As a personal trainer I have had the good fortune of getting to work with hundreds of different clients. All of whom had a unique background. Some of them came from wealthy families and were well educated, while others came from working class families that did not pursue education after high school. Some of them were still attending high school, while others were in their mid eighties. In spite of all these differences in age, education, and economic status, every single client I have ever worked with understood with ZERO DOUBT that consistent exercise is good for them, specifically strength training! This could be in contention for the most uncontroversial statement ever made, I don’t believe that anyone has ever tried to argue that exercise is a conspiracy. So then the question is, why is it that most people don’t participate in regular exercise when they know it’s good for them? Based on my experience It’s clearly not because people don’t understand its importance. My hypothesis is that it’s because for the vast majority of people, the process of following an exercise routine is boring, intimidating, and not enjoyable. So I have decided to put to paper what I think are some useful tips on how to make the process of regular exercise more enjoyable.
Find a Comfortable Community
A comfortable fitness community is simply a group (or a pair) of people that you feel comfortable working out around. They don’t need to be your closest friends or professional colleagues, they just need to be people with relatively similar goals that you can relate to. We all know that our environment and the people we choose to surround ourselves with, have a huge influence on our behavior. So where? and with who? Are important questions to ask. The answers are always going to be individual, for some people joining a group fitness class at a big gym is going to be very exciting and motivating, but to others it is loud and overwhelming. Those people might enjoy working with a personal trainer who guides them through a workout, keeping them on task and engaged the whole time. Some people might not like having a personal trainer or joining a group fitness class. For those people simply joining a commercial gym with a friend will be sufficient to make the experience more enjoyable. Even people who workout by themselves would benefit from talking to other gym goers who like to workout by themselves. The take home point is that we are all social creatures, so finding a comfortable fitness community can transform regular exercise from a dull chore into a stimulating and socially rewarding activity.
In the context of exercise, having a very structured routine can be a double edged sword. Repeating the same routine over and over again can become boring and potentially cause burnout. However if we avoid creating a routine at all and simply exercise whenever we feel like it, there will be a lack of consistency and progress will take much longer. So the best exercise routine is one that strikes a balance between being consistent enough to drive progress and varied enough to stay interesting. To do this I recommend we break up our routine into three components, What, When, and Where. Decide when and where you’re going to exercise and try to keep those components of your routine very consistent. We are all creatures of habit, so keeping the environment and time of day mostly the same will help turn your motivation into a long term routine. But What exercises you do and how you do them can and should be varied week to week or even day to day. “Many roads lead to Rome”, meaning similar fitness outcomes can be achieved using a wide variety of exercises you are only constrained by your resources and your imagination.
Celebrate All Wins (big and small)
People invest a lot of time, money and effort into trying to achieve better health and fitness results. So it’s not surprising that people get discouraged when they feel like there is no noticeable progress being made. A lack of progress can be influenced by many factors, but one of the major factors is how we actually measure progress. Many clients I’ve worked with had two metrics of physical progress, which were do I look better? and do I weigh less? While weight and aesthetics are not necessarily bad measures of physical progress, they should never be your only metrics! Miles ran, miles walked, sprints completed, jump height, weight lifted, repetitions completed, improvements in mobility, reduced pain, and on and on. I would argue that in every week of an exercise routine there is some sort of noticeable progress made that is worth tracking and celebrating, we just have to look for it. All of the above metrics are examples of what are called “outcome” metrics. I recommend that people incorporate “process” metrics as well. These are how we measure the habits we are trying to form. Examples could be training consistently for three days in a row, going for a walk every day of the week, tracking calories for a month, or any other habit you are trying to stick to. Which ones you measure are completely up to you and should be based on your preferences. All I ask is that you look for more ways to measure and celebrate the progress you make on your exercise journey!
-Stephen Healy, CPT, CSCS Zero Doubt Club