I’ve been meaning to have a regular workout routine for, oh, about twenty years, but I have had a difficult time prioritizing it. It could be that I’d rather do almost anything else. I’m not a gym person, or a runner, and I’ve never been much into team sports. I do love a good spin, yoga, or dance class, but… Covid. And, even before covid, I had a hard time carving out time in my schedule to sweat more than a few times a week. There’s the driving and parking and then the showering afterwards – it’s a commitment, and in a life filled with commitments, this one always seemed to sink to the bottom of the list.
The physical and mental benefits of regular exercise are not lost on me, and I always feel so much better after I move my body. These days my mental can use any benefit it can get, so, I decided that 2020 was the year I would finally crack this code and figure out how to be a person who works out regularly – kids, career, and all.
After interrogating some other busy people in my life, I still felt stumped. Most people I spoke with were either not working out at all, or waking up at 4 or 5am to squeeze it in before their day began. That 4 is not a typo. As much as I admire that level of discipline, losing sleep creates its own challenges, and is a hard pass for this lady. Sadly, I also found that whenever I scheduled workouts in the evening, I just didn’t have the energy to follow through.
After some thought and introspection, I tried a new approach that is actually working. Ready? Here it is: I decided that every single day the first thing I do when I wake up is drink a huge glass of water and then I take a long walk. Depending on my schedule that day the walk is brisk and quick or long and leisurely. Sometimes I run to work up a sweat, and other times I just stroll. Sometimes I stretch, and sometimes I impress myself and follow up with some crunches when I get home. The only mandatory thing is that each day before I do anything else I have to hydrate and I have to walk. Simple.
Here are some additional details that make this possible for me: I typically wake up by 7am, so I am still getting a decently early start (again, shouts out to the 4am crew for their drive). Also, my kids are fond of a lazy morning and are old enough to help themselves to breakfast before school, so the timing has been working for all of us. Jordan even started his own daily regimen on the elliptical machine (yes, the one that’s parked in our living room – I must really love him). At the time of this post, I will have moved my body, in one of the variations described above, every day for two weeks. I know that’s not a long time, but it’s a great start, and the way I’ve set it up truly feels sustainable.
Based on my brief, but overwhelming success, I’ve rounded up a bunch of tips to help you create your own sustainable workout routine. Here we go!
Lower The Bar and Work Your Way Up
How many of us are guilty of taking an all or nothing approach, burning out, and then doing nothing? My hand is up. Don’t set yourself up for failure (or injury). Pick something that feels realistic, simple, and sustainable.
Remove the Barrier to Entry
My daily exercise routine doesn’t involve class passes, registration, weights, or props, or gear, or videos, or driving, or parking. Choose something you can do easily and frequently without any hassle or barrier to entry. I’m looking at you, push-ups and sit-ups.
Pick a Consistent Time You Can Repeat
Decision fatigue is real. Now that I walk every morning first thing, I never have to spend time scheduling workouts, looking for class times, or juggling my schedule to squeeze in a workout. Do your best to automate your workout plan and make it consistent and easy to remember and prioritize.
Pair Working Out with Something You Love
Since I have been historically resistant to working out, it was important to pair it with something I love so it would be more appealing. I have an aversion to gyms and weights, but I love some good old fashioned alone time, breathing fresh air, and listening to my favorite podcasts or music. Instead of dreading having to exercise, my morning walks have become the highlight of my day.
I’m juiced now, but there is certainly a part of me that’s worried I won’t keep this up long term, so I am making sure that people I care about know what I am doing. Telling friends and family, and even writing about it here, gives me an extra boost to keep going. I am officially on the record. Accountability (and perhaps a small dose of fear of embarrassing myself) can be a super useful tool.
I’d love to hear how you’ve integrated a new habit into your life. Share in the comments below!