If you fell off your fitness routine during the winter months, you are not alone. For many of us, motivation tends to wane with the colder weather and shorter days. Fortunately springtime is here! In many places the weather is beginning to warm up, making it a great time to shake off those winter doldrums and get back into action. If you are ready to kickstart your spring exercise routine there are several things you can do to make sure you stick to your plan and get the results you want.
Take a brave and honest assessment
When we have fallen away from a fitness routine it is natural to want to quickly make up for lost ground and get back to where we think we should be as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this approach is more likely to lead to frustration, injury and quitting. A more helpful approach is to honestly assess what your current fitness level is—even if it is not at all where you want to be—and then devise a plan to get where you want to go. Many people skip this step because it can be painful to admit you can only do 2 push-ups when you used to be able to do 10 or that you can barely jog a mile, when you used to easily run 4. If you are not sure how to access your current levels a certified trainer can be a great resource. Where are you currently at with the fitness components that matter most to you?
Use Habit Building Science
There is lots of research on what helps people build and maintain healthy habits. One of the most powerful tools is repetition within a consistent context, which means doing a behavior repeatedly in a similar environment. An example of this is putting a seatbelt on when you get into a car. To use this principle in your workout plan, do your best to workout at the same time, days and place, so that your mind begins to associate all those things with your routine. Research also shows that in the initiation and learning phase of habit building, consistency is much more important than variety, so sticking to a similar routine without too much variation could help you build your fitness habit. Once your habit is established, you can introduce new elements to keep things fresh. Science also shows that the simpler and more manageable an activity, the more likely it is to become a regular habit. Beginning with shorter, moderate workouts—versus longer more intense exercise bouts—is more likely to lead to success with your spring exercise plans.
Sticking to new habits is difficult, so the more you can reward yourself in the early phases the better. A great way to reinforce yourself is to delay a favorite reward until after you have completed your workout. This could mean no glass of wine, no favorite book or no lounging until after you have completed your fitness mission. This method helps build discipline, improves your ability to delay gratification and gives you clear consequences for your action. No jog = No Netflix. Small incentives like this can also help keep you motivated until your body catches up and rewards you with better fitness. What rewards will you delay to help motivate you?
Give Yourself a Break
Life happens and even with the best of intentions you are occasionally going to miss a workout. If you beat yourself up and feel guilty when this happens you are more likely to stop exercising all together in order to avoid these powerful negative feelings. What if you take a page from the board game Monopoly and give yourself a few “Get out of workout free” cards each month to be used at your discretion. These cards allow you to skip any workout, at any time, guilt-free. This saves emotional energy and gives some flexibility to your spring exercise routine. Trial and error will help you figure out the correct number of cards to give yourself each month. The right amount will hold you accountable to your fitness plan for the most part, while still allowing for the ongoing surprise party that is life.
Document Your Fitness Life
This will look different for everyone, but finding an effective way to document your fitness life is an important part of building an ongoing fitness habit. For some, this means entering your workout times into your calendar, so that the time is blocked out and other obligations don’t get scheduled in. For people who enjoy detail, this could be a journal with every set and rep, which can be reviewed to track progress. Most people can benefit from taking a few minutes at the end of each workout to jot down what they enjoyed, struggled with and any other important information about the workout experience, such as feeling less motivated than usual or your left knee being a bit sore. These reflections can help you plan your next workout as well as being an archive of your progress and successes.
Springtime is a great time of year to build a fitness habit. The longer, warmer days are energizing and offer more opportunities for enjoyable outdoor activities. New green leaves and blooming flowers offer invigoration and inspiration to get moving and start again.