No matter how good your workout intentions are, it's all too easy for life to intrude and stomp all over your plans without a backward glance. But it doesn't have to be that way. After a good deal of trial and error, I've learned that the best way to ensure that your sweat sessions actually happen is to remove potential roadblocks ahead of time—in other words, make it so easy to exercise that working out becomes a foregone conclusion.
Schedule your workouts
Let's be realistic: If your life is anywhere as busy as mine (and I bet it is), exercise just isn't going to happen unless you map out time for it. I plan my workouts on Sunday evenings for the coming week. Here's the key: I always try to schedule an extra session so I if I do end up canceling one last-minute, I'm covered. Plus, I check the days with my husband (who also works out in the mornings) to ensure we're not going to be duking it out at 5 a.m. over who gets to use the DVD player or who has to stay inside in case our 5-year-old wakes up.
Check the weather
Nothing can derail a morning (or afternoon) workout faster than a few enthusiastic rain clouds. Log on to weather.com or wunderground.com the night before, then choose your activity accordingly. If there's a chance of rain (or snow or high winds or whatever), skip the walk or run or bike ride and instead hit the gym, use your home treadmill or spin bike, or pop in your favorite workout DVD.
Prep your stuff
Each night, set out (or pack) both your workout clothes and any gear you need for the next day's workout, then set them somewhere you'll see them when you first wake up.
Go to bed on time
When you slide between the sheets at a late hour, you know it's going to be a struggle to resist hitting snooze (again and again and again) when your alarm starts blaring. Even if you work out later in the day, you'll need energy—the kind that only comes from a good night's sleep—to carry you through so you're not dragging when you finally lace up your kicks.
So you hit the snooze button once anyway, or you have to work a little later than you'd planned. Instead of skipping your workout altogether, simply give yourself the permission to do a shorter one. Exercise for 30 minutes instead of 45, or 20 minutes instead of 30. Step up the intensity if you can, or just do a mini version of what you'd planned.