Just like our previous article on creating a sustainable diet routine, very similar dynamics apply to achieving long-term success in fitness routines.
The majority of people trying to get into shape seem to only stick to their routine for a few weeks before falling off the wagon. In this post we’ll discuss ways to make your workout plan sustainable.
We observe the same 3 phases of failure: over-reaching, reality, and rebound – all with only slight differences to the failed diet scenario.
Phase 1: Over-reaching
You do well to start working out – but you work out too hard, and too frequently.
Motivation and energy levels are high, but their application of this motivation is unsustainable.
Your physical performance may be great since your muscles are fresh, and quick weight loss may be seen over the first couple of weeks.
Phase 2: Reality
The effects of over-training start setting in.
You begin to feel fatigued, and need more rest days, that aren’t planned into your routine.
Your long workouts leave you excessively sore, making it overly painful to move around for the following days.
You might realise that you find your workout routine boring, and start missing workouts because you’d prefer to be doing something else.
Phase 3: Rebound
Just like in our dieting rebound phase, the “off” days will slowly add up, until you’ve probably stopped working out altogether.
Like all unsustainable plans, we end up back at square one.
Making Your Workout Routine Last
As you would’ve learnt in the previous article, the two main keys to sustainability are baby-steps, and using the 66-day rule of habits.
We’ll draw up an example plan later on using these rules, but there are also plenty of other factors you can control to stick to your new workout routine:
1. Choose a physical activity that you enjoy
One of the main problems that people have is that they simply don’t enjoy their chosen type of exercise.
The great thing about today is, there are plenty of options!
If you’re new to any sort of exercise, feel free to spend a few weeks on a variety of activities. Try them all out to find something that you really like.
2. Set specific workout days
Choosing specific days to do your workouts allow you to stay organised, and improves consistency.
Setting up a routine and habit is essential, and it’s a slippery slope if you don’t set anything in stone.
Just one or two days a week is a great starting point which can have a huge positive impact on your life.
You can slowly increase your number of exercise sessions per week over time.
3. Just show up
If you struggle to find motivation to exercise, put your efforts into just showing up.
Although it sounds simple, turning up is often the hardest part.
Once you’re in the zone, however, it’s often a piece of cake to follow through!
4. Eat a pre-workout meal
Lack of motivation to exercise can often come from simply not having enough fuel in your system at the time.
This is especially common for those who train after the traditional 9-5 work day. Often, the last time you’ve eaten in such a situation is at lunch time, a whole 4-5 hours earlier.
Anyone in that position would find it difficult to want to train!
Make sure that you eat a substantial snack or meal about an hour before your workout, and make it a habit. This will give you the motivation to get into the gym, as well as supply you with the energy to power through your workout.
5. Don’t overdo it
Although pushing your limits is great, make sure you allow yourself enough rest days to recover. Also try to refrain from training for too long in any one session – particularly when lifting weights.
Your body needs time to heal, and if you don’t provide it with some down-time, fatigue will eventually take-over and jeopardise both your energy levels and progress. Read about symptoms of overtraining here.
Slow and steady wins the fitness race!
Months 1 & 2
Try out some new activities, making sure it aligns with your goals.
Perhaps you want to gain some lean muscle and don’t care too much for cardiovascular activities, so you choose weight-based training.
Months 3 & 4
Assign two gym sessions to two fixed days per week – perhaps, Tuesday and Thursday.
These days do not matter, as long as you can commit to those same days every week.
Spacing these days out can help with rest and recovery, but doesn’t matter as much as convenience.
Months 5 & 6
You’re comfortable with your new routine, and find yourself becoming able to do more – perhaps even wanting to do more!
At this stage, you can add on an extra day or two per week of weight-lifting.
Do not add more than one or two days, especially if you are still not entirely motivated.
Months 7 & 8
Now you’re in the groove, and progressing nicely!
Your exercise habits are ingrained into your daily life, and don’t require any extra focus or effort to maintain.
At this point, you’re happy with your 4 workouts a week, since it provides you with results as well as a good balance with other interests and activities – so you simply continue as before.
Sounds easy! Where do I go from here?
It’s time to get started on your own plan!
Feel free to follow the example if you enjoy lifting weights, or set out and choose an activity that suits you.
Make sure to follow all the tips from earlier in the article to put all the odds in your favour.
Best of luck, and remember: slow and steady wins the race!