Sticking to a workout routine or building any new habit can be a challenging task. However, using a few simple tools to slowly build up habits 1% at a time, can bring a successful outcome.
I drew ideas for this post from a book called "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. This book has an interesting story about an event in the author's life and how it led him to become a writer focusing on habit building and the science and psychology behind it. His approach is all about small changes building to bigger ones.
1. Change Your Mindset
Self-talk is a powerful way to change your mindset Rerouting your inner by dialog changing the things you say to yourself from "I have to workout" to "I want to workout" or "If I don't workout, I won't be healthy" to "I am going to feel so good after this workout." Shift the way you perceive the activity through positive self talk. Just identify the negative thought and shift it to a positive one.
2. Take It Easy
I bet you haven't heard someone tell you to "take it easy" when talking about workout routines! If you go too hard too fast you are at high risk for burnout and injury. Starting small gives you the opportunity to be successful, build confidence while gaining strength slowly. For example, If you want to be able to run a 5K, you don't just go out and run 5K after not running for years. You take it easy, start with 1/2 to 1 mile walk and work up slowly over time to a 1/2 to 1 mile run and so on. Take your levels of intensity slow and steady and work up to it as you grow stronger over time. Start with small goals that are easy to attain, and then build upon that.
3. Affirm Out loud
Affirming to yourself out loud is a powerful tool to stay on track. When you feel unmotivated to workout say to yourself out loud "I am feeling unmotivated to do my workout today but I know that after I finish I will feel great and proud of myself. I also know that if I don't do this workout, I will feel guilty for not doing what I said I would do." Laying out the positive and negative reinforcements you will face post workout and saying it out loud helps you see what is clearly the better choice.
4. Get An Accountability Buddy
Finding support is key to sticking to a new routine. An accountability partner is someone who will cheer you on and help keep you accountable. This person can be supportive verbally as your cheerleader or they can be someone that you workout with which gives you someone else to "show up" for. You can be accountable to each other if you have similar goals. This person can be a friend, parent, sibling, health coach or anyone who will be an uplifting voice of support. If you don't have someone like this in your life there are tons of Facebook groups or other online support groups that can help you find a buddy to stay accountable to.
I hope these tips help you stick to your workout routine. I highly suggest you read the book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear if you want a deeper dive into this topic that can apply to any area of your life for building new positive habits and change.
Choose the level of intensity that fits you.
In your workout, choosing the right level of intensity that fits where you are today in your fitness journey is key to sticking to a workout routine. If you go too hard too soon, you risk injury and burnout which will surely stall your fitness goals. Respecting and listening to your body so that you can keep working out, is key to making gains.
As a trainer and while instructing my classes, I offer several levels of intensity that fit people at all fitness levels. If you are coming back to workouts after a break, are new to fitness or rehabbing an injury, staying at the level one intensity is very important. As you gain strength and endurance, it will be time to move up the levels and push your body. However, don't rush it, take your time and your body will tell you when it becomes too easy and then you will need to step it up a notch.
The levels explained
During my in person and virtual class workouts, I demo the moves for several levels of intensity. I usually give the level 1 first and then work up from there. Level 1 being the least intense and lowest impact and then level 2 and above takes it up a notch incrementally to higher impact, harder moves and heavier weights.
Levels for cardio moves
Let's look at the levels of intensity for a simple cardio move like the jumping jack.
Level 1 jumping jack
This level is low impact with no jumping off the ground. You will tap your feet out to the side one at a time and then touch your hands above your head. This will still get your heart rate up especially if you increase speed but won't add too much pressure to your lower body joints.
Level 2 jumping jack
This level adds the jumping motion in a jumping jack that we all know where your feet come off the ground jumping side to side.
Level 3 jack with a squat
This levels adds an extra lower body explosive element. Challenging your lower body muscle strength and endurance plus adding a more difficult cardio element.
Level 4 is a star jumping jack
This move is a big explosive plyometric move where both feet come off the ground at the same time and don't return to the ground until the feet come together. This level is for those who are ready to seek a bigger more intense challenge.
Levels for strength training with weights
If you are doing strength training with weights your levels of intensity are the weights you choose for a movement. Lighter weights being the lower level and heavier being higher level. You want to choose a weight that takes you as close to muscle failure as possible during your workout. When you are starting out with strength training, that will be lighter weights and as you grow stronger you will need to shift to heavier and harder weights to get you to failure and build your precious muscle. It is very easy to injure yourself while lifting weights, so until you get the form down, it is best to lift lighter weights. As you master the form and gain strength, you can lift heavier weights and reach muscle failure faster.
Levels for strength training with body weight
For body weight strength training there are modifications you can choose to reduce the load of the movement. For example, lets look at a push-up.
Level 1 push-up
This level can be performed in a tabletop position with your knees under your hips or on the wall.
Level 2 push-up
This level places your knees pushed back and your hips driving towards the floor.
Level 3 push-up
This move is on your toes.
Level 4 push-up
This higher level is the push-up done on a single leg.
Toggling between the levels as you grow stronger
I love to tell my clients that have shown some strength gains, to try the higher level for a few reps and then go back down to the lower level and go back and forth. Its a great way to "dip your toe in the water" to so speak with the harder level moves. Toggling between levels is a great way to teach your body to tolerate harder moves.
I always encourage clients to listen to their bodies and take it down a notch if their body is telling them to, or take it up a notch if they feel good and are ready bring it to the next level that day. Not every day will feel great or not so great, so take it one day at a time and if you listen to your body, are consistent and stick to your fitness routine, you will move up the levels faster than you think and crush it like a beast!
Setting up a special space in your home for your virtual fitness classes is key to motivation and consistency. Using the same space in your home for every workout trains your brain to get into workout mode when you enter the space for your daily routine.
Choosing the right space
Your workout area does not have to be a big space, it just needs to be large enough to fit a yoga mat and have some room to move around. This area can be your living room, basement or any corner in your home, office or bedroom.
Store your equipment in your workout space
Storing the equipment in the same area you take your classes is important for making it feel inviting for your workouts. This also keeps the equipment handy so you don't have to drag it out from a different area every time. Many classes don't require any equipment but for some classes you might need a few hand weights, a resistance band or a yoga mat depending on the class format you are taking. It is important to store all of these items near your workout space to give it an inviting fitness studio feel.
Use a larger viewing screen
Using a larger screen such as casting from your laptop to a TV screen or viewing from a large monitor or large laptop is a great way to see your instructor better. The larger view makes it feel more like an in person experience. This view will enable you to see the instructor cue correct form so to follow along with the workouts more clearly.
Set your lighting
If you are taking a high intensity class such as HIIT or cardio intervals you probably want a brighter lighting setting. However, if you are taking yoga or stretch and meditation class you may want dimmer lighting to create a calmer setting for your workout. Make the lighting fit the workout and class format vibe!
Enjoy your workout!
There are so many great options for virtual classes, you never need to leave the comfort of your own home to get an awesome workout that's fit just for you.
Amy has spent her career helping others reach their health and fitness goals. "I hope sharing my knowledge and experience with others can help someone to live a healthier and more joyous life."