How To Start A Workout Routine And Stick To It
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How To Start A Workout Routine And Stick To It

If you kick off a new workout routine brimming with excitement, but a month later find yourself struggling to get to the gym, you’re not alone. It’s easy to talk yourself out of exercise and sticking with a program can be much more challenging than getting started. However, with the right approach it is possible.

Here are 5 tips to help you actually stick to that new workout routine.

Start small

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting exercising is going too hard, too soon. The “all or nothing” approach is a recipe for burning out. If it’s your first time strength training or you’re returning after a break, you need to give your body time to adjust. Otherwise, you may end up exhausted, bored and possibly even injured. Although there are plenty of crash diet and exercise programs which will promise you will “get fit quick” or “lose fat fast”, these simply aren’t sustainable.

You don’t need to spend hours in the gym in order to see progress. By starting small you set yourself up for success, making your fitness journey more satisfying and rewarding. This will allow you to build momentum,[1] recover between workouts and reduce your risk of injury. It’s recommended that adults aged 18-64 years old do strength training at least two days a week.[2] Just two weekly 45-minute strength training sessions are enough to boost your strength, energy levels and mental health. That’s just 1.5 hours a week to improve your everyday performance, fight and prevent disease, improve bone health and mental clarity.[3]

Make it easy

The easier you make it for yourself to stick to a workout routine, the more likely you will succeed. One way to achieve this is by reducing the number of decisions involved in working out. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle and it will fatigue when you use it over and over throughout the day.[4] If you’ve had a taxing day at the office, it’s no surprise you may feel less motivated to head to the gym. Consider the decisions you make in the lead up to the gym and during your workout then try to eliminate some. For example, by working with a personal trainer.

A Personal Trainer will help prevent working out from falling into the “too hard” basket by creating a program. This takes away the decisions around what to do during your sessions and means all you need to do is show up.

Making your exercise more enjoyable will also mean it is easier to be consistent. A Personal Trainer will tailor your workout to your goals and personal preferences, including avoiding any dreaded exercises. Choosing a Personal Trainer you get along with also helps you to build a personal relationship, which is an additional motivator. This will often be better than training with a friend as there will inevitably be one person who is more motivated than the other. If you are the more motivated one, when your friend cancels it can make it easy to do the same yourself.

Motivate yourself

Understanding what drives you is a powerful tool for staying motivated. When you are intrinsically motivated, your behaviour is driven by internal rewards. For example, going to the gym to improve your health and fitness.[5] On the other hand, when you are extrinsically motivated, you are driven by external rewards, such as money or recognition.[6]

When you are trying to build a new habit, it can be useful to use both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. The extrinsic motivator will help keep you on track for the days when your intrinsic motivation is weaker. However, make sure that the reward doesn’t conflict with your goals. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight don’t reward yourself for a workout with a trip to McDonalds.

Everyone will be motivated by different types rewards so it’s important to identify what is the most powerful for you. For example, one of our clients has broken down her weight loss goal into 3kg increments. When she achieves each goal, she will buy herself a new pair of shoes. Alternatively, you may be more motivated by making a financial commitment. For example, by committing to paying a personal trainer you may be less likely to cancel than if you were training alone, or with a friend.

Make it non-negotiable

Making looking after your health non-negotiable will not only make you feel better, but also help you in other important areas of your life. For example, by improving your strength and fitness, playing with your kids may feel less strenuous, and by boosting mental clarity you can be more efficient and productive at work.[7] 

Treat your workout routine as important as other priorities, such as turning up for work each day. One way you can achieve this is by blocking out time in your calendar for exercise and not letting anyone book you in for something else during that period. If you have to cancel a session, reschedule it for another time.[8] Remember, if you’re starting with just two 45-minute sessions a week and can’t do one, there is still plenty of time throughout the week to utilise.

Set yourself cues

Ultimately, you want your workout routine to become a habit. This will make it an almost automatic part of your life, and therefore easier to complete. The first step to developing a habit is setting yourself cues. A cue is what triggers your brain to initiate a behaviour. For example, when your phone buzzes you reach for your phone.[9] You can control the cues in your environment which trigger you to head to the gym. The more obvious you make these cues, the better. For example, packing your bag and leaving it by the front door is a visual cue. You could also set yourself a reminder to start getting ready one hour before you need to leave.

Dedicating time to exercise shouldn’t be something you only do to drop that 10kg, or before a big event. Consistently improving your health through strength training should be as routine as doing the grocery shopping or brushing your teeth. By implementing these 5 tips you will be well on your way to leading a balanced, healthier life.