The benefits of exercise are no secret. But the sticking point for many people is finding time to exercise and sticking to that routine.
If you’re spending most of your week at at work and then juggling family life, it’s easy to bump exercise to the bottom of your to-do list at the end of the day. Life can be exhausting.
Ironically, this also means you’re cutting out the most reliable source of energy available to you. Exercising regularly will give you the energy and stamina you need to make it through a particularly tiring day.
If you’d like to get into a more regular exercise routine but struggle to find the time and motivation to stick to it, read on. These 24 health and fitness experts will show you how they stick to their own routines.
Finding Time to Exercise
Step 1 is not letting exercise sink to the bottom of your to-do list. As Jeanne Goodes at Breaking Muscle says: “In the end, we all have the same amount of time — 24 hours. What we choose to do, or not to do, in those 24 hours makes the difference. You can choose to get a workout in or you can choose to not get a workout in.”
You may have to rearrange your schedule, but you can find the time to exercise no matter what else you have going on in your life.
Change Your Alarm
OK, so what if you’ve tried but you find it impossible to exercise with your current schedule? Change it!
Start waking up earlier. Dani at Meraki Lane says she began setting her alarm 30 minutes sooner than she’d normally wake up. “While I sometimes feel like crying when my alarm clock goes off before the sun comes up, I always feel like a million bucks after my morning run.”
Put Down the Keys
Not much of an early riser? You can still hit the snooze button and get in your exercise. Armela at Pick the Brain recommends walking instead of driving when you can. Next time you’re picking up the dry cleaning, going to the drug store or running other small errands, walk instead. You can burn calories and save gas money.
Step Away from Social Media
Kristina Portillo at Business Travel Life reported on a study that found “the average social media user logs 1 hour and 45 minutes per day on social platforms.” When trying to make the most out of every minute, that time adds up. Portillo notes that it’s possible to carve out 30 extra minutes for fitness by cutting your social media time down to an hour.
Don’t Just Eat During Your Lunch Break
At work, a lunch break is supposed to give employees the chance to decompress and eat. However, how often do you spend that time running errands or catching up on emails? Lifestyle management strategist Jane Heacock at It’s About Time recommends incorporating fitness into the lunch break by going outside and taking a stroll around the building.
How to Build Exercise Habits
Enjoy What You Do
If your workout is too hard or demanding, you may not want to do it. However, if your exercise regimen stimulates and challenges you but isn’t too difficult, you may just find you can’t get enough, says Kyle Pearce at Fitplan.
Pearce reached out to fitness expert Alisa Wyatt at Athleticulture, who says: “Fitness should fit your life! Know yourself and don’t sign up for a class at a gym three times a week if you have to turn your life upside down to get there. The added stress will be de-motivating and you might end up not going at all.”
Don’t Discount Even a Little Exercise
When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s easy to feel as though exercising for 15 or 20 minutes just isn’t worth the time or effort. After all, how many calories can you burn in that time? The writers at HelpGuide.org say this kind of thinking can be toxic when starting an exercise regimen.
“You don’t have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into monotonous or painful activities you hate to experience the physical and emotional benefits of exercise,” they say. “A little exercise is better than nothing.”
In Fact, Don’t Set Huge Goals Right Away
If your goal in your first month of exercise is to lose 10 pounds, you’re likely going to feel disappointed if you fail to meet that goal in 30 days. That’s a tough hurdle to overcome even for experienced gym-goers.
Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness recommends keeping goals manageable. “For that first week, aim for just five minutes per day.” He says keeping goals so bite-sized early on will help you build motivation.
Find Your “Cue”
Mercola Peak Fitness shared research published in Time Magazine that found “the most consistent exercisers…were those who made exercise into a specific type of habit — one triggered by a cue, like hearing your morning alarm and going to the gym without even thinking about it.”
Find something similar that can trigger you to exercise.
Don’t Obsess Over Results
“The typical approach to diet and exercise is to focus on results first,” says entrepreneur and behavior psychology writer James Clear. He recommends you do the opposite: “Focus on the system rather than the goal.”
Think about it: If you’re dead-set on losing 10 pounds, you may try a variety of tactics such as crash dieting and exercise fads to get there. You can’t build a habit when you’re trying a new tactic each day. However, if you have an exercise regimen you already enjoy, it becomes easier to work toward a goal.
Organization Tips That Will Reinforce Your Exercise Habits
Prepare Outfits Ahead of Time
Nothing to wear? That won’t be a concern of yours anymore. At the beginning of the week, Laura Wittmann at I’m an Organizing Junkie recommends preparing at least three sets of workout clothes. Even if you don’t exercise three times a week, you always have a go-to outfit ready for an impromptu run.
Use an App
Tammy Kresge at Organize Yourself Skinny personally uses MyFitnessPal, which is quite a popular app. Choose whichever one works best for you, though. A good fitness app should let you set goals, track activity levels, monitor progress, generate analytics on calories burned and more.
Do the Hardest Parts of a Workout First
When you’re at the gym, you may think you should start with the easy stuff first and work your way up to the harder exercises. Jay at A Workout Routine says to do it the other way around.
“Exercises for bigger muscles should come before exercises for smaller muscles,” he says. You have the most energy at the beginning of a workout, when you can handle the harder routines.
Schedule Tougher Workouts Toward the Beginning of the Week
Sure, once Friday arrives, you may want to coast through your workout to get to the weekend. But there’s another good reason to plan your easier workouts later in the week — neural demands.
“When setting up any training program or workout, you need to place more neurologically demanding exercises early in the week,” says Eric Bach at Roman Fitness Systems. “…For high-speed, high-weight exercises, nervous system function is the driving force of performance. When fatigue sets in, the nervous system doesn’t send signals fast enough for muscles to execute movements precisely, allowing technique to change, and training to suffer.”
Start an Exercise Journal
It can be tough to remember just how many reps you did in the heat of a workout. Tamara Grand at FitKnitChick recommends writing in an exercise journal or logging your activity in an app after every workout. Her reasons for doing so?
- You see what your body can do and how that evolves over time.
- You may become more dedicated to your routine the longer you do it.
- You feel accountable to yourself or others.
How to Stay Motivated
Don’t Do It Alone
Speaking of accountability, if you have a gym partner you’ll feel obligated to them and vice-versa, Emma Wright points out at personal training company Kurbo.
“Text your workout buddy after every workout or when you need that extra motivation to get started, and support each other,” she writes. “Brag to them when you accomplish something big, and rejoice with them when they do the same.”
Think of Your Goals
If you wake up one day and feel like hitting the snooze button, or you come home from work and just want to veg, know that healthy actions start with the right mindset.
“Focus on why you exercise and why you’ve made it part of your routine,” Mike Goncalves writes at The Wellness Bucket. “Is it for more energy, more confidence, to reduce stress and anxiety, to be a healthy role model for others such as your children?”
Whatever fuels you, keep that in mind during those tough days when it’s hard to muster up the energy to exercise.
Keep Your Goals in Sight, Literally
As the staff at Skyterra Wellness in North Carolina says: “There’s something inherently powerful about committing your goals to paper.” Look at your notes when you feel your motivation and energy levels waning.
Picture the Body You Want
Whether you want to exercise to maintain your weight, lose pounds, or shape and tone up, you probably have an ideal body in mind that looks different from what it is now. Imagining how you could look is an effective motivator.
Josef at music and exercise company Spring Moves found another way to use visualization: “If you are in the heat of the ‘should I lace up and go or stay on the couch’ decision, visualize that post-workout high as opposed to that sedentary slump.”
Don’t Go Straight Home After Work
If you’re the type of person who is done for the night once you get home, reroute your trip as you leave the office and make a beeline for the gym. Jon Deal at workout gear company CopperJoint says to have shoes, clothes, towels and everything else you’ll need packed and ready ahead of time.
Have a Killer Playlist Ready
Put together a playlist of songs that make you feel energetic, triumphant and ready to do anything, Lindsay Roseman at women’s magazine YouQueen recommends.
“Think about it this way: While working out, you have a designated period of time to listen to some great music that you love and to get healthy,” she says. “It’s a win-win.”
Make sure to periodically update the playlist to keep it fresh.
Join a Class or Two
Love learning new things? Try some different ways to exercise. Take a yoga class, learn karate or master tai chi.
“Lack of motivation can often come from boredom, so switching things up and trying something new will hopefully make you excited to expend some energy, rather than doing anything to avoid it,” says Yvette Le Blowitz at fitness blog Spa it Girl.
Sign up for a Marathon or Triathlon
Running in a marathon is not only fun, but it can also trick you into exercising more, suggests fitness site PurelyB. “Events provide great incentives to exercise, as no one wants to struggle through a race nor waste their money by quitting,” the writers say.
While, yes, the endorphins from working out are a reward in and of themselves, it’s OK to need more than that at the beginning of a fitness journey.
Journalist Charles Duhigg tells Daily Burn it’s important to treat oneself after a workout: “An extrinsic reward is so powerful because your brain can latch onto it and make the link that the behavior is worthwhile. It increases the odds the routine becomes a habit.”
Just remember: Don’t make your reward food.