It’s no secret that regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It reduces your risk for a number of conditions and promotes overall health and wellness in many ways. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to maintain an exercise routine. Habit, inertia and a number of very real emotional factors can make it difficult to lace up those sneakers and go for a jog or hit the gym. Here are a few tips to help you get moving today.
Ditch negativity and exercise
Maybe you’ve tried sticking with a workout routine in the past, but it hasn’t worked. You started out strong, but your enthusiasm waned and you eventually stopped altogether. If this is the case, it’s easy to find yourself thinking that you’ll never be able to maintain a workout regimen. That you just don’t have the “willpower” to do it. But that’s not true!
It’s not about willpower — it’s about finding a routine that works for you. Don’t force yourself to go to the gym just because it’s what your co-workers are doing if it’s not what you enjoy. Instead, go for a jog or bike ride. Don’t feel the need to push yourself too hard, either. Tailor your workout to your own needs and preferences, and it will be much easier to stick with.
If you’re not in the habit of working out on a regular basis, getting started can seem intimidating. It’s easy to go to the gym and see people lifting massive weights — or go to a yoga class and watch others twisting themselves into pretzels — and think “I’ll never be able to do that.” But whether you reach that level or not isn’t the point. What’s important is that you’re working out regularly, at a level that’s right for you. Pushing yourself too hard will actually be counterproductive because it will likely cause injury or burn out. It’s okay to start slow — just the fact that you’re doing it is something to give yourself credit for.
Imagine how you’ll feel
It’s not hard to allow inertia to keep you firmly planted on the couch. It’s always a bit of a challenge to start something new. And it’s easy to tell yourself, “I’ll do it tomorrow, or next week.” When this kind of thinking creeps in, imagine how good you’ll feel after a workout. You’ll likely feel more energetic, less stressed and most importantly — proud of yourself. It does take effort to change into your workout clothes, get yourself out the door and drive to the gym if that’s where you workout. But it will be worth it when you’re enjoying the benefits afterward.
It’s important to acknowledge your own accomplishments. If you’re beginning a workout regimen, find a way to reward yourself for staying committed to it. Tell yourself that if you workout for the next three days, you’ll schedule a massage for yourself. This will be beneficial for two reasons. It will act as a motivator to keep you working out on a regular basis, and it will help you to acknowledge the good job you’re doing. This is important, because it’s so easy to overlook or downplay our own achievements.
Don’t get down on yourself
Often, the reason we don’t work out is the result of a vicious cycle. We feel bad about ourselves — maybe it’s a body image issue or something else entirely that causes us to feel insecure. And this insecurity starts to warp our thinking. We start to feel that maybe we’re not worthy of real health and wellbeing, or that maybe we’re somehow not “good enough” to attain it, even if it’s something we want. And so we don’t work out, then we get down on ourselves for that, which makes us feel even worse, and the cycle continues. Instead, when you notice this kind of self-judgment creeping in, remind yourself that you are worthy of health and happiness. And try to love and accept yourself exactly as you are.
Don’t make it an obligation
So often, we find ourselves exercising because we think it’s what we “should” do, and if we don’t, it means we’re “lazy.” Or we exercise because we want to lose weight to achieve the kind of body we think will bring us greater happiness (spoiler alert: that’s rarely the case. Real happiness is about loving yourself regardless of what the scale says). When these are our reasons for exercising, it’s hard to maintain a routine. Often, it’s difficult just to get started. Exercise should be something you do because you love and respect yourself enough to take good care of your body. It shouldn’t be something you do out of obligation.
Make it fun
Exercise doesn’t have to feel like work and it doesn’t have to be boring. Find a way to make it fun for yourself. If you enjoy working out with others, find an exercise buddy or take a class at the gym. If you like spending time in nature, go on a hike somewhere beautiful. Make your workouts something you look forward to, and you’ll be much more likely to stay committed to your routine over the long-term.
— Sarah Cooke