So you want to workout at home? What activity should you decide to do? There are of course a hundred options to choose from, everything from running/jogging, swimming, weight lifting, biking, hiking, aerobics, kickboxing, rollerblading… you name it! In this article, I shall leave the specific modality for you to choose and instead concentrate on the overall gameplan it takes to turn your activity into long-term success.
Perhaps one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to exercise regularly. Many people can do well with this all the way through January and sometimes February, but then the obstacles come up, and only the most dedicated will be able to weather the storm and not get knocked out of the game. So how can you increase your chances of being in the small minority who are still exercising when December comes around? Allow me to share with you some simple principles you can incorporate, and if you do, you will be much better off in the long run.
Firstly, know your reasons. Why are you wanting to start an exercise program? I can think of about 10 great reasons, but this is a personal thing, and you must decide just what it is that has you motivated to undertake your activity. Obviously, health comes to mind as being a top priority for everyone, and of course maybe you’re trying to “increase your sex appeal” as well. But try to be even more specific, and take several minutes to get out a blank sheet of paper and write down as many reasons as you can think of in regards to how exercise may benefit your life (both now and in the future). If you’re like me, you’ll probably lose this piece of paper before too long and its reasons, and motivational power, may be lost; so, take out your cell phone and take a picture of your completed list, then you can refer to it from time to time and re-motivate yourself.
Next, decide WHEN and WHERE you’ll be exercising. Are you going to have a set schedule? Are you going to be training with a workout partner? If so, have a “Plan B” where you’ll know what to do if: you miss your scheduled workout day, and/or your partner can’t make it. Here is a huge tip: do not wait for or reschedule for anybody. You and your partner should have an understanding up front that if he/she is unable to make it on a given day, the workout will still take place and the partner can then catch up on the NEXT scheduled day.
If you fall into the trap of delaying or skipping workout days, it is very easy to: workout a lot less than you planned, or fall out of the habit.
What if you both workout on Monday, but when Wednesday rolls around, he calls you up and can’t make it? Then you aim for Thursday, but you get stuck at work. Then on Friday he, or you has a headache; or the weather is too bad, or car trouble, or… whatever? The point is, something can ALWAYS come up, therefore never presume upon the future! Always do what needs to be done NOW. If you’re working out alone and miss a day, workout the very next day. Don’t wait for a scheduled day. So my advice is to NOT have a set calendar, but rather try to workout every other day. Then, if a day gets missed, you don’t have to arbitrarily skip a day for no reason just to make sure you’re on the “schedule”.
Next tip, try to have a “system” in place. By “system” I mean a way to incorporate the accomplishment of all your workout goals or reasons, and that does so safely and effectively. Your system must take into account that you need to avoid overtraining. Your muscles, joints, and sometimes your nervous system, must all be given adequate time to recoup or repair. Your system must help you avoid injuries. If must make sure you don’t get burned out, de-motivated, or bored. Think about this stuff up front. Plan for it.
Also your system should try to make working out easier, meaning it should make sure you’re making the best use of your time by not having to spend time thinking about what you’re going to do. If you’re going to be working out with weights, write out several workout routines that you can follow. Lets say you’re splitting up your workouts into 2 upper body days and 2 lower body days. Write out 3 different routines for each, then when “Lower Body Day” comes, you just grab your workout card and follow along. The next time, grab a different card. Then the third time you’re working lower body, you grab the 3rd card. Now you’ve incorporated a lot more variety into your workouts and you didn’t have to stop and think and “reinvent the wheel” every time you step into the gym. Maybe one day you come across a few new exercises that you’d like to do: take a few minutes and make ANOTHER workout card that has a new routine incorporating the new exercises, and you add that card into the mix as well. One day you’re bored at work and you write another routine… pretty soon you have a nice collection of workouts to rotate through and it keeps things fresh and interesting.
The last tip or principle I’m going to include in this article is this: don’t PLAN to do what you know you WON’T do! What do I mean by this? Lets say you hate jogging. You’ve tried to get on a “jogging habit” every single year but after a few weeks you just can’t do it anymore! You find yourself at work thinking, “Oh great! I’ve got to go jogging tonight and I HATE jogging!!!” Why force yourself to be on an exercise program that you hate and dread and that’s going to take the discipline of a Navy Seal to stick with? You might say, “Well, jogging is the best thing for my heart, so I just have to do it!” Here’s the truth: you don’t need to always do “best”, sometimes doing “good enough” is even better because now you’re able to actually DO, and you can stick with and be consistent with it. Which is better: going 100% for March and April, or going 80% from January through December? Obviously finding something you can do long term and is easy to stick with is of paramount importance. If you absolutely hate “Squats”, don’t put them in your program; do “Lunges” instead. Find ways to get rid of the things that give your mind reasons to think up excuses about why you need to miss your workouts or quit your program. Don’t test the limits of your self-discipline. Try to do an activity, or activities, that you can find at least some inherent pleasure or interest in.
For me, I choose Kickboxing as my exercise of choice. Sure, I’d rather get even bigger muscles by doing weights, but I just HATE weight training anymore, and I’d rather get SOME muscle from the heavy bag training than even more muscle by having to force myself into a lifetime of workouts I hate and dread. Besides, kickboxing does SOME of everything I need: I get flexibility, muscle tone, cardio, athleticism, and I’m doing core/abs, legs, arms, chest, calves, etc… all without having to think too much about any one area. All I have to do it perform the ROUTINE, and the muscle groups and benefits take care of themselves!
So for you, design a routine or system that does everything YOU need to do. Pack it full of variety if you can. Make sure its something you’re actually WILLING to do. If you don’t like it, make sure you’re continually on the search for something you DO like. And don’t burn yourself out. Try not to come up with “The Ultimate” workout program, but rather something that is sustainable long-term without developing overuse injuries or overtraining symptoms.