Whether you’re watching the sun go down early every day, unable to hit your regular gym, or busy with work or kids, it’s easy to miss a few workouts… and then more than a few. After all, exercise thrives on routine. In a 2019 study, researchers found that people who maintained a weight loss tended to time their workouts similarly each day.
During the winter especially, it’s common for exercisers to shirk their typical regimen, says Lee Jay a personal trainer, mat Pilates instructor, and nutrition coach, specializing in clients new to fitness. “The days are shorter, meaning if you’re working out before or after work, it’s likely to be in the dark,” she says.
Couple the short days and increased obligations with the need for tons of layers during outdoor workouts, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for an excuse. “When we are committed to a routine, our minds are physiologically prepared to take on this workload, and our bodies are revved up to go,” Jay says. “Once we break this momentum, it takes immense energy, on the mental and physical front, to get things going again.”
Once you get over the hurdle, motivation tends to skyrocket quickly—but that first barrier is the worst, says Jay. If you’re struggling to find the willpower and need to jumpstart your workout regimen now, here’s how to do it.
Set the Date with Your Workout
Make a date with yourself, and maybe a treadmill or your outdoor walking shoes? “Keep fixed time and dates on the calendar weekly as set appointments,” says Jay. “Think of them as ‘me time’ rather than hard work.” Also, choose activities you enjoy to stay the course. “If a quick burst of HIIT (or high-intensity interval training) is your thing, but you think you should try Pilates, stick to the HIIT for now,” she says.
Get It Out of the Way Early
Try to squeeze in a morning workout to “get it out of the way,” says Jay. “The longer you put it off, the less likely you are to do it.” This is especially true as it gets darker and colder, earlier. Beyond this, keep your workouts short and intense. “Four 30-minute workouts a week is less daunting and way more achievable than four one-hour workouts,” says Jay.
Start at Home
You don’t need a fancy gym or the latest equipment. You can revive your tired workout regimen from the comfort of home. “Online classes are the best place to start—especially if you are someone who prefers guidance and motivation from others in your workouts,” says Jay. “There’s a plethora of on-demand services there, everything from HIIT and strength, to yoga, Pilates, and Barre, with many offering free workouts or two-week trials.” To that point, look no further than Fitbit Premium, a paid membership that reveals patterns and delivers actionable insights to help you access deeper health metrics, hundreds of workouts and meditations, new challenges and games, and more.
You don’t need to take a challenging class every day either. Jay suggests dimming the lights, lighting some candles, and going for a gentle, low-impact Pilates or yoga flow.
Set Concrete Goals
Want to run a half marathon? Get better at weight lifting? “Have a goal in mind, something obtainable and relevant to your fitness aspirations, and write it down,” says Jay. “Take a look at this goal when your motivation has dropped for a pick me up.”
If you’re still struggling, meet with a friend virtually to hold yourself accountable for that workout, or call your friend to chat as you walk.
You don’t work out just to maintain a certain weight. Remind yourself to work out for the positive physical and mental health benefits, from improved sleep to better long-term stamina. “Science has shown the positive effects it has on our mood,” says Jay. “Keep this in mind if your energy or motivation drops.”
Remember, it takes just 21 days to create a habit, says Jay, so start today and stick with it. Within three weeks, you won’t be able to stand not getting in your daily workout.