I think it's safe to say that the one of the hardest parts about working out is simply getting started. In fact, probably the only thing more difficult than starting an exercise routine is actually sticking to one. Yes, sometimes it just takes a little bit of self-motivation and doing it even when you don't want to, but I have outlined some basic (but really important) tips that make it so much easier to stick with a workout routine not just for your short-term goals, but in the long run as well.
1. Find Something You Like
Exercise is usually more of a mental struggle than a physical one. Convincing ourselves to workout is often much harder than the actual workout itself, and once we get past the first 5-10 minutes of our routine the endorphins usually kick in and things start to flow more naturally. That's not to say you won't struggle physically during workouts (you should be in order to give your body a reason to adapt), but the physical struggle is usally lesser than the mental struggle. The good news is that you can significantly ease the mental struggle of a workout by finding workouts that you like. Not everyone likes the same types of exercise so choosing an activity that you actually like can really help you to feel more motivated to workout and stick with your exercise program in the long run. Just make sure that the exercises you choose are appropriate for your specific goals If your the type of person who doesn't really enjoy many types of physical activity, choose the route of least mental resistance. Finding an activity you like is very important to creating a successful workout routine, but on the same note, don't be an Eeyore and use your dislike of exercise as an excuse to keep you from your goals and optimal levels of health!
2. Set Goals
I always encourage people to set goals and track their progress. This is mainly because everyone has times where they don't feel motivated or lose track of why they started in the first place. Having a goal to focus on will help you to feel like you have a reason to get up and workout. It's best to set short term and long term goals. The long term goals can be your overall goal and usually will most closely correlate with the reason you want to start exercising or start a new exercise program, for example, 'I want to lose 15 pounds in order to be at a healthy weight for my height/age group'. Long term goals may take anywhere from 6 months to 5 years depending on how drastic the goals, and your starting point. Because of this, it can be really helpful to set short term goals too. These will help keep you motivated on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis. An example of a short term goal would be something like, 'I want to lose 1 lb/week' or 'I want to increase the amount of weight I can lift by 2 pounds every week'.
3. Track Progress
The usefulness of tracking progress is often underestimated in the fitness world. Any change in health and fitness takes time. It's easy to get discouraged and feel like you've been doing everything right, but you're not seeing the progress you had hoped for. A big reason for this is because we often underestimate the amount of time it will take to reach a goal, but another reason can be because we don't notice how much progress we are making. Because we look at and live with ourselves every single day it can be hard for us to notice when we are making progress. The best solution to this is to periodically track your progress. Good ways to track progress can be with progress pictures, taking measurements, or using the scale.
4. Make The Time
One of the most common excuses to neglect a proper exercise routine is that people are simply really, really busy. And it's true. In the fast-paced hustle and bustle of everyday life, most people feel they are running around all day trying to get a weeks worth of work done in an eight to ten hour day. And that's stressful, I get it. I really do. However, more often than not, there is time where you had no idea it even existed. Take a look at your daily schedule. Where is there an extra hour that you can dedicate to getting a good workout in? If you feel like there isn't one, see if you can rearrange your schedule a bit and make one. Maybe that means waking up a little earlier, or spending a little less time on Facebook. Make it a priority, just like a brushing your teeth every morning or attending a business meeting. Once you find the time to workout, try to stick to that same time everyday. That is your 'workout block'. Just like you have a certain time you have to be to work everyday, or a certain time you eat lunch everyday. Scheduling your workouts in at the same time everyday helps make your workouts a part of your regular routine, making you less likely to skip them.
5. Tune Out
In order to really get the most out of your workouts, it's best if you do everything you can to make that time about you and your workout. Nothing else. Try to tune out every other aspect of your life just for one hour in order to focus on giving your workout all of your energy and focus. I like to turn my phone on airplane mode while I'm at the gym so I'm not distracted by texts/calls/emails while I'm in the middle of my workout. If you work out at home, it's a good idea to have a specific room or area dedicated to your workouts that's away from pets, family members, television, or other potential distractions. If this isn't possible, try to limit your distractions as much as you can. Don't think about what you're going to do next, or what you did or didn't get done before your workout. Use the 'workout block' as a time to tune out the rest of the world, and focus all of your mental and physical energy on yourself. Get selfish with your workout time. You deserve it. The world will not fall apart in your absence. I promise.
6. Just Do It
Even if you have a great workout program, you like what you're doing, and you're looking and/or feeling better, you're going to have off days. Everyone does. There's going to be times when you feel really low energy and unmotivated and you'd really rather just curl up and take a nap on the couch than push your body through another workout. It's not because you're lazy or out of shape or because there's something wrong with your program. It's because you're human. The best advice when you're having this kind of day is to stop thinking about your workout, and just do it. Know that you'll feel so much better after it's done, and after the first 10-15 minutes it's likely that your endorphins will kick in and your energy and motivation will be up to at least manageable levels. Tell yourself that you can, and you will.