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How to build a fitness routine that works for you

For some, working out is easy: never facing issues with willpower or struggling to fit workouts into their weekly routine. For many this is not case.

Almost 80% of us don’t do enough exercise; the benefits of doing exercise are well-publicised from improving memory to fighting stress and depression, sleeping better to living longer.

From a personal point of view, fitness has always been very important to me: I’ve been a regular gym-goer for over 10 years; however running a business is extremely time-intensive and I have had periods where my fitness routine has slipped. I originally started looking into this topic last year as a way to ensure I achieved my fitness goals around my busy schedule!

This week, we share a number of tips to help you design a fitness routine which works for you and will help you stick to it, allowing you make a lasting improvement to your health and wellbeing. So grab a notebook or create a note on your phone and let’s get started.

Firstly, identify your aim

People have vastly different aims of their fitness, is yours:

  • To lose weight?

  • To put weight on?

  • To build muscle mass and ‘bulk up’?

  • To build strength?

  • To maintain weight but lower body fat?

  • To become more flexible?

  • To simply improvement cardiovascular fitness and endurance?

It may even be a number of the above. Of course we all have different reasons for our goals, it really doesn’t matter – just identify what is important to you, and this is key, write down why is it important to you.

Set a SMART goal

We’ve mentioned SMART goals before, they’re a great tool for work and life in general. A SMART goal should have the following attributes:

  • Specific: the goal should have a very clear objective of what you want to achieve

  • Measurable: there should be clear definition between whether you have achieved your goal or not

  • Attainable: the goal should be achievable within the time frame allotted; we give up on goals very quickly when it’s clear we won’t achieve the desired goal.

  • Relevant: the goal should make sense within the broader context of your life bringing you clear benefits without causing issues

  • Time-constrained: there should be a date by which you will have achieved your goal

For example, your goal could be to “increase muscle-mass by 10% and cut body fat to 15% in 12 weeks”, "run 5km in 23 minutes by the end of next month", or "touch my toes whilst keeping my hamstrings straight in 5 weeks".

Make a commitment

Now you have your goal, commit to it! This can be public – write it on social media, tell your friends and family, by making it public you may feel more accountable; or it can be private – you don’t need to share it with anyone else if you don’t want to, just let them see the results!

Write your goal down somewhere you will be constantly reminded, on a sticky note, on your bedside table or fridge, or you can even set it as the wallpaper on your phone. This helps constantly remind you of what you want to achieve and why, to ensure the actions you take each day are taking you towards to your goal.

Break down your goal into steps

Another trick from the business world: now you have your end goal, break it down into the steps you need to take to achieve it.

For example, if you are aiming to add muscle mass, you may need to eat more calories than your maintenance level and lift weights pushing yourself to failure on every set. To cut body fat you might decide to avoid simple carbs / sugars, hit the right macros (correct percentage of protein, carbs and fat) and include cardio into your fitness routine 2-3 times per week.

If you are aiming to run faster then you may need to include more sprint and strength training in your training schedule.

If your goal is to increase flexibility, you might decide that 2 yoga sessions and 1 home stretching session per week is what is going to get you to your goal.

What tools do you need to achieve these steps?

What items or tools do you need to achieve these goals: for example:

  • A gym membership for the weights

  • Scales to measure body fat %

  • A way to track macros and calories, such as an app like My Fitness Pal

You will most likely already have most of the items you require; download any apps you need and invest in any specific items you need – it will pay off!

Identify a realistic amount of time you can give to your fitness routine

You know what your average week looks like; from how much free time you have, to how often you are near the gym or park to workout. It’s important that you are realistic with this, don’t over-commit to the time you have available, you will quickly fall behind on your plan making you very likely to stop altogether. It’s better to set a lower, more achievable aim of time spent on fitness to start with and increase this over time.

Finally, create your fitness plan!

Workout which time slots each week will be filled with which activity; if your agenda looks different from week to week, you might want to make a new plan each Sunday for on the week ahead.

Now decide which activity you will do at which time each day: write these in your diary, or in your phone or work calendar depending on which you use the most.

A couple of tricks that help you stick to your plan:

  • Force yourself for the first couple of weeks: the first couple of weeks are the hardest, but once you have worked out consistently for this time, it quickly becomes a habit and requires a lot less effort to do from then on.

  • Set a specific time you will go to the gym: don’t just say ‘I’ll go on Saturday’, instead say ‘I’ll go at 10am on Saturday’ and treat it like a work meeting you can’t miss. That way you won’t put it off later and later through the day. It will also help you enjoy your down time more and avoid you feeling that guilt from pushing it back repeatedly.

  • Don’t dread it! It may sound silly, but we often work ourselves up to the point that we dread the workout. Think carefully about the workout ahead and what you actually have to do to complete it – I bet it’s not as bad as you worked it up to be in your subconscious.

  • Think about ways you can make it more enjoyable: find or make some motivating playlists or decide on a post-workout treat (which fits with your goals). Personally I find cardio on gym machines deadly boring; I get round this by watching Netflix while I do HIIT or LISS on the spin bike – this makes it much more enjoyable and the time goes much faster. Find what works for you.

  • Think about the triggers which lead to bad behaviour and take action against them. For example if you have a tendency to snack at home: don’t buy the food in the first place. Not going shopping while hungry can help you avoid this!

If you’re ever struggling to stick to your plan, go back and review your why – it will motivate you to take the actions needed to achieve the goal you set out to achieve.

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