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How to Find a Workout You Can Stick With | The 5 Questions You Have to Ask

I once asked my husband’s (very Southern) grandfather what it felt like to be 90 years old. His reply quickly became our new family saying – “I feel like a spunky woodrat!” I used to feel like a spunky woodrat when I was younger. That feeling and energy made it super easy to find a workout I enjoyed and stick with it.

I used to make exercise a priority. I made it to a circuit gym three to four times a week for several years, then tackled P90X to get revenge hot after a divorce, then took up jogging and ran three half marathons.

It made me feel fan-freaking-tastic about myself! My schedule was wide open outside of work and I had the energy to do several workouts a day if I wanted. Ah, youth!

How to Find a Workout When You’re No Longer a Spunky Woodrat

After I had my baby in my 30s, I was struggling to find the time and motivation to shower, let alone jog for a few hours or take on an hour-long extreme workout. I had to get outside of my normal exercise mindset and find something that worked in this new phase of life.

It all boiled down to one word – realism. Merriam-Webster defines realism as “the quality of a person who understands what is real and possible in a particular situation and is able to deal with problems in an effective and practical way.”

The more realistic you are when considering any new exercise – a traditional gym, exercise video, running, anything – the more likely you’ll be able to stick with it for a while. When gauging any workout, it’s important that you can answer yes to at least three to four of five realistic questions.

1. Most importantly, do I like it?

There are a lot of workouts out there that produce amazing results, that I hate. P90X (affiliate link) – have you seen the commercials? Yes, I want crazy before-and-after pics! Oh yeah, the infomercial pumps me up! Yes, the DVDs are way cheaper than a gym membership!

But…the workouts can be over an hour long, are led by a sort of drill sergeant, and leave some people puking by the end. That didn’t sound like my style or something I would look forward to every day, but I pushed on anyway…and quit a few weeks in.

It doesn’t matter how effective the program is for others. If you don’t like it, you’ll have a really difficult time sticking with it. You have to find a workout you enjoy.

2. Is it conveniently located?

Call me lame, but I really enjoyed attending a Curves (ladies-only circuit training gym) when I lived in Philly. It was an efficient and effective workout…and within walking distance of my apartment. It was so close that it took more time to start my car, wait at the traffic light, find a parking space, and get inside, than it took to just walk from my front door to theirs.

When I moved to Austin, the nearest Curves was a 20-minute drive from my house. That’s not terrible, but it didn’t make sense to me to make a 40-minute round-trip drive to complete a 30-minute workout.

I used that excuse to skip the gym for several months. You have to find a workout with a location that is practical enough to kill your excuses.

3. Is it affordable?

When I was younger with no kids, and my husband and I were both making great money, we didn’t think twice about dropping $100+ on a gym membership. We said things like, “We’ll definitely use those amenities all the time!” and “We’re worth it!” Now that I’m older (and poorer), it’s hard for me to stomach taking on that size of monthly bill.

Luckily, we live in an age where gyms like Planet Fitness offer $10 monthly memberships. One or two fast food meals cost me more than $10 on any given week.

You can buy fitness DVDs (if you’re into that kind of thing) for a one-time fee. Streaming can be an even better deal, with companies like Beachbody offering streaming of all of their programs (P90X, Insanity, 21 Day Fix, Piyo, and more) for just $99 a year.

Don’t wanna spend any money at all? Walking and running are free, and the internet is full of workouts you can do from your home using your own body weight as resistance, no equipment needed!

If you have the extra money and want to spend it on exercise, go for it! But choosing an exercise that fits your budget is going to eliminate one more excuse for not working out – “It’s too expensive!”

4. Is it a reasonable time commitment?

When I was in college, there were some days I would jog for 2-3 hours non-stop. (My “jog” is more of a walk with a hop. Don’t assume I made it too far in that time.) Nowadays, I would rather spend that time writing or working on home projects or heck…watching some tv that doesn’t include cartoon characters or singing.

So I focus my efforts on 30-minute workout videos. It’s tough to make a convincing argument that I can’t find 30 minutes somewhere in my day to exercise.

When I started exercising, I made it my goal to work out twice a week for the first month. The second month, I bumped it up to three workouts a week.

Don’t commit to a boot camp that requires 2 hours every day if you know that’s not practical for you. Find a workout that requires a practical time commitment.

The more practical the commitment, the more likely you’ll be to stick to it. You can always take it to the next level once you’re meeting your initial goal.

5. Is it effective?

If you’re prancercizing daily and not seeing results after a few weeks or months, it’ll be tough to stay motivated. So take an assessment before you start a workout, then take another one a month after you’ve been working out.

And take into account things other than your weight (although that’s one indicator of change). People often lose inches before they lose pounds, so take some measurements!

Write down how you’re feeling, rate your energy levels, your stress, your level of optimism, whatever you’re looking to improve through exercise. Here’s a simple wellness chart to get you started, and a link for some measuring guidelines.

When you remeasure yourself a month later, you’ll either be super encouraged by the results or you’ll know that you might need to bump it up a level or try a different exercise that will get you where you want to be. In fact, one exercise might give you great results for months, then plateau. In those cases, you’ll need to try something different to keep seeing progress.

How to Find a Workout You Can Stick With | The 5 Questions You Have to Ask

You Can Find a Workout That Sticks

I had a fit friend in college who weighed over 100 lbs more in high school. He was depressed by his health and decided that he would start walking.

The first time he went out, he only made it two driveways from his own before he had to stop. He was gasping for air, exhausted, and embarrassed.

He felt discouraged he was only able to complete such a short walk, but made it his goal the next day to walk one driveway further, and one more the next. Soon he was circling the block, then the neighborhood, then jogging, then starting to lift weights at the gym. The key was that he was realistic about his circumstances, but didn’t allow his circumstances to discourage his efforts.

Whether you need to lose 5 lbs or 300 lbs or just want to improve your general health through exercise, realism is going to be key. When attempting to find a workout that will stick for you, consider if you enjoy it, and if it’s conveniently located, appropriately priced, a reasonable time commitment, and effective.

Being mindful of these points will help you to kill excuses before they have a chance to surface and will make it more likely that you’ll stick to your goals!

The Busy People’s Guide to Healthy Eating on the Go

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