Why is getting into the groove of a home exercise routine so hard? I mean, you're at home.
You don't need a membership.
You can exercise whenever you want.
No one is watching you.
You don't have to wait for the machines or spend time wiping them down before/after each use.
No vying for parking spaces, running into random acquaintances when you look like a hot mess or trying to figure out how to sign up for a treadmill.
With all these great benefits, working out at home should be the most attractive option out there. Yet you ignore your treadmill over there that has turned into the most expensive laundry drying rack ever and you'll be darned if you could even find your running shoes.
Some fitness experts will say you need more motivation.
You truly only need one thing to get started... a plan.
#1 MAKE A PLAN
Studies show that people who set an intention (a.k.a. make a plan) are more likely to follow through on that intention compared to those who do not. The study below specifically focused on the benefit of making exercise intentions.
A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that 91% of people who planned their intention to exercise by writing down when and where they would exercise each week ended up following through. Meanwhile, people who read motivational material about exercise, but did not plan when and where they would exercise, showed no increase compared to the control group1.
What kind of exercise would you like to do? Ideally your exercise routine is a combination of cardio, strength, and flexibility. If you're just starting out it matters less what you do, the critical point is that you do something! Start with your favorite type of movement until your habit becomes routine and add variety as you go.
Add the When, Where, and How Long.
Creating a plan can be as simple as adding an entry in your home and/or work calendar for the day/time, place, duration, and type of movement that you will do.
Be as specific with the entry as you would with any other important meeting or event. And, like the commitments you make to others, keep this commitment to yourself.
If something comes up, reschedule your "movement meeting" as you would any other event. If you don't use a calendar, then grab a good old-fashioned piece of paper and write down your exercise intentions for the week. Try using this structure:
On <day> at <time> I will <type of movement> for <duration> at <location>.
- On Saturday at 8:30 am I will complete a Sprint 8 workout on my elliptical for 20 minutes in the basement.
- On Monday at 5:00 pm I will practice yoga for 30 minutes in my office before dinner.
Hang this piece of paper on your refrigerator, on your computer monitor, on your bathroom mirror ─ wherever you will see it each day to remind yourself of the date you've made with movement that week.
For that extra good feeling of accomplishment, cross off each line as you complete your workouts throughout the week!
The best laid plans... a plan will go a long way toward establishing your new workout routine, but plans can (and do) go astray. To reduce the risk of interruptions, here's your next tip.
#2 MAKE IT EASY
You are more likely to follow through on a plan if it is easy! Here are a few tips for making your workout habit frictionless.
HOW TO DO IT:
Design your workout space in advance. Identify a space at home where you can move comfortably and without interruption. Set up any equipment you will use and leave space for warm-up and cool-down. You can even use our free 2D room planning tool to design your home gym space.
Make the sessions short. There's plenty of time to intensify and extend your workout but first, you need to practice the habit of showing up. Start by committing to just 10 or 15 minutes per workout. Once you get started, you may find you just want to keep going.
Prepare your workout space beforehand. Make sure it's ready to go for the type of movement. For example, pick up your kids' toys or other items around your treadmill a day before your planned workout and set up your portable fan so it's ready to go.
Get your gear ready. Pick out your workout clothes and shoes and set out any fitness accessories like your Bluetooth heart rate strap, towel, headband, and water bottle the day before your workout. If you work out first thing in the morning, put your gear next to your bed so you can't miss it.
Set reminders. Schedule reminders on your phone, tablet, or computer to reinforce your intention.
Tell your family or housemates when you plan to workout. Ask them to allow you the time uninterrupted. If you have a family calendar, be sure to add your workouts to the family schedule.
Shift your behaviors. Unless you have a lot of spare time, you may need to shift time away from a current behavior to make time for your new workout habit. Determine if this is true for you and identify what you are willing to trade. This leads us to our last tip:
#3 MAKE IT A PRIORITY
Treat your workout sessions as you would any other commitment and show up. You deserve to move and reap all benefits!
HOW TO DO IT:
Identify temptations. Consider the types of events or temptations that might keep you from following through on your workout (happy hour anyone?) and decide ahead of time how you will prioritize your workout and what your response will be when faced with temptation. Being prepared for distractions and having a plan to respond to them will help you keep your commitment to yourself.
Be consistent. Being consistent about getting your workout in is almost as important as how you workout. Did you know moving your body for 10 minutes a day, 5 days per week is better than cramming a single 50-minute session in for the week when starting an exercise habit? The repetition and consistency establish priority of finding time to work out regularly.
Short on time, big on energy? Look for a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class in your fitness apps or try a Sprint 8 workout. HIIT requires you to work hard for a short period of time and research has shown it has big benefits. Here are 8 of them!
Give yourself grace. If you miss a planned workout on occasion, don't fear! All is not lost! Give yourself grace and identify how you can get back on track right away.
Hints for getting back on track:
Move when you can. If there's any chance to squeeze in some type of movement during your day – take it! Even if it's not an optimal workout, do what you can. Maintain the behavior of making movement a priority now, optimize later.
Reschedule immediately. If your workout is scheduled on your calendar, reschedule it as soon as possible. If you wrote it down on paper, add a new line for your next available opportunity to get movement into your week.
Skip the negative self-talk. You may feel frustrated or disappointed, but don't fall into the downward spiral of negative self-talk. Instead of berating yourself or making excuses, remind yourself that these situations happen but you can deal with it. Make the next best possible choice for you and move on.
Establishing a workout routine takes time and consistent performance. It isn't all or nothing, you receive tons of benefits every time you move your body, so start a habit and do your best to stick with it when you're able. Sure, a little motivation, discipline, and smart goals can help you establish behavior, but the real keys to ongoing success are:
#1 Make a Plan
#2 Make it Easy
#3 Make it a Priority
The Last Rep: Success doesn't require perfection; it only requires consistency.
1 Sarah Milne, Sheina Orbell, and Paschal Sheeran, “Combining Motivational and Volitional Interventions to Promote Exercise Participation: Protection Motivation Theory and Implementation Intentions,” British Journal of Health Psychology 7 (May 2002): 163–184.
About the Author
Rebecca Isensee, Matrix Master Trainer, USA
Rebecca has worked in the health and fitness industry for more than 10 years, fueling her deep passion for helping clients honor health as part of a full life through practical strategies and healthy habits. She holds Master Trainer certifications in MX4, multiple Les Mills disciplines and has earned ACE Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition certifications.