Starting a new exercise program is hard. Keeping going month after month, harder still. But the most difficult thing of all? Quitting and having to start all over again (and again and again…).
Not only do you recognize how much strength, stamina and endurance you’ve lost (the older you are and less time you’ve been exercising, the faster it all goes away), you also remember how long it took to build it in the first place.
And that realization can be frustrating and demoralizing.
If only people realized how challenging getting BACK to fitness is, they’d be more resolved to MAINTAIN their fitness and ADHERE TO that new exercise program for more than the typical month or two.
Rather than ‘getting back to fitness’, we need to find ways to incorporate movement and exercise into our daily lives now and for a very long time to come. Even during those periods of our lives when our motivation to exercise is low and time to work out is scarce.
Tips for putting an end to ‘getting back to fitness’:
- Underwhelm yourself. Start slow. Slower than you think you’re capable of and slower than the oft-quoted recommendations for weekly exercise; sure 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week is a great goal, but maybe not for those who are currently doing nothing. You can always do more next week or the week after. Set yourself up for success by setting attainable goals. It’s okay to leave your body wanting more.
- Find something you actually like to do. If you hate spin class don’t book a bike. Forget about what everybody else is telling you the ‘best’ way to exercise is. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it. Period. Note that movement doesn’t have to be formal exercise for your body and mind to benefit from it. Your muscles don’t know the difference between lifting dumbbells in the gym and hauling dirt in the garden.
- Identify the time of day when you’re most likely to get it done. Earlier tends to work better for most people. Before willpower and decision-making fatigue set in. Before other responsibilities overwhelm you and crowd out your plans. Planning for obstacles is a key component of developing consistency around exercise. Expect to have setbacks and know, in advance, how you’ll respond to them.
- Document everything. Not only what you did, when you did it and how long you did it for but also how you felt before, during and after you did it. Your exercise log will allow you to look back and measure progress, as well as showing you the effects of a workout on your mood and mindset. Next time you’re tempted to miss a workout, remind yourself of how good you always feel afterwards. Buy a pretty new journal and a glitter pen if that inspires you.
- Find someone to do it with. Humans are inherently social. Most of us enjoy spending time with others (or at least a few, well-chosen others). Finding a friend (or friends) to move with helps keep you motivated and accountable. For those of you with very full schedules, think of it as multi-tasking; you can tick ‘get together with x’ and ‘go to the gym’ off your list at the same time. Can’t enlist anybody local? Turn to your virtual friends via social media apps and online fitness communities.
- Recognize boredom for what it is. No matter how enamoured we are with a new activity, interest often wanes over time. Rather than interpreting that lack of interest as lost motivation for exercise, recognize that it’s simply boredom with your current routine. Find something new that excites you and keeps you moving. Zoned out at Zumba? Try a TRX class. Bored of the bike? Step on the stair master. There are as many unique ways to exercise as there are exercisers.