How to Create a Fitness Routine You’ll Actually Stick To

Ah, September. It’s like another January 1st for parents. The kids are back in school, summer is over. And that means you have a little more time for yourself and you can focus on getting back into your routines. The hardest part of having a routine is getting back into it after a break. It’s easy to remove things from your life. Not so easy to add them in. 

I have spent my whole life in athletics and the fitness industry and have been injured, sidelined, or taken a break many times. Here is my best advice for (re)establishing a fitness routine, coming from personal experience.

Do it first thing

Some people will say to work out at the time that works best for you. For most people that’s the afternoon or evening when they’re feeling most energized and awake. Not first thing in the morning when they’re groggy, grumpy, and dehydrated. My advice? Push through. Each morning we are born again. Make it a habit to work out first thing in the morning. 

There are so many benefits of checking off that box early in the day. When you get something that you prioritize (and if you’re reading this, fitness is clearly something you prioritize or want to prioritize) checked off the list first thing, the rest of the day feels easier and lighter. You simply coast

Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” 

Think of the frog as the hardest task you have to do for the day. The one you often have resistance to or simply don’t feel like doing. Working out is the frog for so many of us. Even if we actually enjoy working out, just getting there and showing up is often the hardest thing, the frog.

Eat the frog. Set out your workout clothes and sneakers. Put water next to your bedside table. Prep your pre- or post-workout smoothie. Do what you have to do to make it easier to get it done first thing.

And before you say, “Listen, I’m simply not a morning person. Never have been. Never will be.” Let's shatter that legacy that’s holding you back. Just challenge yourself for 30 days or a season! In fact, it takes on average more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. Just fake it until you make it. No grit, no pearl. I have about 1,000 more sayings that are applicable here. You get the point!

Make it accessible

If you’re a gym person, cheers to being a gym person. Sometimes it takes a different setting to clear your head and feel focused. But me? Not a gym person. Especially, when the snow starts to fall. There’s no chance I’m shoveling out my car at dawn or stopping at the gas station to get to the gym when I can get in a super effective workout at home. 

In his international bestseller, Atomic Habits, author James Clear outlines a simple set of rules for building better habits. One of the four “Laws of Behavior Change” he describes is… make it easy. I’m going to reword that in this case as, “make it accessible”.

If you have to drive 15 minutes to your gym, that’s 30 minutes you’re spending on simply getting there and back that you could have spent on working out! An effective workout at home does not require a home gym, a bunch of fancy, expensive workout equipment, or even a ton of space. In my BURN workout videos, I rotate a few pieces of inexpensive equipment in my garage. A pair of dumbbells, a resistance band, sliders, a jump rope, and maybe a weighted ball! And guess what? I still have a six-pack.

Making your fitness routine accessible is a game changer. There are truly no excuses!

Be time efficient

There is a lot of conflicting advice in the fitness community, especially for beginners. Should you choose a workout that you really enjoy or one that is super time efficient? Obviously, the best thing would be to find a workout that is both–– enjoyable AND time efficient. Personally, I find HIIT-style workouts to strike that balance for me. I love blasting good music and moving around with high energy and hard efforts, especially right after I’ve had my morning coffee. 

BUT, I would say if you’re choosing between the two, choose something that is a little more time efficient. For example, some people really enjoy riding bicycles, but in order to get in a good workout, find that they need to ride for 90+ minutes. That’s just unrealistic for most people and if you get a flat tire, forget about it. Save that for the weekend. Find something that is a little more time-efficient and perhaps, works out your whole body for your day-to-day life. Be time efficient and you’re more likely to be able to incorporate it into your daily routine.

Make an awesome playlist

Personally, I do not know how people work out without music! Those few people are truly a special breed. A good workout playlist is ESSENTIAL for motivating me to get going and to power through hard efforts. I swear it makes me work harder. This is not just hypothetical either! Listening to uplifting music while working out has been proven to help improve the quality of your workout by increasing your stamina and putting you in a better mood.

Runners in particular have been known to run faster when they listen to music with a higher BPM (beats per minute). They unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) match their stride to a particular beat and regulate their pace. This is called auditory motor synchronization, which is a fancy term that implies that we are physically affected by the music we hear, so make an upbeat playlist and get after it!

There are tons of workout playlists you can search online or on your music streaming platforms. There are even specific high BPM playlists for runners. Or simply just listen to your favorite happy songs. My playlist will vary by my mood and the day. Usually, it's a mix of everything. Rock, pop, and you bet your bottom some country! The only perfect playlist is the one that connects to you. You do you. 

Have a workout buddy

A workout buddy holds you accountable and encourages you to fulfill your health goals. If most of your friends and family don’t prioritize their health and fitness, it’s going to be much harder to stick with your routines. We’ve all heard it, “You are the five or so people you spend the most time with.” I find that to be incredibly true. Even if you’re not surrounded by athletes, hikers, and gym bros, one single workout buddy can make a huge difference. You’ll feel supported.

AND, by the way, you can work out at home and still have a workout buddy. It could be a friend or family member that you get a “sweaty selfie,” a photo of your sweaty (glowing!) post-workout self, of every day, perhaps with or without a motivational quote!

Bottom line

Fitness routines are most difficult to establish, but once you have them going, you can coast on autopilot. You can adjust. You can find what works for you and what doesn’t. It is great to theorize all day about what routine will work best for you, but you only figure it out by doing! So get out there and try some new things. It’s my hope these tips work for you. They certainly work for me.

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