Once you get into the habit of exercising, it becomes much easier to keep it up. After all, it feels incredibly awesome to master something that was once a big challenge, or to simply enjoy more energy, be more fit and in better overall health. But after awhile, if you stick to the same old routine, you might start to get bored and quit, or hit a plateau and stop reaping all of the benefits you once were.
Even worse, maybe you’ve given up entirely. After becoming ill or injured, working a ton of overtime or dealing with family commitments, it’s easy to get out of the habit of exercising regularly, and instead find yourself lounging on the couch binging on Netflix during your offtime. Life happens to all of us, and before we know it, that workout routine that was once regular is now nonexistent.
No matter what your situation, if you’ve gotten off track, it’s time to change things up and get moving — here’s how!
1. Start out small
You keep telling yourself that you’ll get out for that run first thing tomorrow morning, but when that alarm goes off you hit snooze, again and again. Instead of aiming to do something “big” like you used to do, start out small. Instead of a run, go for a brisk walk. If a long workout feels like too much, then simply commit to moving for five minutes. Committing to five minutes is a lot less daunting than a longer workout. Once you’re up and moving, chances are, you’ll keep going — just start with five minutes and see where it goes.
Once you develop that habit and start to feel better, it’s easier to move forward and continue with your once-healthy habits.
2. Commit to just 30 days
You can do just about anything for 30 days, right? Maybe even get up at 5 a.m. every morning if you have to. After all, isn’t it worth it to enjoy the health and happiness that comes with regular exercise? Making a commitment to workout, even if it’s only for 20 minutes, every single day for 30 days is just about guaranteed to get you back into your exercise habit. It will also take the pressure off, knowing that you only have to make it to that 30 day mark, though of course, odds are, you’ll keep it going.
3. Find those intrinsic rewards
Sticking with an exercise routine is challenging for many people, according to a study from Iowa State University. Extrinsic motivators, like working out to look better or lose pounds, don’t have the psychological staying power that motivates people to stick with it over the long term. Of course those are legitimate reasons to begin a regular workout program, but once you achieve that initial reward, odds are, it won’t be enough to make it an automatic behavior. The other problem is that when the results don’t come quick enough, you quit. That’s why forming the habit is the key to creating a lifelong change.
Instead, think about the intrinsic rewards to develop an exercise habit over the long haul. Of course, those rewards are very personal and have to be discovered through trial and error. For example, when you enjoy a great workout, take the time to think about why it felt so rewarding. Maybe when you got to the gym, you felt so stressed out, but by the time you left, you were much more relaxed. Or, perhaps, you were really tired before going out for a walk, but by the time you were half way through, suddenly you got that energy burst, and when you were done, that fatigue faded away.
The key to this is pinpointing exactly what makes exercise a positive experience for you. Sometimes we tend to focus too much on the effort it takes instead of the outcome. While working out can be hard in the moment, you will pretty much always feel incredible afterwards. So, if you need something to help you refocus and motivate you, just keep that post-workout high in mind. Other than some sore muscles, you’ll never regret exercising.
4. Get outdoors
The Great Outdoors are just that: great! From the scenery, nature, the fresh air, wildlife and so on, exercising outside not only brings those fitness benefits, but it helps us to feel more refreshed and revitalized. It boosts our energy, lifts our mood and even helps to fight anger and depression — and it’s even been proven by scientific research.
A study out of the University of Essex in the U.K. showed that just five minutes of exercise daily packs a huge punch when it comes to boosting one’s mood and self-image. They say just about any activity outdoors, like walking, hiking, biking or running in the presence of water, trees, a garden and other natural scenery will make you feel better — and it’s even bound to keep you motivated to get out and do it again.
5. Find a workout buddy
If you only have yourself to account for, it’s a lot easier to come up with excuses in your head not to do something, especially working out. If you have a neighbor, friend, co-worker or family member to get out there and exercise with, you can hold each other accountable and be each others’ cheerleaders, boosting motivation. As it makes it a lot more fun to enjoy some socializing while you’re exercising too, you’re bound to be even more excited to get out there and do it.
6. Get a tracker or a pedometer
More and more people these days are wearing those fitness trackers, and research has found that those who do tend to be more active every day. In fact, the Harvard Medical School reported that Stanford researchers analyzed 26 different studies and summarized the results in a paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007.
The results revealed that, at least in studies, those who used a pedometer walked more than 2,000 additional steps each day than non-users, with their overall physical activity levels increasing by an average of 27 percent more, or at least a mile more every day. That equals to burning around eight miles annually. A fitness tracker takes things even farther, as you’ll be able to see your activity levels. You can even to compete with others, which provides even more motivation and may help you feel more accomplished, too.
What do you do to get out of a workout slump? Let us know in the comments below!
— Susan Patterson