Consistency is key when it comes to reaching your fitness goals. Small bouts of exercise practiced consistently is better than big bouts of exercise only occasionally. Sadly, consistency is hard for busy people; life gets in the way, and you may find yourself slipping off the fitness bandwagon.
Building and rebuilding a consistent exercise routine begins with a simple step: get started! But, we get it. If you haven’t hit the gym in a while, it feels hard to regain the momentum needed to kick start your routine again. To help, here are 5 simple steps to help you get back on track and build consistency:
When you exercise, your feet can do more work than any other part of your body. Picking the right shoes not only makes you more comfortable, it can actually improve the effectiveness of your workout. For example, if you’re a runner, pick shoes with the proper amount of cushion and arch support for your foot type. (Hint: The higher the arch of your foot, the more cushion you need, while people with lower arches need a more stable shoe.)
If you’re lifting weights, stick with a more minimalist shoe. A flatter shoe will keep your heels closer to the ground, which helps you use your glutes and hamstrings while sparing your knees during lower body workouts.
2. Set a specific goal with a deadline.
What are some characteristics of a motivating goal? Making it specific and tacking on a deadline is key because it brings urgency to your efforts. It’s easy to procrastinate when your goal is simply to “lose weight.” But, if your goal is to “lose 10 pounds by Thanksgiving,” you’re more likely to hit your target because you have a measure for success.
If possible, set a performance-based goal, too. Signing up for a 5K, an obstacle course race or a transformation challenge at the local gym gives you something specific to train for. This can help you choose the right workout routine and take the focus off that number on the scale. For more goal-setting advice, check out How to Set Exercise Goals You’ll Actually Achieve.
3. Start with the basics to get stronger.
Exercise can still be engaging even if you focus on perfecting a few simple moves. Instead of upping weights to build strength, hone in a few basic moves like squats, deadlifts, push-ups and rows. Do each move slowly and intentionally varying the speed, position and angle with which you lift the weight. This can help you engage different muscle groups and see progress at the gym.
Remember, you don’t need fancy equipment or complicated exercises to get fit, especially when you’re starting a routine. Pick a few fundamental exercises and strive to get stronger at them every workout. For example, a basic full-body workout can include:
Kettlebell Sumo Deadlifts: 4 sets x 6-8 reps
Push-Ups (hands elevated if necessary): 4 sets x 8-10 reps
Dumbbell Walking Lunges: 3 sets x 8-10 reps/side
1-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets x 10-12 reps/side
Bike Sprints: 5 sets of 15 seconds (45 seconds easy pedaling between sprints)
If you perform these exercises three times per week, perfect them and aim to increase the weight you use every workout, results will soon follow.
4. Get a workout partner.
Having someone you can be accountable to such as a workout buddy can dramatically increase your chances of sticking with your workout plan. Even the most dedicated exercisers sometimes struggle to be accountable to themselves, so finding a workout partner is a good solve.
A fitness friend can remind you of scheduled workouts and keep you engaged when you’re feeling tired or frustrated. Plus, you won’t want to let them down by missing workouts or giving a less-than-stellar effort. Ideally, look for someone who shares similar goals. You’ll understand each other’s efforts and be able to share the process, struggles and progress celebrations. To learn more about accountabilibuddies check out How to Find an Accountabilibuddy.
5. Keep on going!
The four tips above can get you started with exercise, but only YOU can keep you going. It doesn’t matter how slowly you start. It’s patience and persistence that will affect where you will reach your goals and fitness a regular part of your lifestyle.
Tony Bonvechio (@bonvecstrength) is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson, MA, and a personal trainer in Providence, RI. A former college baseball player turned powerlifter, he earned his Master’s degree in Exercise Science from Adelphi University. You can read more from Tony at bonvecstrength.com.