do your exercises correctly
Watching instructional videos is a great way to learn how to perform exercises correctly. Sometimes it can take days or even weeks to get the proper form. But doing so will help prevent injury and give you the results you want much faster. And once you know the exercises, you can learn the different variations. Squats, for example, have tons of variations like goblet squats, split squats, and side squats which all target different areas.
Another good way to help your form is to buy a full-length mirror. This allows you to watch your body so you know you are doing the exercises correctly. If you don’t have one already, you can purchase them for less than $10 at Walmart.
Start just by stretching
Never let someone tell you what a workout “is” or “isn’t”. Any type of activity can be considered a workout even if it’s as simple as stretching. Stretching has tons of health benefits (both mental and physical) and can be done almost anywhere. So if you aren’t quite ready to start body-weight exercises or use equipment, start by stretching several times a week. This will get used to sticking to a routine while improving your flexibility.
Don’t compare yourself to others
It’s easy to compare yourself to others, especially online where it seems like everyone looks perfect. Always keep in mind that people edit their photos and will often exaggerate their abilities, especially if they are trying to sell you something. While you’re at it, be wary of people who claim to have gotten into shape really fast. Even if what they’re saying is true, their body is totally different than yours and they may have had extra help.
Don’t stress if you can’t finish a video or workout routine
It’s tempting to try to finish an exercise video or routine the first time you see it. Especially since the instructors always make it look so easy. But remember, they have done that same workout hundreds of times and these types of videos are typically edited to look perfect. So instead of trying to finish right away, learn how to do the exercises correctly and perform them at your own pace (instead of trying to keep up with the instructor which is extremely difficult).
Appreciate even the smallest gains
Working out is admittedly tough so any gains you make, no matter how small should always be appreciated. Everyone had to start their exercise journey somewhere so don’t be discouraged if you can only do one push-up or sit-up when first starting out. I promise you that you’ll feel great as the number of reps you can do increases even if it’s just a tiny bit at a time.
Try different workouts to see what you enjoy
If you’re having trouble sticking to a regular workout routine, just try becoming more active. There are tons of different things you can do that will burn calories and get you used to activity on a regular basis. Try taking a walk around the neighborhood or vacuuming your house, for example. Or if you want, you can look for activities you can do with your friends, your kids, or even your pet. You can even find exercises that can be done in special areas like a pool or even just in bed.
See related post: 60 Fun Activities That Burn Calories
Find a friend
If you don’t have a friend available to work out with, consider joining a free online forum. There you can meet people with similar goals and read success stories while finding support and motivation. A few that come to mind are the message boards at FitnessPal or subReddits like LoseIt. On these boards, you can ask questions, share experiences, or even vent if you need to.
Find realistic role models
Sometimes it’s discouraging to watch someone who is young and healthy tell us how easy it is to get into shape. They probably have access to resources we could only dream of. That’s why I highly recommend you find a role model you can respect and relate to, whether it’s a celebrity or just an acquaintance. Especially if they don’t mind sharing their fitness journey with others.
Keep reminding yourself what motivates you
Try using visual aids to help you remember your workout motivation. Some people place large inspirational quotes on the wall while others hang pictures of people whose bodies they admire. Just make sure what you display is motivating and realistic. You don’t want to use something that makes you feel depressed (like highly photoshopped images of bodies that are impossible to achieve).
Some people will even use their test results as a visual aid. They were told they had high blood pressure (or some other undesirable test result) so they made a large printout of their numbers and posted them on the wall. For them, it’s highly motivating to see this every day and a reminder of why they are working out.
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Did you find a way to stick to a workout routine? Please share in the comments how you did it!