You’re motivated to get back in shape, and decide to begin a fitness program. You lace up your sneakers, pack your gym bag, and go to crush a workout. Afterward, you feel great, running on an endorphin high — why did you ever go a single day without working out?
But then day two rolls around. You're stiff and sore, and dragging yourself back to the gym is far more difficult than the day prior. Days 3-6 are no better, and by week two you're wondering if you'll ever step foot in a gym for the rest of your life.
Your quick change in attitude begs the question: Why is it often easier to start a fitness program than it is to maintain one? You were excited, ready, and willing to start that first workout (and felt great afterward). So why, just one week later, does working out fall at the top of your Never Want To Do That Again list?
Listen, starting an exercise program is hard, and finding consistent time, energy, and bandwidth to squeeze a workout into your already-packed schedule is even harder. Take comfort in knowing that you aren't the first person who struggled maintaining regular exercise (nor will you be the last).
Below, I share several tips and tricks to help start a regular workout routine, and maintain it. By keeping up these subtle mindset shifts and daily habits, you'll be better prepared to tackle your fitness goals.
6 Reasons Why It’s Often Easier To Start a Fitness Program Than To Maintain One
At the start of a fitness program, you're motivated, energized, and determined to hit your goals. However, that initial dedication can easily falter for a number of reasons, including your lifestyle, schedule, and overall health and fitness level. Here are the top reasons why it's difficult to maintain a fitness program.
1. You Don't Have a Plan
Imagine this scenario: You wander into the gym, determined to work out. After a quick warm-up on the treadmill, you scan the aisles of dumbbells and machines only to think, "What do I do now?"
If you don't have a workout plan in place, you won't optimize your time at the gym or train effectively. Therefore, to boost your physical results and spare your bandwidth, find a workout plan and stick to it. Sometimes, gym memberships offer a consultation with a personal trainer, who may be willing to point out the basics. Otherwise, I recommend finding a fitness plan online.
The Build Bullet-Proof Health program encompasses cardio, strength training, nutrition, and recovery plans. You don't waste your time wondering how many sets or reps to do, or even which exercises to select. Instead, everything is mapped out for you — all you need is the dedication to stick to it.
2. You Don't Factor in Your Lifestyle and Schedule
When I talk to my clients about their struggles in maintaining a fitness program, the number one reason I hear is this: I don't have enough time.
Time is the most valuable thing on Earth. However, you will always make time for the things you prioritize. When you decide to make your health a priority and carve out time to work out, you need to create a schedule that works best for you.
For example, you may not have the time or bandwidth to work out seven days a week, take hour-long fitness classes, or even commute to a gym — and that's fine. When building a schedule that you'll stick to, that schedule has to work for your routine. Here are a couple prompts to keep in mind:
- How many days can you reasonably work out? Working out five to six days a week may not be feasible. However, could you spare three to four 50-minute blocks on your schedule throughout the week?
- Can you spare the gym commute? Perhaps driving back and forth from a gym is too much of a drain on your schedule. In these instances, perhaps an at-home workout routine would be a better fit.
- How much time can you dedicate to each workout? If you're a working parent, perhaps you can't afford to be at the gym for an hour after work each day. In these cases, perhaps a quick, 30-minute circuit during your lunch break would be more feasible.
- Do what you like. If you have to force the workout, you won’t stick with it long enough. Find something that you enjoy and it will be much easier to prioritize and stick with it long-term. It’s the same with diets. If you cannot adopt certain eating habits as part of your lifestyle, you will stop it and gain the weight back that you lost.
3. You Think, "I Fell Off the Wagon" Too Quickly
Many times, people approach physical fitness and nutrition with an extremist mindset: They want to work out seven days a week and eat Whole30-style meals three times a day. And the second they miss a single workout or enjoy a single dessert, they give up.
Frankly, that's not what health is about.
If you expect to maintain a fitness program, you need to factor in wiggle room for various lifestyle changes. You need to make space for enjoying dinner out with friends, attending happy hours, going to birthday parties, and overall enjoying activities that make life worth living. And when you do eat a slice of birthday cake or enjoy a cocktail at happy hour, you can't allow your mind to drift to unhealthy thoughts, such as, "Well, everything's ruined — I might as well skip my morning workout, too."
I find that when we purposely plan for these activities, it prevents the "I fell off the wagon" mindset. Therefore, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have an active social schedule? Family and friend activities are great for your health and well-being. If you have an event on your calendar, try scheduling your rest days around these activities — that way, you're never missing a workout.
- Do you plan to dine out this week? If you know you'll enjoy an indulgent meal, perhaps choose a lighter lunch or breakfast in advance.
- Will late nights out interfere with your morning workouts? If you're having a late night out, you will be tired for the following day's workout. Therefore, switch up the types of exercise for those foggy mornings, selecting steady state aerobic exercise (like biking an easy 5 miles) instead of vigorous intensity workouts (like a HIIT class).
- Consider working with a coach. Getting a coach can be extremely effective. I see this with my clients everyday. The external accountability to a (good) coach just makes you work harder this little bit more and not give up that easily.
4. You Get Bored Easily
I love almost all aspects of health and nearly every fitness activity. Yet, I fully acknowledge there are some physical activities I enjoy more than others.
If you are someone who believes exercise is not enjoyable or simply boring, perhaps it's because you haven't found the right type of exercise for you. Every person is different — some people could put their headphones in and run for hours, while others find running positively horrifying. Others love attending HIIT classes, while others prefer to work out on their own.
If you easily become bored in your fitness program, try the following:
- Sign up for ClassPass, or similar service: ClassPass or AndJoy allows you to visit multiple fitness studios in your area for a single membership price. In that way, you can try a number of activities, including yoga, sports conditioning, pilates, HIIT, and CrossFit.
- Find workout buddies: Social pressure (or encouragement) works wonders. Ask your friends which classes they enjoy, and ask to tag along. If you have a number of friends interested in fitness, chances are they enjoy different things. Go on a run with one, try yoga with another, or go to an intro CrossFit class with a third. Here in Barcelona I love working with the Rockstars or the guys from Everest Mindful Thai Boxing.
- Choose a well-balanced program: When a fitness program is built well, it offers a number of different workouts that task various muscle groups in new ways. That's why the Build Bullet-Proof Health program encompasses cardio, strength, and recovery plans — to keep your mind and body guessing.
5. You Get Injured
Regular exercise comes with a number of health benefits. It can decrease your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. In addition, it can boost your mood and self-confidence, while offering a number of other mental health benefits.
With that being said, if you are unfamiliar with exercise, you run a great risk of becoming injured. I find this extremely common in beginners who set New Year's resolutions — they set an aggressive and unrealistic goal, don't take the proper precautions necessary, and injure themselves before they have a chance to see progress.
If you become injured, you won't maintain a fitness program because you won't be able to make it off the couch. Therefore, to protect yourself from injury and help you stick to your fitness program, keep the following things in mind:
- Make recovery a core component of your fitness program: The number one thing missing from most fitness programs is recovery work (not more sets or reps). Practice ART (active release therapy), foam rolling, and stretching regularly, and make appointments with a licensed physical therapist immediately when an injury arises.
- Don't skip the warm-up and cool down: A warm-up helps prepare your body for the work it's about to do. Likewise, a cool down helps bring your body down to a reasonable temperature, and begin the recovery process.
- Eat protein: Every time you work out, tiny muscle fibers pull themselves apart. In order for your muscles to adapt — growing bigger and stronger — you need to repair your muscles in a process called muscle protein synthesis. Therefore, you should always consume a high-quality protein source, like grass-fed whey, within 30 minutes following your workout.
6. You Don't See Results
If you make the effort to carve out time to work out, clean up your diet, and foam roll regularly, you want your hard work to pay off. Unfortunately, many people get frustrated and give up too early on their fitness efforts.
I know how disheartening this scenario can be. However, when you’re frustrated about seeing results, you need to keep a few things in mind:
- Progress is not a linear path: You will always face ups, downs, and plateaus in your progress. During these times, it's important to have a clear goal in place, so you can refer back to it when your progress stalls.
- Weight loss is not everything: The number on the scale is not the only way to measure your progress. In fact, if you are practicing weight training, you might gain weight initially, as you are adding more muscle to your frame. I encourage you to take multiple measurements of health, knowing your body fat, aerobic capacity, resting heart rate, or body composition.
- Build systems and good habits: Having a goal is great but it’s not everything. In order to stay on track easier and automate certain things, create systems and form good habits. A healthy morning routine that includes some form of exercise is an example for such a system.
- We are our own worst critics: You see yourself in the mirror every day when you wake up, and therefore you may not realize the progress you've made. I encourage you to find an accountability buddy — such as a close colleague, friend, or family member — to remind you of the progress you've made.
Why Build Bullet-Proof Health Is One Fitness Program You Can Maintain
This year, if you're looking to start a fitness program and stick to it, I encourage you to sign up for the Build Bullet-Proof Health Program. Encompassing high and moderate-intensity exercises split between strength and cardio, nutrition plans, and recovery techniques, it's the well-balanced plan missing from your routine.
No matter how many programs you've tried (and stopped) before, you'll be able to commit to Build Bullet-Proof Health. Here's why:
- There's no guesswork: I tell you exactly how to work out — so you won't waste your time wondering which exercises to do on which days.
- It works for your schedule: You can take the Build Bullet-Proof Health program to the gym or perform the exercises in your own living room. If you sign up for our premium membership, I'm happy to have a one-on-one conversation with you about tailoring the plan to your schedule.
- You have a coach to hold you accountable: With our premium membership, you get monthly calls with me. That way, you never have to worry about "falling off the wagon."
- You can't get bored: The program encompasses HIIT circuits, heavy strength training, and cardio workouts, so you'll never get bored.
- Injury prevention is programmed into the plan: Recovery work and detailed warm-ups and cool downs are included in the plan to help prevent injury.
- It's built to show results: With workouts, nutrition plans, accountability, and recovery work, this well-balanced plan is meant to show visible results.
Start Your Fitness Program — and Stick With It
Why is it often easier to start a fitness program than it is to maintain one?
That is one of the single most commonly asked questions in the health and wellness industry. Someone can fail to maintain a fitness program for a number of reasons, including injury, boredom, failure to see results, or limited bandwidth.
To increase your likelihood of success, I encourage you to follow a well-balanced plan, like the Build Bullet-Proof Health Program. With detailed workouts, eating plans, recovery tips, and a coach (me!) to hold you accountable, it fits into your schedule and helps you reach your goals.
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