You may already know just how important physical activity is to building and maintaining a lean, strong, healthy physique.
That said, knowing and doing are two completely different subjects.
Even when we know how important physical activity is, many of us struggle to actually do it consistently.
Sometimes, we’ve got specific reasons to skip our workouts – life gets in the way.
Other times, we just don’t feel like doing what we’d planned to do.
Regardless of what our reasons are for putting our training on the back burner, physical activity doesn’t do us much good if we’re not making it a consistent part of our lives.
In this post, we’re going to cover twelve strategies – in no particular order of importance – that you can use to build consistency with your movement practice, even when you don’t want to.
1. Don’t exercise
When you think of the word “exercise” you probably think of something that you don’t want to do but that you have to do in order to get a result that you don’t really want.
You’re probably thinking of a way to burn or earn food, or a way to cancel out drinks.
Well, if this is all “exercise” is to you, then don’t do it.
Instead, move and train.
Our bodies adapt to the stimulus we send them, and what we do for one hour a day in the gym, yoga studio, or box doesn’t matter as much as what we do the rest of the day.
Rather than “exercising” for an hour to make up for 23 hours of inactivity, work to address that 23 hours of inactivity.
Make movement a regular part of your day – something that you do, day in and day out.
Take the stairs.
Have walking meetings.
Schedule movement breaks.
Find ways to pepper movement “snacks” in throughout your day.
Then, there won’t be so much pressure on you to set aside time specifically for physical activity.
Once you’ve made movement a normal part of your daily routine, take the time that you would have used to “exercise” and devote it to training.
Train to get better.
Train to get stronger.
Train to overcome challenges.
Train to build physical, mental, and emotional resilience.
Ideally, your training will include posture, mobility, stability, strength, and conditioning aspects.
If you need to find a personal trainer to help you get started, do it.
Ask potential trainers for testimonials, and look for a track record of long-term clients and injury-free training.
You might even find a good physical therapist and ask them if they have any trainer recommendations.
Physical activity is about so much more than earning or burning calories.
Move and train.
2. Schedule it
This might seem straight forward, but blocking off specific days and times to train and sticking to those times can help with building consistency.
Find days and times that you’re at least 90% sure you can consistently dedicate to your movement practice.
Set aside that time for training and guard it with your life.
Don’t let anything take that time.
Say “no” when things come up.
Treat it no differently from a doctor’s appointment or an interview.
That time is for you and for the people who depend on you to stay healthy.
If you don’t have your health, you have nothing.
Obviously, there may be some times when you need to shift your schedule around a bit, like when your job depends on you being somewhere or your kid needs to go to the emergency room.
Otherwise, do not let that time be taken from you.
You are in control.
3. Keep short (enough) sessions
You don’t need to slog away in the gym for hours to get an effective workout.
This is especially true if your training is focused around resistance training and sprint-style conditioning.
If you’re using your time effectively, it’s not out of the question to expect to get in, prepare for your session, knock out your movements, and get out in 30 to 60 minutes.
If you can only commit to 30 minutes, that’s fine.
If you have more time, that’s cool, too.
Consistently hitting your 30-minute sessions will do you much more good than hitting longer sessions 50% of the time.
Finding a routine that works for you in the context of your goals and circumstances is critical.
4. Keep appropriate frequency
I thought about combining this with number three, but felt that it would be more appropriate to leave it on its own.
Don’t set yourself up for failure by committing to a routine that you won’t be able to stick to.
Committing to three training sessions per week is much more manageable than committing to six sessions per week.
Not only will you need some time to recover if you’re lifting weights, but you’ll also enjoy having time for all the other activities and commitments that bring value to your life.
Again, look at your personal circumstances and find a training schedule that works for you.
If you’ve made movement an integral part of your life, supplementing that activity with two or three dedicated training sessions a week can be plenty.
If you don’t “have” time for two or three training sessions a week, you might reassess your commitments and see what you can do to make that time.
As stated above, if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.
5. Find opportunities for movement that you enjoy
One major reason we find it hard to be physically active is because we expect doing so to suck.
Many of us have been conditioned (no pun intended) to associate being physically active with activities that we don’t enjoy.
The fact of the matter is that you don’t *have* to do any type of physical activity that you don’t want to.
Some of us love running, but some of us hate it.
Some of us love yoga, but some of us hate it.
Some of us love lifting weights, but some of us hate it.
If you like running, run.
If you like yoga, do yoga.
If you like lifting, lift.
There are also team sports, at-home training programs, outdoor activities like hiking, and social activities like dancing.
All of these can play a role in keeping you moving and keeping you healthy.
Seek out opportunities for movement that you genuinely look forward to.
6. Accept imperfection
The “all or nothing” mentality is so pervasive when it comes to training.
It’s so tempting to tell ourselves “well, I already missed one workout, so this entire week is shot”.
This mentality does not serve us in any way, shape, or form.
If you do end up committing to regular training schedule, accept the fact that you might not always hit your planned sessions.
You might only make it to two out of your three weekly sessions every once in a while.
You might not be able to spend a full hour in the gym every time you train.
You might need to miss a class or two.
That’s totally okay.
Missing that one session doesn’t completely undo all the sessions you’ve already attended and all the future classes you’re going to attend.
If you couldn’t make it to your Tuesday training session, shift it back to Wednesday, or whenever else your next opportunity to train will be.
If you consistently nail your routine, then missing one or two planned sessions here or there will not matter at all in the long run.
Let go of the idea of perfection, and focus on consistency instead.
7. Commit to the bare minimum
Some days, we just feel like crap.
We really just don’t want to go to the gym.
Now, sometimes this is legitimately a sign that we need rest, but sometimes it’s not at all.
Sometimes, on days when I’ve felt like this, I’ve had some of my best training sessions.
That being said, I’ve always gone into days like these with low expectations.
I’ve committed solely to warming up.
I tell myself that if I go in and warm up, and then decide that I want to call it a day, I can still consider the day a “win”.
That rarely happens, though.
Usually, once I get dressed, get to the gym, and get warmed up, I’m pretty ready to complete my training session.
Do I always knock days like that out of the park?
Of course not, but I am always – always – glad that I went.
I’ve never regretted going to train.
You might find that setting the bar for success as low as possible is just what you need to keep yourself showing up consistently.
8. Make it convenient
If going to the gym is going to be a pain in the ass, you’re going to be less likely to do it.
Find a gym close to work or home.
Lay out your training clothing or gear in a place where it’s easy to find and convenient to put on.
Take a gym bag with you to work.
Shape your environment to accommodate making your training as convenient as possible.
Schedule your training at times that you know nothing else will come up.
The less effort it takes you to stick to your routine, the less tempted you’ll be to deviate from it.
9. Involve friends or family
I’ve never been one to want a training partner, but some of us find that we’re much more consistent with our training when somebody else expects us to be there.
While I’m not a fan of being dependent on others to want to take care of yourself, this can help quite a bit with getting start and building consistency.
Find a class that you enjoy or a training partner if the idea of training alone doesn’t appeal for you.
One reason fitness classes like Orange Theory or Crossfit are so popular is because of the social aspect.
We like to be around people.
We like to compete.
We like social support.
We like to be pushed.
We like to support and to push others in turn.
If you need social support for accountability or motivation, that’s totally cool.
Seek it out.
10. Do it for right now
So often we commit to working out with the expectation of some payoff down the road.
We do it because we want to lose ten pounds.
We do it because we want to bench our body weight.
We do it because we want to squat a certain number of plates.
It’s totally cool to have goals, and they can play an important role in giving us something to work towards and achieve, but don’t make those goals the only reason for your training.
If you spend the entirety of your training looking ahead to what you can’t do, you might not appreciate how training makes you feel in the moment.
Train today because it makes you feel good today.
Train today because it makes you healthy today.
Train today because it makes you better today.
Keep your eyes on the prize, but don’t overlook the joy of the pursuit itself.
Don’t overlook those small daily and weekly “wins”.
11. Do it for you
Nobody cares how fast you run.
Nobody cares how much weight you lift.
Nobody cares about anything that you do in the gym.
Of course, if you care about these things, others might care because they care about you.
It starts with you, though.
You are worth more than anything you will ever do in the gym, so don’t chase numbers or performance or anything else unless you are doing it for you.
Regardless of whether you’re chasing performance, longevity, aesthetics, or whatever other goal you might have with your training, do it for you.
Because, guess what?
Nobody else worth your time or energy cares.
They just want you to be healthy and happy.
Your training should be just like brushing your teeth or showering.
Sure, others might benefit in some way, but ultimately, you’re doing it for you.
12. Do something you don’t want to do
Perhaps you’ve taken some or all of the steps above but you still just don’t want to go train.
Maybe you’re tired.
Maybe you’re bored.
Maybe you’re just not feeling it.
At times like these, there’s much to be said for just doing something you don’t want to do.
You know you want to look good.
You know you want to feel good.
Often, to get something you want, you’ve got to do things you don’t want to do.
You won’t always be excited to train.
You won’t always feel motivated.
You won’t always feel driven.
These are the times that it’s most important to put on your big boy or big girl britches and put in the work.
Do something you don’t want to do.
Make a sacrifice now for a payoff later.
I’d love to tell you that not wanting to train can always be solved with some “hack” or tip, but that’s just not the case.
Sometimes we just have to put in the work.
It won’t always be fun.
It won’t always be easy.
It won’t always be pleasant.
But it will always be worth it.
You’re worth it.
Start where you are.
Take small steps forward.
Focus on “now”.
Do it for you.
You’ve got this.