Check out this first installment of tips & tricks for successfully working out at home!
If you are struggling to workout at home, you’re not alone. The transition to working out at home without a set class time is not easy. A lot of you already had a perfectly formed habit to go to the gym for your workout on certain days of the week, and now, it might feel like you have to force yourself to work out while at home. I hear your struggles and I feel them too. Going to the gym to hang out with our people was the most motivating way for me to exercise. And I’ll be honest, going to bed without feeling like I physically exerted myself that day has been a mental struggle. So much so that I researched some of the most effective ways to create an at-home workout routine that I’ll actually stick to. Check out these 5 tips that helped me if you’re riding the same struggle bus!
SCHEDULE A CONSISTENT WORKOUT TIME
I know you’ve heard this one before, but I’m going to recommend something crazy here. Brace yourself. If you are really struggling to actually complete an at-home workout regularly, I encourage you to exercise every day. I know this sounds a little backwards, but there is logic behind it. Decision fatigue is what happens when we have to make too many decisions, which causes the quality of our decisions to decline. If you spend the whole day deciding, changing, and re-deciding your workout time because you don’t want to do it, at some point, the whole process is going to become exhausting and very ineffective. Instead, I’m proposing that you spend even just 20 minutes exercising daily, at the exact same time each day. And if you are seriously dreading the workout, just do it when you first wake up. The longer you spend thinking about the workout, the less inclined you’ll be to actually do it later in the day. So if you wake up at 6 am and you decide to work out at 6:30 am every single day, by day #3, it will feel less like a choice and more like a habit. Something you just do when you wake up. It is much easier to form a habit if the action is completed daily, than it is if the action is completed a couple of times per week. You can scale back the at-home workouts as much as you need to; doing something (anything) active at the same time every day is the most effective strategy for completing your workouts consistently.
And although we’re posting full workouts each day, getting through the entire thing does not have to be your goal. If you haven’t really worked out from home yet, try to get through 1 or 2 sections of the daily workout. Even better, set a timer for 15 minutes, or even just 10 minutes. Get through as much of the workout as you can during that time and when the timer goes off, you decide if you want to stop. A lot of times, remembering what it feels like to move our bodies is the exact motivation we need, and setting a small goal by using a timer is an effective approach. Remember: An object in motion will stay in motion the same way that an object at rest will stay at rest.
My own workout times have been very sporadic since we’ve been out of the gym, and it took a couple of days for me to get back to my own workout routine. If you are in the same boat, please be an encourager to yourself. Beating ourselves up is a real solid way to keep us off track much longer than we need to be! If you miss the feeling of soreness, go for a run when you wake up! Less thinking and more doing just might be the answer!
SET UP YOUR WORKOUT SPACE
We live in a small apartment so this one has been interesting, but extremely effective. About 20-30 minutes before our workout, we move the furniture in the living room to open up more space. Moving the furniture has almost become a start button for me. My brain associates the open living room with exercise, which makes it way easier for me to get into the right mindset. Does moving furniture help to get me in the workout mode every time? Definitely not every time, but every little bit of motivation helps! I’ve noticed that by setting up my workout space about 30 minutes prior to starting gives me an ample amount of time to adjust. In the past, getting in our cars and driving to the gym told our body and mind that exercise is in our future. We don’t have the luxury of that drive right now, but you can use other behaviors – like setting up your workout space – to cue your body and mind that it’s almost time for exercise. These small mental associations are wildly helpful!
If you don’t need to move furniture to create your workout space, there are other ‘preparatory’ items that can create that same mental association: a specific behavior that cues you to exercise, like music!
PUMP YOURSELF UP WITH A SPECIFIC WORKOUT PLAYLIST
This tip is one of my favorites. Creating a playlist – or simply choosing a few songs – to listen to while warming up and working out can produce the same mental association as that of moving furniture to set up your exercise space. Here’s how it works: After you’ve chosen a playlist (or a collection of songs) to listen to while working out, DON’T LISTEN TO IT AT ANY OTHER TIME!! This is what makes this tip so effective. If you have a Spotify playlist of the most energizing and motivating songs that pump you up, which you only listen to while you’re working out, the playlist will become a cue for your body and brain. Start playing your music loud and proud as you warm up. A lot of times, I’m more excited to listen to the playlist than I am to workout…until I start moving.
If you aren’t disciplined about when you listen to this specific playlist, it may begin to lose its effectiveness. When a song becomes old or boring, it loses its motivational power. If music is a major encourager for you, protect that playlist at all costs! Only listen to it during your at-home workouts.
ADJUST YOUR WORKOUT GOALS TO MATCH THE CIRCUMSTANCES
Only a couple of weeks ago, I was focusing on increasing my weight in cleans. If you’re picturing us over here in our apartment with an entire barbell set up, that is not at all the case (although Paul would move the rig into our living room if I wasn’t here to stop him). And since I’m no longer using barbells to workout, continuing to focus on my clean is just not an option right now. BUT, there are specific parts of that lift that I can absolutely practice from home. For example, I can prioritize power while working through an at-home workout; I can be as explosive as possible with any type of jump, and I can work on my front squat, which is the most limiting part of my clean. Although I don’t have a full squat rack set up, I can hold a bag of potatoes for goblet squats, or a case of water bottles. I’m not directly working on increasing the weight I can clean, but I am improving specific portions of that lift.
How can you adjust your workout goal to match the circumstances? Maybe your new goal is simply to complete a short workout daily. We’re not striving to break records right now, but we can focus on technique. And whatever your new goal, do your best to compare it to the circumstances, not your old goal. It can be discouraging for us to think we’re somehow going backwards by scaling back our goal, so I really encourage you to be as thoughtful as possible as you make adjustments. Moving our bodies is the priority right now – keep it simple!
CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS
Working out at home is a win. For the people in the back: WORKING OUT AT HOME IS A WIN! Give yourself props for exercising. And not just the first time. Every single time you move your body or complete a workout is a massive accomplishment. If you can really pump yourself up for doing something that you might not necessarily have wanted to do, you will be much more inclined to continue. Paul and I can’t be with you right now, to encourage you and to tell you that you’re kicking ass, so right now especially, you need to be your biggest cheerleader. Celebrate every single workout you do and don’t downplay it!! If you struggle to do this for yourself, first off, please practice. This is learnable even though it may feel strange at first. But it can help in every single area of our lives and too many of us are used to being our own biggest critic. Right now is not the time for criticism and negativity – especially if it’s self-inflicted. There’s too much uncertainty in the world right now to be actively inviting negativity into our minds.
If you need some extra help with this one, I encourage you to reach out to a friend (me included!) to help with accountability. And I don’t mean accountability in actually completing your workouts, although that may be helpful to you. I’m talking about accountability in actually acknowledging that you did something hard, that you didn’t want to do, that directly impacted your mood and mindset. If you are still learning how to be your own cheerleader, lean on someone who can help you to acknowledge and celebrate your completed workouts.
If you are struggling to feel proud after working out, I will be your cheerleader. Reach out to me if you fall into this category. Too many of you have mentioned that you aren’t great at self-motivating and I vehemently disagree. Every single one of you has made it to the gym several days per week, for months and even years. If you weren’t self-motivated, you wouldn’t have made it to DIF as many times as you have. Did someone force you to drive to the gym for all of that time? NOPE! You motivated yourself to put on your workout clothes, drive to the gym, complete a killer workout, drive home, and be there again the next day. This is not true of people who are not motivated. You may still be struggling to acclimate to our new world; that’s extremely understandable. But don’t confuse this transition with an inability to self-motivate. You know that motivation is learnable…because you learned it. All of you have. Right now is the time to remember that, not to remind yourself every single day that you’re not motivated. This is the opposite of being your own cheerleader. If you aren’t willing to encourage yourself, to be as positive as possible, and to actually acknowledge your wins, who will?