When it comes to books and boys, I’m a stage-five clinger. You have to pry both out of my sweaty little fists. With my workouts, though, I’m more of the love ’em and leave ’em type. Which, surprisingly enough, actually works in my favor when it comes to sticking with my workouts. And not because switching up my routine keeps me from getting bored (though it definitely does), but because the key to workout consistency is, in a word, options. My fickle fitness approach means I’ve tried dozens of workouts and now have options for whatever life throws at me – be it a crazy work schedule or good hair day. Now I’ve got zero excuses for skipping out on exercise.
Here are my go-to options for workout consistency. Take a look at the list and plan your own.
The At-Home’ option
For those days you just can’t hit the gym or you’re running late for your favorite barre class, have a way to work out at home. I actually prefer to sweat solo and have a spin bike, a few dumbbells and a TRX. But really all you need is a little space and an Internet connection. YouTube is filled with free workouts, from Jillian Michaels and the Tone It Up ladies to Tara Stiles and Blog-i-lates. Just push play.
The A.M. Option
I have a non-negotiable dinner date on Wednesday with my friend Jonathan. On those days, or anytime my week is especially hectic, I get up and work out in the A.M. It’s not something that comes naturally to me but I can manage it once or twice a week. As I’ve said before, I can’t bear the idea of jumping around before noon. Instead I do yoga or an arms and abs circuit. I always work out harder than I think I’m going to, but by easing into a fairly gentle routine, I don’t dread it. Other options to try: treadmill intervals or pilates. If you’re already a morning exerciser, come up with a night-time option.
The “Sweat-flix” option
Some nights, I want nothing more than to zone out in from of the TV. I earn my Netflix binges (and extra points of workout consistency) by working out during at least one of the episode of whatever show I’m watching. Pinterest has great circuits with or without weights for those nights you need to tune in and tone up.
The “Social (Net)Workout” option
I could hang out with friends literally every night of the week. Which is hard on my wallet and my waistline. Having a couple of exercise options you can do with friends is key. I meet friends for walks or classes. Bonus points for trying something new, like Bellydancing or Crunk, which is always more fun with a friend. Does your city host a Dance Walk like Birmingham and the amazing Sherri Ross does? Grab some friends and ease on down the road. You can also train for a race. My friend Jennifer of the Stellar Fashion and Fitness blog runs a Makeshift 5K you and your friends can do virtually anywhere.
The “Weather or Not” option
Being able to exercise at home means my workouts are pretty weather proof. But when I belonged to a gym that was only five minutes from my house, I’d find myself skipping workouts when it rained (or even drizzled) or got too cold. (Wrestle into an ice-cold sports bra that’s been chillin’ in my car all day or head home? Easy choice.) Have a few inclement weather options like You Tube workouts, fitness DVDs, body weight circuits or yoga routines. Voila: workout consistency.
The “Take it Outside” option
When the weather’s nice and on the weekends, I can’t bear the idea of being in a gym. And my dog Mali won’t stand for it. I have several hiking trails or walking routes to get my 10k steps and a dose of Vitamin D. Other options to try: Stand up paddle boarding, outdoor bootcamps, organized races or even taking your yoga mat outside for a few sun salutations.
The Travel option
Changes in routine are a real threat to workout consistency. I travel pretty often for work and in my personal life so I have several good on-the-road options. I pack my TRX, resistance bands or a jump rope. I check out hotel gyms online before I travel to see if they’re an additional option. I also like to walk around airports during my layovers and I LOVE to explore cities on foot. Yes, getting 10k steps counts as a workout, so I’m never out of luck when I’m out of town.
The “Can’t Even” option
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for rest days. If I “can’t even”, sometimes I just don’t. HOWEVER, stress and anxiety build up if I don’t sweat them out. That’s why I’m careful to work out fairly regularly. Depression also runs rampant in my family and I firmly believe in the mood-boosting power of exercise. So when I “can’t even” sometimes … I do anyway. For these times, I have gentle, self-care options like walking my dog while listening an audio book, gentle yoga, swimming or even foam rolling. Sometimes I lift weights because it makes me feel stronger, always a good thing.
The “My Hair Looks Too Good to Workout” option
Yep, it’s the ultimate curly girl problem, especially for those of us living in the sweaty South. Most days I suck it up and work out anyway like my girl Artney, a devoted distance runner. Other times, I opt for less scalp-soaking workouts like weight training in front of a fan. (Yes, I feel like I’m doing a cover shoot for Shape magazine.) I also power walk or do not-hot yoga. The struggle is real.
The “Lady’s Days” option
Nope, I’m not talking about those days when being a woman can save you $10 on an oil change. Working out before, during and after your period actually helps manage your PMS symptoms, cramps and bloating. Your hormones surge during your period and the week after, meaning you can lift a little more, work out a little longer and feel pain a little less. If you feel up to it, use this extra oomph to push a little harder. If you feel crappy, go to your “Can’t Even” options or rest. Who can blame you?
The “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” option
Week too hectic to even catch your breath? That’s when I rely on Tabatas as the ultimate secret weapon for workout consistency. They’re 4 minutes of torture, but I always feel like I’ve worked! Tabatas were developed in the ’70’s for Japanese Olympians and involve a cardio activity like running, biking, or jumping rope or a power move like squats, burpees or switch lunges. Using a timer like this one or one you find on You Tube, program it for 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds rest. Warm up, then during the 20 seconds, go as hard as you can. I mean hard. All out sprints if you’re doing cardio. As many reps as you can manage if you’re doing power moves. I usually manage 16 squats during my 20 seconds, rest for ten, then repeat that sequence seven times. It’s killer. You don’t even have to stick to one move. (Squats and switch lunges are good options.) Or you can string Tabatas together for longer workout with a one minute rest between each one. Here’s a good 10 Minute Tabata workout. Want to choose your own exercises? Here are more really good Tabatas to try.
The “Nuclear” option
Do burpees. Just do burpees. Just kidding. No one likes Burpees. The nuclear option is where I challenge myself for a specific period of time, like 8 weeks of Insanity. For you, that might mean training for a triathlon or marathon. These really intense training routines can really help you up your fitness game, with the added incentive of achieving a goal.
What about you? Do you have exercise options for each of these contingencies? What other obstacles keep you from working out? What’s your secret to workout consistency?