Become a regular at the gym, once and for all.
No matter your workout of choice—running, biking, dance cardio, or CrossFit—it's the *best* feeling to find something you absolutely love. But after you figure out what is the best kind of exercise for you, then comes the really hard part: getting into a regular routine. Everyone is busy, so what's the difference between the people who manage to get in four or five workouts per week and those who only squeeze in one or two? We spoke to expert trainers to find out and get their commitment tips.
Why, Yes, You Really Should Commit
First, it's important to understand exactly why it's worth it to fully commit to your workouts. "Only engaging in a specific workout once a week doesn't allow your body to become accustomed to the stress and adapt," says Stephanie Howe, a CLIF Bar ultra-runner with a doctorate in nutrition and exercise science. "Over time, your body will build up strength, endurance, and stamina as a result of regular physical activity. It's the only way to progress, rather than plateau." So if you want to see results, either physical or performance-related, you've got to give your body a chance to adapt to the physical "stress" of working out, and that means doing so more than a couple times per week.
Another reason to up the intensity of your workout schedule is that exercising regularly simply feels better. "Endorphins are free and highly addictive," says celebrity trainer Lacey Stone. (You might recognize her from Revenge Body.) The more you work out, the more you'll feel great from those endorphins, and soon, you'll feel more excited about working out in general. Plus, "regular workouts will add energy to the rest of your day. People say when they work out and get that happy endorphin drug going they find that they are more productive at work and in their everyday lives." It's true that for many people, working out can help boost focus, reduce stress, and even aid in better sleep. Exercising frequently (but not excessively) is the best way to reap all these benefits.
Work Up to It
Going from just one workout per week to sweating it out nearly every day is definitely a drastic change, which is why it's a good idea to gradually build up to the level of activity you're ultimately aiming for. While you're working your way up, it's important to remember that "every little bit counts," says to Howe. "Small bits of activity really add up. Take a 10- to 15-minute break from work and do a short strength session, go for a walk, or do 3 sets of 100 jumping jacks." (Check out these six seated moves that work your whole body for the ultimate desk workout.)
How to Make Time for Exercise
You've probably heard that you should schedule your workouts beforehand, and there's a reason this advice is so popular. Though it might seem a bit overkill to make an exercise schedule for yourself, it works. "Lay out your weekly schedule on Sunday evenings," suggests Anna Victoria, a NASM-certified personal trainer and creator of the Fit Body Guides. "Write down your top priorities: school, work, family and friend obligations. Then, see where you have 30 to 45 minutes to fit in a workout and write it down as though it's a meeting with yourself. Remember that 'you' time is just as important as that time you spend with family and friends," she adds. (Look what happens when you prioritize self-care for a week.)
Half the effort of fitting workouts into a busy schedule is looking for those time slots when it's possible for you to exercise, and the other half is prioritizing it over other ways you could spend your free time. "Most people have extra time, they just need to find a place to carve it out," says Howe. "Maybe it's spending less time on social media, skipping that evening TV show, or prepping meals ahead of time so you don't need to worry about cooking. If it's a priority, you can find the time." Plus, you don't necessarily need to give up QT with friends, family, or your significant other in order to get your sweat on. Finding a workout buddy or "accountability partner" can make your workouts not only more fun, but also more frequent. "Sometimes your own will just isn't enough, but if you know you have someone counting on you, you'll be much more likely to go," says Victoria. "And with us all having busy lives, it can be a great way of keeping in touch with a friend you may otherwise not have a lot of time to spend with."
Goal-setting can also be a useful tool. "Set a two-month goal and try to make working out a pattern," recommends Stone. "Small goals will give you more confidence to stick to your routine long-term." Your overall goal might be six months or a year away, but having a shorter-term goal, like heading out for a run three times per week for the next two weeks, can make the process of getting where you want to be more fun and less daunting. Allow yourself those small wins.
Lastly, you'd be hard-pressed to find a fitness pro who won't suggest a morning workout for anyone with a jam-packed schedule. "My suggestion is to go to bed early and get up before life gets crazy," says Nikki Warren, the co-CEO and founder of Kaia FIT. You may feel tired at first, but give it time. Exercising builds your immune system, gives you energy, and boosts your mental focus—not just the hour you're working out but also throughout the day." (For more on how to make early a.m. workouts doable, here's how to trick yourself into becoming a morning person.)
How to Stick With It
Once you've made it to your goal number of fitness days each week, you've got to make sure your routine is sustainable. The number-one way to do that, according to Howe, is to always build in rest days. "I take Mondays off every week," she says. "It's a nice way to reset and prepare for the week ahead." She also says that following hard workout days with less difficult days can make things easier. "Creating some different stressors (varying your workouts) in your weekly routine, including rest and recovery, will result in even further fitness gains," she adds. And ultimately, it's all about the #gains, right? Whether they're physical, mental, or performance-oriented, those results and benefits are *so* much more attainable when you're committed to a regular routine.