10 Ways to Stick to Your Workout
No doubt it’s challenging to squeeze a workout into a schedule that’s full to the hilt with appointments, meetings and family obligations. First, cut yourself some slack. We all miss a workout every now and then, and it’s not always a bad thing—your body needs time to recover from stressful days.
What you want to avoid, of course, is sliding backwards. That’s why every coach emphasizes consistency. And, sure, you can make gains by training four times a week or even twice, but sustainable performance is more than a matter of being consistent.
In working with busy executives, stressed-out parents, and under-pressure athletes through Athletes’ Performance’s High Performance program, I’ve found that you also need a set of strategies to not only train consistently, but also efficiently and effectively.
Use the tactics that follow to prepare both mentally and physically for every training session—and reach your health and performance goals.
1. Find a compelling reason to train.
The single most effective way to stick to your workout is to find your true reason—your passion—for training, and make it specific and vivid. For instance, getting in shape for your family is a good goal, but why do you want to be healthy and fit for your family? Because when you’re facing a hard set of pull-ups and your motivation is low, you'll need to draw on that reason to get you through it. Do you see yourself playing in the yard with your kids? Are you running? What’s the weather like? Another example: Are you performing at work with more energy? Are you having fun and succeeding? Paint this picture, and it will compel you to train.
2. Set precise and vivid goals.
Achieving small goals leads to long-term success. Maybe your first small goal is to simply get yourself to the gym. Do it, then work from there. Sets and reps, the weight you lift, or the time you spend doing interval training can all become goals. Turn these markers into specific goals and cross them off your list one by one. Your incremental success will propel you forward and keep you focused on manageable tasks, so you can reach your larger-scale goals that much sooner.
3. Mark time off on your calendar.
This one’s simple: Your workout time is personal time. You know you need it and can’t miss it, so schedule it.
4. Make your goals public.
Here’s a good use for your time on social messaging Web sites like twitter and facebook—tell your friends what you want to accomplish, and let them know how you’re doing along the way. Write about the workout you did today (did push-ups, squats and 10 pull-ups!) or the meals you make for dinner. This sets up a level of expectation from people who are pulling for you to succeed. If they think you’re slipping up, they’ll let you know about it.
5. Train with a buddy.
You wouldn’t stand up your friend at a game or restaurant, and you won’t stand him up at the gym, either. So make it a point to let your friends know when you’re going to work out. Even if you can’t train together the whole time or every day, you’re still developing a level of accountability from another dedicated person. Challenge each other to stay consistent and motivated.
6. Share with your spouse.
You tell your spouse about your day, right? Then talk about your health together. Getting him or her involved significantly improves your chance of success. Better still, take up a sport or activity together. A study by Indiana University researchers found that married people who are active with their spouse stand a 94 percent chance of sticking with their exercise program. By contrast, 43 percent of married people who go it alone end up failing.
7. Build momentum.
Are you sitting down for this? Good, then you already know you need to move more every day. An hour in the gym and 10 at a desk does not make an active lifestyle. You need to start feeding your workout by choosing the stairs, walking more, and just being a more generally active person. That’s why we use the term “movement” so often, as opposed to just “exercise,” at Core Performance. Move more all day and you’ll find you have more energy for your training, which will give you more energy to move more, and so on. It’s the kind of snowball effect you want to get rolling.
8. Rest, recover, repeat.
One of the main reasons people skip their workout is because it hurts. If you’re terribly sore from doing anything, you probably won’t go back, right? That’s why it’s so important to reduce soreness from the start by including recovery in your training plan. If you like recording your habits, like sets and reps or meals, try writing down your foam roll and stretch rope routines. Think of it as an investment in your next workout. By not skipping out on flexibility and regeneration work, you’ll feel fresh for your next session.
9. Mix it up.
Your body needs variety, and so does your mind. Use TRX bands, train outside, try boxing. It’s not about the latest training tool or fitness trend. It’s about keeping your mind and nervous system stimulated. For ideas, check out Kevin Elsey’s article, “Build a Better Home Gym.”
10. Keep expectations reasonable.
Manage expectations—your own, that is. Understand that your body has developed a system called homeostasis, so it will fight hard to keep you within a healthy range and if you’re drawn quickly outside that range, many times it is because something is attacking the body, like a virus. So just as we are trying to lose weight or gain muscle, and those pounds are hard to change, it’s because or body is fighting our initial efforts to move our homeostasis.