I’m not going to blab a lot on this post. This one is a cut-to-the-chase how-to tutorial on working out for the long-term. As I write this it is January, and in the fitness industry the synonym for January is “busy.” A lot of people are working out right now, you might be one of them. A lot of those same people will lose motivation and not be working out in March. You don’t want to be one of them.
Here is what the gym looks like throughout the year:
January – Really busy: New Year’s Resolutions
February – Sort of busy: Some New Year’s Resolutioners sticking around
March – Normal: Just a few of the new members of the gym sticking around
April – December: Steady with a few spurts of sort of busy and kind of not busy
Here is what workouts look like for people new to (or coming back to) the gym:
January: Gun-ho!!! Let’s work out! A lot! 5 workouts per week.
February: Let’s keep it going! 4 or 5 or 6 days per week.
Mid-February: Valentine’s Day. Did someone say chocolate? Skip a week. Then 2 times per week.
March: St. Patrick’s Day. Did someone say beer? 0 times per week.
April: Do I still have that gym membership? 0 times per week.
May: Swimsuit season is coming, I’ll go back to the gym. 5 times per month.
June – December: More sporadic gym attendance, if any.
Here is what a lot of people think the workout year should look like:
January – December: 5 or 6 days per week, for at least 60 minutes per session.
What happens there, is when people don’t hit that 5 or 6 day goal, it feels like they have failed, so they just quit. Don’t let that be you.
5 or 6 days of working out each week is a nice goal. I like working out like that too. But for a lot of us, that is not sustainable. Don’t worry though – you do not need to hit the gym 6 days per week all year.
Here is what will happen during the year that will get in the way of your 5 or 6 days per week plan:
Kids’ sports and activities
Friends inviting you to pizza during your workout time
A new baby
Game of Thrones
Candy Crush (or other game of the week)
Here are some tips on how to beat those:
- Set a baseline of 3 days to workout each week. No matter what, get those 3 days in, for at least 25 minutes each day – and make those 30 minutes count. No kind of, sort of riding the elliptical. Do something challenging for you. Then, if you can hit 4 days, cool. If you can do 5 days, awesome. If you can do 60 minutes instead of 25, deluxe! When life gets in the way, never go below the 3 days per week.
- Learn to say no. Say no to friends. Say no to family. Say no to yourself. If someone asks you to do something during your workout time, the answer is no. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule let people know they can’t interfere with your workout time.
- Think of exercise like bathing – you have to do it. If you don’t, you’ll feel gross. If you had 3 kids in 3 different schools, playing 3 different sports, and felt completely drained, you would probably still make the time to bathe. If you had a ton of things to do at work and/or school, you would still hit the shower several times per week (right?). Exercise needs to be the same.
- Stay accountable to someone. Have a workout buddy, hire a trainer, do what you’ve got to do. Accountability is huge.
- Make little sacrifices now for big rewards later. There is an old story that goes like this: John tells his friend Bob, “Hey, I’ve got this gold mine over here. All I need you to do is get a shovel.” Bob says, “Do you have any idea what they are charging for shovels these days? I can’t afford a shovel.” Don’t let a shovel keep you from a gold mine. Don’t let a few bucks keep you from a gym membership or some training. Don’t tet TV keep you from workout time. “But my show is on,” “But I can’t afford it,” and, “But I don’t have time,” are not excuses to stop exercising.
Your workout year in your head might look like a consistent January through December of 5 days per week, 1 hour per session. In the Real World, it might look like this:
Jan – 6 days per week
Feb – 5 days per week
March – 3 or 4 days per week
April – 5 days per week
May – 4 or 5 days per week
June – 6 days per week
July – 5 days per week, with 2 weeks off for vacation
Aug – 4 or 5 days per week
Sep – 3-4 days per week
Oct – 5 days per week
Nov – 5 days per week, except the week of Thanksgiving
Dec – 3 days per week
And of course that is just one example, but you get the idea. When those busy holiday months come up, when the kids go back to school in September, when you get a little burnt out in March, you don’t stop! You promise yourself your 3 days per week for your health and well being, and you stay consistent. That is how you can work out beyond February this year.