Looking for an answer to why you’re falling short of your fitness goals? Creating and maintaining a regular workout schedule just might be the secret sauce you’re forgetting to toss into your workout plan.
“You need to be consistent for the beneficial changes of exercise to occur in your body,” says Edward R. Laskowski, MD, co-director of Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine. “For example, regular, consistent aerobic exercise stimulates the growth of new capillaries to bring blood to your muscles. This takes several weeks to occur.” It also takes weeks of strength training to grow muscle fibers, which will make you stronger and more toned. Simply put, “if you’re inconsistent, these physiologic changes take longer to occur and the changes will not be as robust,” Dr. Laskowski explains.
The Consistency Formula for Getting Fit
Though there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how consistent your routine needs to be, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans provides a solid outline. Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderately intense physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and lift weights twice a week. It helps to try to move more often throughout your day, whether you’re getting up to go chat with a colleague or taking a midday jog, says Dr. Laskowski.
An easy way to make sure you can stick to a workout: Find something you like. That could mean walking around your neighborhood after dinner most nights or signing up for a membership at your favorite studio. “It can take a long time to develop that consistency, but when something becomes a part of your everyday life, it feels much less like a chore and much more like a given,” says Kristie Larson, an instructor at Row House in New York City. “And that’s when it really gets fun.”
Of course, you’re not alone if a regular workout routine seems near impossible. But no matter how busy your schedule, it can happen. We talked to some top trainers to find out how they promote a regular routine for their clients — and for themselves.
7 Tips to Make Your Fitness More Consistent
1. Become a regular class goer.
It seems easy: If you want to work out frequently, commit to a class, gym session or online workout at the same time and same day at least three times a week, suggests Larson. (She does this with her own schedule.) By going consistently, you also commit to getting better at that activity. In the example of rowing, you’ll perfect your form, build endurance and become a stronger rower. “Tracking progress is extremely important when talking about consistency,” she says. When you see improvements, it’s a major motivator.
2. Rise and shine.
Ever try becoming a member of the morning exercise club? It could be the answer to making your workouts stick. Several experts suggest tackling a sweat session before your day gets overloaded, so you can make sure to fit it in. “In your first hour of waking, you have the opportunity to aim all of your energy toward creating your healthiest self,” says Ann Green, founder of Bliss Yoga in Barrie, Ontario. Use the time wisely — even if it’s just 10 minutes. Lay out your outfit and pack your gym bag the night before, too. Then you’re ready to hit the ground running (literally!) in the morning.
3. Make an announcement.
Besides the much-talked-about idea of planning your workout schedule in advance (and putting it on the calendar!), it can also help if you tell your co-workers what you plan to do. That’s how Allie Whitesides, a personal trainer and Daily Burn Fitness/Nutrition Coach, fits in a sweat session. “On the days where I can’t work out before my day starts, I pick another 30-minute window to get active,” she says. “Then I announce it at work — and [the people around me] make me feel guilty if I don’t get it done. It works for me.”
4. Form relationships.
When you get to know your instructor, other people in a class or even the front desk staff, you start to feel more accountable for your workouts. “If you know that someone will notice your absence, you’re going to think twice about skipping class,” Larson says.
5. Find balance.
Ever since Daily Burn 365 trainer Krystal Dwyer had her baby nine months ago, fitting in regular exercise has become a little more difficult. But she finds little ways to squeeze it in, like going for long walks, doing at-home workouts (which sometimes involve her daughter) or signing up for a gym right next door. She also tracks her steps so she knows when she needs to kick up her numbers at the end of the day. “It’s about thinking outside of the box to make your goals happen,” Dwyer says. “All in all, I do my best every day, as I encourage others to do. But some days might not go as planned — and that’s OK, too!”
6. Factor in rest days.
Diving into an intense workout could mean you fall off the wagon as soon as you feel worn out, which probably won’t take long. So don’t be afraid to take days off when your body feels like it needs a break. “And choose training methods that are sustainable,” says Larson. “Fitness is not about abusing your body. It’s about taking care of it.”
7. Streamline your obligations.
Take a cue from Noah Neiman, co-founder of Rumble, a boxing studio in New York City: “I know that if I am my best self — and take care of the only piece of real estate that one can truly own in their lifetime, my body — I will be a better version of myself for everyone else.” That means you shouldn’t be afraid to turn down extra projects or nights out in favor of getting active. And even more importantly, know that doing so isn’t a selfish act.