By Aylon Pesso, professional fitness trainer
You see them on magazine covers, movies, tv shows, and even on your instagram feed. Those incredibly fit people who make it look like their perfect bodies came so naturally and effortlessly. Why do they get to look amazing from the instant they wake up?
Well, they don’t. In reality, fitness is something that takes effort and work to move forward and improve. Like any meaningful change, there are many things that can get in the way and stop you from succeeding.
Being active and getting fit takes commitment, planning, and a solid knowledge base. While there’s no quick solution, there are ways to make it easier to reach your goals. Building up great fitness habits will help you move forward and live a more active life.
1. Making Activity Non-Negotiable
The first step of living a more active is as simple as doing more activity. But saying that you’re going to start working out, and actually getting up and moving takes the hard work of turning that plan into action. Luckily, the simple act of deciding when you’ll exercise can make sticking to your new habit much more likely. Whether that’s scheduling your workouts by putting a gym session into your calendar, or setting alarms and reminders, create and stick to a plan that makes exercise a regular habit.1
If scheduling gym time doesn’t work for you, you’re can still reap the benefits of consistent exercise habits by building small bursts of activity into your daily routine. BJ Fogg’s philosophy of Tiny Habits talks about tieing new habits to triggers that we already do. These are small changes that you won’t really feel negative impact of, but they quickly become ingrained into your life. You can use this for your activity habits by walking to work, doing a plank or push-ups right when you wake up and roll out of bed, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or anything else that fits your life. In no time, these will become automatic, and you won’t even have to think about exercise.
2. Creating an Anywhere & Anytime Exercise Routine
Even when you make fitness a priority and an integral part of your life, sometimes you still just won’t want to workout. Whether you’re having a bad day at work, life is super busy, or you’re just not feeling it, there are going to be days when you’ll try to talk yourself out of exercise. Having a baseline of exercises for a day like that can keep you on track for optimum fitness.
Putting together an anywhere, anytime exercise routine that you can do in 5 to 15 minutes from your apartment, at the gym, or outside, is a great solution. This can be some quick bodyweight exercises like push up and plank variations, going out for a quick walk or run, or working in some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with or without equipment.
Lifestyle Design expert and bestselling author Tim Ferris, calls this a Minimum Effective Dose workout. “Don’t spend countless hours doing ineffective cardio,” Ferris says, “when just eighty-second spurts (timed right before and ninety minutes after meals) will do the trick for weight loss.” 2
3. Making Fitness Social
Working out with others is a surefire way to keep fitness as a lasting habit. Whether you recruit yourself a workout buddy or two, or just have someone to check in with for accountability, connecting with someone else also on a fitness journey goes a long way to ensure you stick to your habits.
Community-based sporting leagues are wonderful options for fitness and social gatherings. Online services like FitReserve and ClassPass are terrific ways to easily jump around and try out many different class types at gyms and studios all around the country. Even joining online communities and forums can help with accountability.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that monitoring someone else’s fitness progress can act as incredible motivation and can lead to higher long term continued attendance rates because of the accountability it created. 3
4. Working with a trainer
Working with a Personal Trainer or Fitness Instructor is the ultimate accountability. Trainers help push you and keep you on track in all aspects of your fitness life. They can help make sure that you are using proper form and technique, which can lead to better results and fewer injuries. A Trainer can also teach you how to diversify your workouts with new moves and exercise which will definitely make fitness more fun.
There is the traditional route of a Trainer at your gym, but these days there are new models to choose from. If you don’t use a gym and want to save a bit a money, a trainer can come to your home or even have a session online through video chat like Skype or Facetime. Another great and affordable service is Coach.me for Habit and Accountability coaches. You can buy plans, sign up for text-based coaching, or book some phone or video sessions with whichever coach you like.
5. Making Time for Recovery
Although it may seem counterproductive, taking time off is an incredibly important part of having a healthy body. Tightness and injury are very real consequences of overuse, with pretty simple solutions: rest and recovery. Fitness is about knowing when and how to work, but also when and how to recover. Rest can be even more important than the workouts you’re putting your body through.
In addition to taking time off, stretching and massage are great ways to recover. Muscles and connective tissue can shorten and tighten as a result of bad posture, scarring from injury, over contraction, and other issues. Stretching and massage can work to relieve some of this tension to restore range of motion and flexibility, you can feel and move well. 4
By incorporating these five habits into your routine can make a big difference in living a more active life. Fitness comes from the body and mind working together, and building up these physical and mental routines can help you get there and enjoy the process.
About the author: Aylon Pesso is a personal trainer based in Boston. He helps his clients develop healthy fitness habits to get in the best shape of their life. For the last 10 years he has also run an ice cream shop with his father, so he knows what it means to make fitness a part of any lifestyle.