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How do I stop quitting my exercise program?

Everyone and their mother can relate to the feeling of starting something new and then quitting a few days or weeks into it. I’ve done it myself, many times. One of the most classic examples of this is starting into a workout routine, or going to the gym for the first time in a long time (if not, first time ever) and quitting not long after.  

There’s a lot of aspects to motivation, energy levels, schedules, mindset, all the things. We LOVE to bring em’ up when we talk about working out. If you are having trouble sticking to a workout schedule, I’m not going to be so arrogant as to say “read this and it’s fixed!” Not that easy, I get it. However, if I were to give you some tips I’ve learned from training others as well as my own experience, I would follow these factors to help. Set yourself up for long-term success rather than a constant cycle of starting and stopping.

  1. Make a specific fitness goal, something to work towards that gives you an action plan. It can be about a weight goal, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Maybe your goal is to attend 30 classes at your gym in 8 weeks. Maybe your goal is to lose 40 pounds in 6 months. Maybe your goal is to figure out how to enjoy working out.
  1. Decide your routine during the day and time you plan to exercise. For instance, don’t make the plan on Sunday afternoon after you’ve had a great meal and a pleasant nap. If you plan on working out in the mornings, choose the goal and plan at 6am on Thursday morning, when you’re in the same mental and physical state you’ll be in for the workouts.
  1. Make a plan that fits the goal, and make all parts of it measurable, so success can’t be left to arbitrary decisions.
  • Vague plan: “I’m going to eat nutritious food and workout more than I am now.” 
  • Measurable plan: I am going to follow “X” meal plan 6 days/week, and I will weight train 3 times a week for 30 minutes per session.
  1. Choose a realistic plan. If you know you are tired after work and won’t want to drive across town to workout, don’t choose a gym across town. If you typically have 3 days a week to workout, don’t choose a plan that requires you to workout for four.
  1. Chuck your ego at the door. You almost ALWAYS need to start smaller than your pride wants to. If you aren’t doing anything with consistency now, literally ANY plan that keeps you consistent is better than what you’re doing now. Celebrate the steps forward over resenting the steps not yet taken. 

I had a client who struggled with consistency and discipline, and he constantly beat himself up for it. Rather than give him a workout plan to start, I told him to wake up every morning, make a cup of coffee, and walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes. He didn’t do anything else for weeks, until that habit held value and consistency. Once that felt easy, we added one small piece at a time. Now, months later, he’s working out 3-4 days a week, tracking his protein, and seeing more progress than he’s had in years.

  1. Choose something you enjoy. Everyone’s got their own idea of what the “perfect workout plan” looks like. And certainly, there are specific approaches to exercise that help you achieve the best possible results. But ultimately, the most important component to ANY workout is to do one you enjoy. I love lifting weights now. Seven years ago, I despised it. If you had told me to start going to the gym 5 days a week, 1 hour per session, and go lift weights – I never would have stayed with it. I went for about 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week to Planet Fitness, and honestly I hated that too. Then I joined a boxing gym, and that was my first experience actually enjoying what I was doing, so I started there. Several years of staying consistent with that, and it eventually led me to weightlifting, and then CrossFit. 
  1. Show up all days of the plan. If you’ve made a plan that is actually realistic to your schedule and lifestyle, this is possible, outside of the occasional emergency. If I say “show up,” that might mean driving to the gym parking lot, walking inside, doing a lap, and driving home. I’m serious. You may read that and think “what a waste of time and gas.” But really what you are doing is getting your mind and body into the habit of reserving that time, even if you don’t have the physical or mental capacity to complete a full workout at that time. Eventually, you will. But that day will most likely never happen if you don’t practice reserving that time for nothing other than what you originally intended it for. It’s way easier to skip 2 days in a row when the first day you spent your time scrolling on your phone or watching a TV show. If on day 1 though, you spent the time driving to the gym, walking in for 5 minutes, then walking out and driving home, you’re more likely to make that time even a teeny bit more worth it if you do the same routine again. Stay 6 minutes instead of 5. Progress is progress.

I hope these tips help, and you read them as encouragement rather than judgment, because that is how they are intended. If you are looking for a particular workout program, I offer both a non-adaptive and adaptive program on my website, (under the “fitness” tab). Just sayin’…

Enjoy the rest of your week!

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