How to Get Your Exercise Routine Back on Track

Band Exercise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

There is a reason why gym enrollments spike after Christmas and just before the summer holidays. People realize that they've overindulged and decide, sometimes in a panic, to get back into shape.

However, within months or even weeks, the thrice-weekly gym visits get pared down to two, one, and then only the occasional visit. Other things begin to take precedence, and, before long, people will lament that they can never find the time for a proper workout.

You can reverse these habits by forming different ones. If you are reading this, you are likely ready to take action, according to the theories behind behavior change.The next step is to commit to taking action by creating goals and routines. Believe in yourself and know that with some planning, you can get back on track.

We may tell ourselves that we're too busy, too tired, or too distracted to exercise, but the real reason is simple: we don't commit ourselves to exercise. If you genuinely want to make yourself stronger, healthier, and more fit, you need to overcome the barriers that are holding you back. Here's how.

Commit To a Routine

Today's world is a busy one. We put so much energy into our daily lives that it often seems like there's nothing left by the end of the day.

But is this the case? If you start counting the hours you spend during your downtime—watching TV, playing on the phone, or just lying around the house—you'll begin to see that you're tossing hours that could be spent getting stronger and gaining more energy to help you through your day.

People who exercise don't have any more or less time than people who don't. The only difference is that they carve out that time. They make working out important.

So, how do you do start? Try this:

  • Ease into a routine. Commit to 15 to 20 minutes of exercise two to three days a week. From there, outline a plan to increase your workout week on week steadily. A four-week jumpstart program is a perfect place to start.
  • Put it on your calendar. Block off your workout times just as you would any other appointment.
  • Prepare the night before. Get your gym bag ready and have it set next to the front door.
  • Reward yourself. If you spend 20 minutes exercising, give yourself 20 minutes to do whatever else you want. By doing this, you'll become more aware of how you spend your downtime and will be able to manage those hours more effectively.

Try Not to Overdo It

People often rush into a workout plan with the best intentions, only to find themselves burning out within a few months to a year. More often than not, it is because they are pushing themselves at a pace that you cannot reasonably sustain.

They will start by doing too much too soon or committing so much time to exercise that everything else gets squeezed out. When committing to a workout plan, you need to find something that fits comfortably into your life without becoming a slog. Do this:

  • Start slow. You are not here to play catch-up. Start with three days of moderate cardio for 10 to 30 minutes and one to two days of a simple total body workout. Try to move up to a 30-day quick start plan.
  • Listen to your body. While it's normal to be a little sore after a workout, you'll know that you're pushing way too hard if you experience extreme pain or stiffness. Ease up a little, and avoid going beyond your limits. You'll only hurt yourself if you do.
  • Experiment. Give yourself time to figure out what program is right for you. You will want to find something beneficial but doesn't cause you to throw up your hands in frustration. Luckily, there are various programs you can turn to, including circuit training and interval training. Meet with a personal trainer if you need guidance.

Change Things Up

People will often work out because they know they are "supposed' to, like going to a dentist. This kind of thinking will almost certainly doom you to failure.

While it would be unrealistic to suggest that workouts are inherently "fun," it would be a mistake to detract from the benefits they can bring to your life, namely to make you feel and look better. Don't give up if you find that your routine is boring, draining, taxing, or tedious. Instead, change it up. Here's how:

  • Stop doing what you hate. Forget what you are "supposed" to do and find the program that brings you a level of enjoyment while meeting your fitness goals.
  • Keep an open mind. We often have a fixed idea of what a "proper" routine entails (three sets of twelve reps) and quickly fall into a rut. The best way to find new inspiration is to break​ old habits.
  • Count everything. We also tend to be hard on ourselves and get frustrated if we have a "bad" workout. There is no such thing. The fact you are there means that you're putting in the time. Even if you spend 20 minutes on a treadmill and call it a day, you're still getting more benefit from that than sitting on a couch. Give yourself a break and take time to adjust your routine to find new inspiration.

Find the Tools for Motivation

If you're waiting to exercise until you "feel like it," you'll probably be waiting a long time. Like it or not, motivation is not something that just magically appears.

The thing is that finding motivation at the beginning of a workout can take almost as much energy as doing the activity itself. Sometimes the inspiration is there, and sometimes it's not.

Either way, you cannot let those feelings govern your routine. When approaching a workout, here is what you need to do:

  • Get out of your own way. Realize that you don't have to feel like exercising to do it. Rather than getting stuck in an argument with yourself about whether you should go to the gym or not, put on your workout clothes and go. Consistency is key.
  • Generate your motivation. Rather than wondering how you feel, take the intellectual approach and focus on your workout goals, whether to improve your cardiovascular health or lose weight.
  • Rely on other tools to motivate yourself. Find fitness buddies to support you or fitness trackers to gain insight and inspiration from your workouts. Often, the isolation of working out allows us to get stuck in our heads. Do whatever you can to externalize the experience. Join a class, participate in a fitness challenge, or sign up for a group challenge.

A Word From Verywell

In the end, exercise is about improving your life as a whole. If you embrace it as a facet of your life, you'll be better equipped to sustain the practice for years to come and be all the better for it. Using some planning and habit formation, you can make a change toward your goals. Remember that believing in yourself will help create a successful outcome.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."