Getting started with exercise is a lot easier than sticking to it consistently, isn’t it? You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve started a hundred times but never got past the first week or so. You started each time with all the enthusiasm in the world and decided that this time you’re just going to shed all that fat and get fit but along comes weekend and drains all your motivation away.
When it comes to getting fit, I always stress on how important it is to make sure you don’t just get started with exercise, but also maintain your efforts! Everyone relies on motivation to get started and that’s awesome because you do need the initial push to get your butt off the couch. But relying on motivation to keep yourself going? That’s where most beginners fail and continue to remain ‘beginners’.
The thing with motivation is that it comes and goes. It might be enough to feed your will power initially but it’s nowhere near enough to keep feeding it consistently.
With exercise, consistency is the key. Not motivation.
Motivation uses your will power as its fuel. And guess what? You have a limited reserve of this will power. As you go from day 3 to day 4, your muscles will ache from all the soreness and a million distractions and friction elements will pull you away from exercise. Motivation will have disappeared by then leaving you with barely any will power to continue powering through. We all know the result.
What you need isn’t just motivation but something more sustainable to stick with exercise. And that’s what this article will unfold.
For starters, let’s talk about exercise and goals.
Don’t start out with a goal.
Say what? Is that a typo?
No it isn’t. I seriously mean it, don’t start out with a goal like “I want to lose 20 pounds within 3 months” or “I want those abs by summer”.
What do you work towards then if you don’t have goals?
Well, the problem with these goals is that they’re very short-sighed and limited. What do you do once you lose those 20 pounds? Are you satisfied with those abs? Even if you do get there, what next? You worked hard for months, you pushed every muscle in your body, you strained your will power and you got your goals. What now?
If it’s only about a one-time experience, you just want to see what it’s like to be thin and gorgeous with those abs, then go ahead, set those goals and work yourself. But if your “goal” is to stick to exercise long term and to never get fat again, then you can’t work on short term goals.
You need sustainable systems, you need habits that rewire your brain to stick with exercise long term, not just a 3-month goal. With systems, you don’t just rely on motivation to stay consistent. Habits make your exercise routine automatic and erase all friction and resistance. And guess what happens then?
It becomes a part of your lifestyle. And once exercise is part of your lifestyle, well… you know you never have to worry about losing weight again.
Here are a few simple, yet immensely effective systems you can start off your workout efforts with so you can sustain them and lose that fat once and for all.
1. Keep it simple
Don’t complicate your workout. Keep it simple and sweet. Pick just a handful of basic exercises and start out with them. Try out combinations and variations of the same as you progress to increase intensity but at least at the start, stick to just a few.
There are hundreds of workout programs out there and it can get very confusing to choose from them. Don’t get overwhelmed. Just pick the ones you like most and the ones you think you can manage to do. Remember that the goal is to do this long-term so you want to keep as few friction elements as possible by picking a simple workout plan.
2. Follow a routine
Exercising at the same time every day makes it easier to follow. Keep aside 30-40 minutes, whether it’s right after you wake up and roll out of bed or in the evenings before dinner.
A routine also helps the body adjust to the change and helps set a rhythm for recovery and re-composition.
Most importantly, it helps you to build a mental habit that will make sure you can stick to it in the long term.
3. Never forget to stretch
When you’re stretched on time, the one thing that easily suffers in your exercise routine is the stretching. It’s just a bunch of… stretches after all? How is it adding anything to your weight loss efforts anyway? If you’ve started out with that mentality all this time, it’s probably one of the reasons you’re having to start again.
Most beginners give up on exercise because they get too tired from it. And what’s worse? The fatigue isn’t just limited to after the exercise, it’s a long lasting muscle soreness that lasts days. Have you ached so bad that you didn’t have the will to continue the next day? And the next?
Stretching is important both before and after workout. Before workout, it helps loosen up muscles and joints and removes tightness that builds up in the muscles due to lack of use. It also gets the blood flowing and increases flexibility which, in turn, increases the effectiveness of your workout.
Post workout, stretches help in removing strains that develop in the muscles due to repeated contraction and regulate blood flow for better repair and recovery.
Stretching will make you feel complete. It will massively reduce your muscle soreness so if you’ve decided to really kill it with exercise this time, don’t forget to stretch at any cost!
4. Keep track of progress
Count the number of reps you’re doing in each workout and record them. Record your progress in terms of your weight loss. Don’t just stop at the scale, measure your inch-loss too!
Keeping track is very, very important. With tracking, you’re constantly aware of how far you’ve come. You will know when you slacked off and when you killed it and with that, figure out what factors are helping you and what are slowing you down.
And guess what? Seeing your progress as the number of reps and minutes of exercise go up and the weight and inches come down is a HUGE motivator. It will keep you going and push you to keep making progress.
While keeping track is crucial, keep in mind that you don’t judge yourself. There will be times when your progress is slow and times when you’ve even regressed. Accept them just as you embrace your wins. It’s all a part of the journey.
5. Don’t overdo your workout
I know this is probably unlikely and you’re probably pushing every molecule of your being to even get a start but nevertheless some of you may need this- keep a healthy level of enthusiasm, don’t overdo your workout.
Especially when you’re just starting out, stick to low intensity. If your body is used to being a couch potato all its life, it’s not going to suddenly get all body builder-esque in a week, right?
Also, your body can burn only a certain amount of calories and fats in a particular time-frame to do so in a healthy manner. Push your body and you risk injury and unnecessary strain on your muscles, which will instead only slow down your progress in the long run.
You want to focus on sustaining your workout efforts. So don’t do a 100 squats on day 1 and give up because you couldn’t get yourself off the bed from all the muscle pain and soreness.
6. Get a full-body workout
Don’t wake up one morning and decide to get the best abs in under a week and go on to pushing yourself through nothing but ab exercises. This doesn’t work. In fact on day 3, you won’t be able to do a second crunch from all that soreness.
I would advise you to choose a workout combination that gives you a full-body workout instead, especially when you’re just starting out. This way you won’t be straining any specific body part. Plus, it’s a good idea to start engaging your overall body to begin with since your main goal is to burn fat.
As you progress, you can concentrate your efforts to specific parts you want to tone more like abs, buttocks, arms, quads, etc. However, even then, combine your specific workout with overall body workout to get the best results.
7. Focus on the right form
We all have a tendency to focus on intensity. How many reps of squats are you doing per set? How many minutes can you hold that plank? How many pushups is a good start? Quantity is intensity and it is the measure of your workout effort.
Is it though?
Starting out, I would say it is form that is more important than intensity. Form is what defines how effective your workout is and how much the target muscles are engaged. Also, with the wrong form, you risk muscles getting injured from taking unnecessary strain.
So make sure you focus on getting it right, especially initially because if you’re teaching your body the wrong moves and building the wrong muscle memory, you will continue doing so unconsciously and end up with injury from the constant strain.
It doesn’t matter if it takes a few extra minutes to get it right, just do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re able to get just 10 squats done instead of the 20 you anticipated. Check your form in front of a mirror or get your partner or friend to correct you if you have to but I cannot stress this enough- get the form right if you want to stick to exercise long term.
Well… of course, I had to bring in one water-point. Yes, it seems like drinking water is the answer to all your problems. Drinking enough water is an integral element of weight loss and, in general, your overall wellness too. But when it comes to working out, it is even more so.
Drinking water cools down the muscles and regulates body temperature and rehydrates all the water lost through perspiration. Make sure you’re drinking 2.5-3.5 liters of water daily as it is essential for muscle repair and recovery.
9. First warm up, then do strength training
Everyone says that it’s the push-ups and squats that will help you burn fat fastest but don’t just jump right into strength training! Include some cardio exercises in your routine first. Why?
Cardio warms up the body and increases blood flow to the muscles and joints making your strength and resistance training more effective thereby burning more fat and losing weight faster.
10. Get enough rest
You think you’re losing weight and building muscle while working out, right? That’s not the case though!
All that you desire actually happens when your body is resting- it is in that state that your fat burns and your muscles repair and recover. So make sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Even in your workout regime, try to work different muscle groups on consecutive days so that what you’re working today gets sufficient rest tomorrow while you’re working other muscles.
11. Focus on diet
Remember that when it comes to weight loss, it’s still 70-80% diet and 20-30% exercise so you won’t make much progress with exercise if you’re still stuffing your face with excessive calories.
Workout is a great way to compliment your diet efforts. Even if you don’t want to go extreme with the low-carb or keto diet, at least make sure you’re keeping your calorie intake in check if you want to lose weight.
Post workout, your body goes into repair and recovery mode which is when the fat-burning happens. Make sure you’re supplying the body with the requisite protein for muscle re-composition. Always keep in mind that nutrition and exercise go hand in hand.
12. Have a workout buddy
Two heads are better than one, especially when it comes to working out. Your exercise game can improve significantly and pan out longer if you have someone to share your journey with.
A workout partner adds a sense of accountability – you can’t just continue lazing in bed when you have someone waiting for you to join them, you can’t continue sleeping when the phone continues to buzz. Losing self control is a lot easier but when you have someone else to answer to, suddenly it becomes a whole lot harder to slack off, make excuses and skip the workout.
There’s also the added motivation and push. You have someone who understands the hardships you’re going through and is also there to celebrate your tiny victories. While you do have your friends and family for support, nothing matches a companion who’s also on the same journey as you.
13. Remember that exercise is a mental game
It obviously seems like a physical task but exercise is more of a mental game. You need to convince your mind more than your body to stick with it. A positive attitude goes a long way so believe in yourself and believe that you can stick with your exercise regime.
Don’t constantly compare yourself to others, you’re on your own journey. Do as much as you can because your goal is to be able to continue doing this rather than looking like someone or working out like someone.
Use systems that work on your mind. Make yourself accountable by involving a friend or a workout partner. Establish a reward system to incentivize yourself to exercise. And most importantly, recognize and appreciate the progresses you’re making, even if they’re small. It’s a slow journey but it’s one to last and keep you fit for life!
Now that you have the hacks and systems to stick to exercise, why not get started again, this time more surely and consistently? You’re definitely going to stick this time because you’re not depending on motivation but a sure-shot system that is bound to keep you in the game long-term. So what are you waiting for?
If you found these hacks useful, do share with others who could use them too! If you’re just getting started with exercise, we also have a very exhaustive Ultimate Guide to Home Workouts. Don’t miss out on it, we’ve included a with a free workout plan too!