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Sometimes life happens and we can get a little off track. Family commitments pop up, sickness kicks in, or you get stuck with overtime at work. Then all of a sudden your exercise routine goes from regular to non-existent.
I know what it’s like to have a really good routine and then something unexpected happens. You miss a few workouts and then all of a sudden you’re in a rut. So the question is—how do you get back into routine?
The first thing to remember is that it happens to all of us. All the time. And no matter how daunting it might feel to get back into the swing of things, it is possible to restart your exercise routine. All you need is a little support and a few small steps to make it happen.
Here’s How to Start Exercising Again After Some Time off
If you have found yourself a little off track, here are some of my tips on how to restart your exercise habit and get back into a healthy routine.
1. Start with something easy
If you are really struggling to get back into exercising and feeling totally overwhelmed by it all, sometimes it can be useful to just start with something easy. If going to do a big weights session at the gym is too much, then get outside and go for a brisk walk or a light jog, just to get moving. As soon as you start with something small and feel good from that, you’ll want to continue on and get back into your healthy habits.
2. Stick to the “five-minute rule”
A lot of times when you’re just getting back into the swing of things, the idea of doing a full 30-minutes or hour-long workout can be incredibly daunting. Which, often leads people to give up before they even get started.
So, if a long workout feels overwhelming, commit to just five minutes. If you start working out and after five minutes you just don’t have the energy to keep going, then you can be done for that day. More often than not, once you are up and moving you will feel good and want to keep going. But just start with five minutes and see where you end up.
3. Remember how good it makes you feel
Sometimes we focus too much on the effort of it, rather than the outcome. The thing with a workout is while it can be hard in the moment, very few people will say they don’t feel better afterwards.
So, if you find yourself struggling to lace up and get out the door, it’s okay to acknowledge that you need something to help you refocus and motivate you, just remember that post-workout high. Aside from some sore muscles, you will never regret a workout.
4. Schedule it
If even in the back of your mind subconsciously you are looking for an excuse to not workout, you will typically find an opportunity for a distraction to deter you from your plan. That’s why it’s important to make time specifically for your daily exercise.
Schedule a time that you won’t get easily distracted. There’s no “perfect time” to workout, it’s truly about your personal schedule and preferences. If you know that you get caught up at work in the evenings, then schedule your workout in the mornings. If mornings are too busy, then schedule your workout in the evenings. If you know it’s going to be a crazy busy day, then just commit to a quick fifteen-minute HIIT session, as doing something is always better than doing nothing.
5. Prep the night before
Exercising in the morning used to be your thing, but now you struggle to get up early? Put guard rails around your morning routine to help make it easier to get back into a rhythm.
Prepare your gym bag the night before and lay it next to your bed. Put your alarm on the other side of the room so when it goes off, you will have to get out of bed to turn it off. Once you are out of bed and your gym bag is already packed, you may as well get up and go.
For those of you who typically exercise after work, the same rule applies in terms of packing the night before. Have your gym bag ready and place it next to your desk. This will act as a good reminder of what you have committed to and you will be less likely to back out.
6. Commit to a one-month challenge
If you want to start making exercise a habit again, then try taking on a short one-month challenge to kick-start your routine. Lots of gyms, yoga studios and boot camps offer one-month challenges. By having it broken down into a smaller time frame, it won’t feel so overwhelming.
If even 30 days feels daunting, try lowering the barrier even further by committing to a two-week challenge. (Like our two-week treadmill challenge.)
The key to these challenges are the same: They aren’t about jaw-dropping results, they’re designed to help remove that overwhelming “I don’t know what to do” feeling by providing a clear and distinct plan to follow, while at the same time increasing consistency and compliance.
7. Find an exercise buddy
It’s very easy to pull out of your workout if it’s just yourself you have to answer to. Having a friend, work colleague or family member to workout with is a great way to boost motivation, hold each other accountable and stick to your workout routine. It also adds a social aspect, which brings a little more fun back into working out.
8. Think outside the gym
Going to the gym every day is not a requirement. Being fit and healthy can look a lot of different ways. Especially when you’re struggling to stay consistent with your workout routine, being more flexible with the mode of exercising can help you stick with it and feel better in the process.
Find ways to mix up your workouts and incorporate other exercises that you enjoy into your routine. Picking up social sports, going for a jog on the beach, or simply walking the dog are all great ways to stay fit and healthy.
9. Do it for yourself, not anyone else
This may be the most important rule to remember. I always say, “Don’t workout for anyone else but you.” Being fit and healthy should be about making yourself feel great, having confidence and aiming to be your best. Remember to do this for you, not for anyone else or for how they think you should look. Each time you exercise, know that you have done something good for yourself and celebrate that.
Remember habits are created by the consistent daily activities we chose to put our time towards. So the more consistent you are with your exercise routine, the easier it is to form healthy habits. Once it’s a habit, you just go on autopilot and exercising is part of your daily life.
This article originally appeared on womensrunning.com.