The holidays have come and gone, and with them, so has my fitness routine (anyone with me?), leaving me in desperate need of some fresh workout tips. Even though it’s the beginning of the new year when everyone is hitting the gym, the mere thought of picking up a dumbbell has me looking for any excuse not to work out.
As a fitness enthusiast who used to look forward to hitting a new squat or practicing my left hook, this less-than-enthusiastic-to-exercise energy has me feeling defeated (because all the #fitspo pics on Instagram aren’t doing the trick). So I turned to Los Angeles-based master trainer Cathy Prince to let me in on her hacks to getting out of a fitness rut and back in the workout saddle. Read on for her top five workout tips that will get you off the couch and breaking a sweat.
1. Set smaller, more attainable goals
It’s that time of year for the obligatory New Year’s resolutions. You know the kind: lose weight, give up sugar, try Dry January. While you deserve lofty aspirations, you can also be setting yourself up for failure if your goals are too lofty. “Whatever your goal may be, break it down into smaller chunks that are more manageable and attainable. If you want to lose a total of 50 pounds, make your first target to lose five, then another five, and so on,” Prince suggested. “The feeling of success when you hit your smaller goals will motivate you to continue, so you’re more likely to reach your ultimate goal.”
Aiming for micro goals that are more realistic can help you get past any mental obstacles (not to mention any lack of motivation) that could stand in your way. The small wins will set you up for success and give you the confidence to stick with it. Break up goals into weekly or monthly goals, like sprinting for an extra 30 seconds or lifting another five pounds, instead of focusing on an end goal.
2. Find a source of accountability
Despite your best intentions, sometimes your lack of motivation takes over and the battle between couch vs. gym ends up in favor of—you guessed it—the couch. Enter: your accountability partner. Whether that looks like a non-refundable Pilates class, self-reward (I have my eye on a new Alo set), or a cause you care about (charity run, anyone?), find a strategy to stay accountable. Prince’s favorite trick to ensure she stays is to put money on the line (even if it is just pretend). “Schedule your workouts in advance and treat them as if you’re meeting a personal trainer who you’re paying $300 per hour to train with.”
If mindset alone is not enough, enlist a friend who is down to invest in an online workout subscription with you or train with you for the 10K you have coming up. “If you don’t show up, you’re not only letting yourself down but also your friend,” Prince added. And just like you would a doctor’s appointment, work meeting, or GNO, mark your workouts in your calendar and make it a point to show up (for yourself). Bonus tip: Prince also said that scheduling in recovery (think: sleep, massages, a restorative yoga class, a gentle walk around your neighborhood) is just as important as the workout.
3. Choose a specific, measurable benchmark
Sure, we all want to “get stronger” and “more fit,” but what that means to you is likely different from what it does to anyone else. Let’s say you want to improve your body-weight pull-up game. Setting a goal of doing three by the end of the month makes it more achievable since it’s more specific than “get stronger.” Looking to boost your back squats? Strive to up your weight by 10 pounds in two weeks. “Picking a specific performance benchmark will not only help focus your efforts but also measure your progress as you go,” Prince said.
Having a plan for reaching your fitness goal lays a foundation that will create discipline and allow you to check in with yourself. But PSA: If you’re just shy of getting that third pull-up rep come Feb. 28 or not quite squatting that extra 10 pounds at the end of two weeks, that’s OK. Instead of beating yourself up for it, reevaluate your plan and readjust as needed. Your body should be your #1 guide, not the goals you set.
4. Drink up
We all know we should drink more water, but do we actually do it? I’ll admit there are days I down more matcha lattes than I do water. But staying hydrated doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. “Whether it has a cute pattern or motivational sayings on it, grab a reusable water bottle that will give you a nudge to drink up,” Prince suggested (anyone else taking that as an excuse to shop?).
If you need some extra help in the hydration department, set a reminder on your phone every couple of hours, throw in a squeeze of lemon for some flavor, or track your water intake with an app like Waterlogged (yes, there’s an app for that). As for how much you should be drinking? Prince recommended shooting for a minimum of 50% of your total body weight in ounces (and upping that amount when you work out or eat more salt).
5. Make your workout fun and challenging
I used to force myself to endure bike intervals for the muscles (and calorie burn) they promised. Today, that exercise won’t get me out of bed in the morning, so I won’t do it. Pilates classes and weightlifting are my go-to workouts because I find them enjoyable and challenging, not to mention that they make me feel strong and confident. “Find something you enjoy doing to make it easy for you to show up and do it on a regular basis,” Prince agreed. If you’re on the hunt for a fun workout that speaks to you and gives you a physical and mental boost, try a more complex activity like a dance class, a yoga class that centers you, or a community-based run club. “The ultimate goal is to be present in your workout,” Prince added. Take that as your sign that your workout routine needs to feel like self-care in order to actually be self-care. Choose exercise accordingly.
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