Although we may agree exercise is good for everyone (Part One), it important to recognize that not everyone is motivated or wired in the same way. I personally love to start my day with exercise first thing – it really sets me off on the right foot and gives me a major energy and mood booster straight away which I can use as fuel to tackle the rest of the day. I can sweat and then shower and know that I have that checked off my list of things to accomplish regardless of what unplanned interruptions or obstacles may lie ahead. However, if you struggle to wake up in time for work every morning and prefer to stay up late, this is not a viable option for you. A lot of research shows that our preferences and tendencies around sleep are quite hardwired and therefore instead of fighting and/or failing to force yourself to become an early bird – you may do better to consider a workout around lunch or in the evening when your body and mind are better prepared. If you work against your natural leanings, it will make the habit all the more challenging to stick to (a vitally important concept for not only exercise routines, but any good habit you are trying to develop or bad one you wish to break).
Some people find that they do better when they have some type of accountability – whether that be a partner in crime, a set time for a class or group session, or working with a personal trainer. Others are busy stay-at-home-moms that really cannot leave their kids at home or take them to childcare for the 11 AM class. Some people like things to follow a predictable format or style of exercise, while others prefer to do something completely different and new everyday. I used to have a lot of thoughts and opinions as to what was the most effective or best way to be. However, the more that I have sought to educate myself on various preferences, personalities, and tendencies, and the more I have contemplated patterns in my own life and those around me, the more I have come to understand that people are actually quite different in some important ways. And rather than trying to conform yourself to something which is not natural for you, it is best to spend some time in honest self-reflection and careful consideration of your own inclinations and predispositions and learn how to most effectively leverage them to your benefit while counterbalancing some of your weaker areas.
If you are someone who struggles to do the things that you really want to do for yourself, perhaps you could consider strategies which provide some type of accountability, like scheduling your workouts in your calendar or signing up for a class. Knowing that time is blocked for that particular activity or that the instructor or trainer will be expecting you to be there can be a powerful motivator. Although I can and do workout on my own at times, I prefer the atmosphere and energy of group exercise or training with a friend or my husband. My happy place is at the barre, and the amount of vigor and sheer exuberance I get from being surrounded by others working their hardest to make it through the “final ten, best ten” of a set is nothing short of phenomenal. In this way, group contagion is a powerful source of positive habit reinforcement.
My happy place – I love the community and energy of working out with a group at the studio
Consistent exercise is also easier when we make it as convenient as possible. Picking out your clothes and packing your bag the night before can reduce a lot of last minute stress and genuine excuses not to go if you are running late. Also choosing a location near to work and going before you head home for the night might help compared with the inconvenience of coming and going multiple times. On the other hand, if you do want to go home first, having to drive all the way back towards work for your workout may be a deterrent, so you’d want to choose somewhere closer to home. Further, many people benefit by pairing particular activities that they want or need to do, for example by only watching your favorite show while you are on the treadmill or listening to a podcast while you are going for a walk with the dog, you are killing two (or three) birds with one stone and building an association which helps to sustain your good habits even when you don’t really feel like it. In doing this you make a deal with yourself; if you want to watch the latest episode, you know that means you have to hit that treadmill.
My husband who unwittingly committed to being my workout partner for life. Although he is decidedly not a fan of barre, he does love Reformer and it is something that we do for both exercise and fun together regularly!
Because as paradoxical as it may seem, even after you do find a workout that you truly enjoy and is well suited to you, there will be days when it is still a struggle to get up and do it. We all get tired or have long, busy days, or even too much free time/lack of structure at times which makes it tempting to skip exercising. And while one workout doesn’t actually make too much of a difference, things like this have tend to have a slowly compounding effect and before you know, it may be a month before you head back to the gym or studio and starting over can be a serious drain physically and mentally. Therefore, I cannot urge you enough to seriously consider what works for you personally and deploy strong habit building strategies that are aligned with those traits and preferences. Just as there is no one “best exercise,” there is no one size fits all, perfect way to adopt and build strong fitness and health habits. The key is to find the best way for YOU.