Creating a sustainable exercise routine

The first of September is much like the first of January. As with Christmas, August can be a time for relaxing, possibly over-indulging, and it’s easy for fitness to take a backseat. Then when September comes, you’re ready to get serious.

So where do you start?

One of the most common pitfalls I see from people trying to get fit for the first time or after a long layoff from exercise, is to throw themselves all-in on an activity they don’t even enjoy, and do it every day without rest.

For example: every year, many people who hate running take it up and run as far as they can every day. They hate every second of it. They feel rubbish before, during and after. But they see it as the most straightforward path to fitness. With no plan, and no rest days, and no enjoyment, this journey tends to end in demotivation or even injury, after just a few weeks.

There’s a lot we can learn from this cycle, by identifying what the key components are to a sustainable, and ultimately successful exercise routine. In order to keep going past the second or third week, I believe that your routine needs to be…

1. Enjoyable

This is number one on the list for a reason. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s unlikely that you’ll stick at it, especially when anything else gets in the way of doing it. There’s two types of enjoyment- Type I Fun and Type II Fun.

Type I Fun is when you enjoy something at the time, often when playing a sport or any other conventionally fun activity. Type II Fun is fairly horrible at the time, but feels awesome after, making it potentially more addictive. HIIT is usually a good example of Type II Fun.

Whatever you choose, make sure it ticks one of the fun boxes.

2. Realistic

Your plan needs to be realistic. If you’re having a quiet time at work or home, and you make it your goal to complete six exercise sessions a week, you’re going to feel like you’re failing as soon as life gets busy and you can’t hit your sessions.

The feeling of failure leads to demotivation, and if you’re someone who can tend towards being ‘all-or-nothing’, it can be enough to make the wheels fall off completely. Try to avoid the January/September 1st trap of planning a massive routine of daily exercise because it feels good after the holidays to commit. Resist the temptation, start small and build up.

3. Scheduled (until it becomes habit)

Scheduling is key. If you’re joining a class – either virtual or in-person – then the scheduling is done for you. If you’re following your own plan, then I’d highly recommend you have it scheduled in and blocked out in your calendar. Treat it with the same importance as an important work meeting or personal appointment. Being realistic will help you here too, because if your plan is not realistic, you’ll find yourself pushing these sessions back in your calendar then skipping them completely. Exercise is all about balance and sustainability- not just what you can do in your best week. If you exercise twice a week, all year round, you’ll be lapping the person who exercises for 20 days straight then stops for six months. Think long-term, not short fix. Figure out what works for you, use the above

Written by Max Cotton from PE for Grown Ups


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