Establishing a workout routine: Part 2

In General Posts on August 25, 2009 by Suhaila

As promised, here is the continuation of yesterday’s post about establishing a long-term workout routine. Yesterday I wrote about the reasons and motivation behind working out. But, as Shaykh Muhammad Alshareef said in The Fasting and the Furious, you can’t just make your plans when you’re motivated and expect to continue them when that motivation falls. It’s like when you decide to start saving money regularly, you could just deposit $X every month and that would work for a few months, but it would be much better to set up an automated money transfer to do it for you. The less you have to think about whether or not you should work out, the more likely you will just give in and work out, even on your worst of days.

Here are some tips you can use to make your burst of motivation go the distance (5k, maybe?):

  1. Stop using exercise as punishment.

    We wake up, go to Tim Horton’s, and have a cafe mocha with two huge doughnuts for breakfast, and then hit the treadmill for an hour to work it off. No wonder we hate to exercise! When we treat exercise as a means to an end (i.e. losing weight), it becomes pure torture. It shouldn’t be like this.

    Remember when we were younger, in elementary school, how much fun we had at recess? We ran all over the place, hung from trees when the teachers weren’t looking, and tried really hard to run all the way up the school walls (and usually fell flat on our faces). We had races, we played tug of war, we jumped rope. And it was a lot of fun.

    But then, someone cried obesity. And the school decided to hold a fitness hour that looked a lot like an aerobics video from the 80s. We all hated it. It was an abomination of an otherwise fun gym class. Why did we hate it so much? Because it was supposed to be making us healthy. It was like medicine. Medicine sucks!

    If we can get back to the mindset that exercise is fun, we get away from the mindset that exercise is punishment; everyone likes to have fun, and no one likes punishment. So have fun through your training, and don’t follow a routine that bores you. Change it up as much as possible. Mission accomplished.

  2. Get a workout partner.

    I worked out for 3 months with my fiance at the YMCA, and it was the best time of my life. When you work out with someone, make sure it’s someone that you want to see every day, because that’s going to be your motivation on your off days. It should ideally be someone who don’t see on a regular basis already (because if you already see them every day, it’s easier to justify skipping the gym with them), but once you’ve gone through a week of intense workouts together, it probably won’t matter anymore.

    Working out forms a certain bond between friends… You see each other fail, and you see other set personal records. You see your friend push through something that even you didn’t think was possible (but of course you don’t tell them that!).

    Seriously, get a workout partner. It helps if the slightly more motivated one of the two picks up the other one.

  3. Join a gym where you have friends, and that provides personal training.

    After leaving the YMCA, I came to Element CrossFit. The best gym in the world! (Really.) The months I spent at the YMCA were nothing compared to the time I’ve spent with Rachael and Alex at Element CrossFit. It helps a lot to have personal trainers, and it helps even more when they’re so easy to talk to and get along with. It also helps that the members of the gym are so welcoming and easy to get along with as well.

    So choose a gym where you feel like you fit in, and where you can get good personal training at a reasonable price (personal training in a regular globo gym costs an arm and a leg and you’ll probably get told to use a StairMaster, but personal training at a CrossFit affiliate is dirt cheap in comparison and almost guaranteed to be high quality).

  4. Set a daily routine; work out when it’s easiest to go (read: hardest to not go).

    This depends not only on your schedule, but also on traffic, how crowded the gym will be, how much energy you’ll have, and how likely you are to change your mind at the last minute. When I was going to the YMCA, it was easiest to go at 6am, when the gym opened. I went there on my way to work in the morning; if I had gone in the afternoon, there would have been a hundred kids running around and line-ups at all the racks and benches.

    Now that I go to Element CrossFit, I go right after work, because it means that I have no opportunity to change my mind on the way. My apartment is in the opposite direction of the gym, so I can’t easily stop at home to pick things up (which will result in me crashing onto the bed and taking a nap), and I know that if I delay myself for even 5 minutes from the time I leave work, the highway will be at a complete stop due to the start of rush hour, so I have to leave right away to make it in a decent amount of time. I could wait until rush hour’s over, and then go to the gym, but it’s too easy to not go at that time; I’d already be all comfy and settled in at home. (Note: at this point, I had to force myself to not write and expand on “inertia is a property of matter.”)

    Personally, the best times for me to go to the gym are when I’m already going to be in my car, and might as well stop at the gym on my way to wherever I’m going next.

  5. Schedule in enough rest days, and follow them.

    Without rest days, you get overworked, tired, demotivated, and generally burnt out. Rest days are your best friend if you want a consistent routine. I would schedule in more rest days than you think you need at first, and then reduce to either 1 rest day every 3 workout days, or 2 rest days every 5 workout days (whichever is easier for your body and schedule). I personally workout five days a week, and rest on Saturday and Sunday.

    Rest days are the hardest things ever. I cannot tell you how hard it is to not practice snatches in the basement (my sister recently bought a barbell and plates). I do occasionally play tennis on the weekends, but I try really hard to not go for a max press. I just get so used to working out every day, that Saturday comes along and I’m like, “man, this is boring. I want to lift something.”

    But ideally, when we work out hard, we should rest hard as well. Scientifically, it gives our muscles time to repair, but psychologically, it has other benefits. If you’ve gotten to the point where you love to workout, and you struggle with your rest days, think of them like this: you can’t miss something if it’s never gone. Working out every single day might sound like fun, and it seems like some people manage to do it successfully, but the majority of us will eventually get tired, whether it be after a week of nonstop working, a month, or a year. Rest days provide a necessary break that allows us to be fully energized and ready for the week to come.

  6. Buy new gym shoes/clothes.

    It may sound shallow and materialistic, but it really helps for the first few days, or when you’re going through a slump. Buy one item that you absolutely love and you’ll find a reason to wear it. If you buy something that’s clearly for working out (Vibram Fivefingers?), then the only place you’ll be able to wear it comfortably is the gym! Problem solved.

  7. Tell everyone that you’re working out!

    Hey, it may be embarrassing but it is one of the best ways to motivate yourself. Start by mentioning casually to one person that you’re going to start going to the gym. Then branch out from there. If you have a nice gym bag (that doesn’t smell), carry it around with you. People will eventually come to know you as “the gym guy/girl”. From there, you have no choice but to go to the gym. If you stop going to the gym, you’ll be “the failed gym guy/girl”, and you’ll once again prove to your parents that, yes, it was just a phase and, yes, you are still a kid. You don’t want that, do you? (Too harsh? It seriously works though!)

Did I miss something? Feel free to leave any tips that work for you in the comments.

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