Cass began her self-guided wellness and fitness journey after years of being underweight as a youth.
These are the things that keep me following my New Year's resolutions, eight months later.
(Ok, the title was a bit of a lie; I rarely use the actual bench, but I’m a sucker for alliteration!)
While my first 15 or so attempts of maintaining an exercise routine over the years have failed, the 16th has worked. (16th time’s a charm! That’s the saying, right?)
The 16th time was different, because I’ve learned the following things.
Now, if you’ve come for science-backed advice, this isn’t it.
Cause frankly, I made these up.
But I created them based on months of trial and error, navigating what worked and didn't work for me, and learning how to work with, rather than against, my body. Regardless of the science (or not) behind them, they’ve worked for me and they’re practical and easy to apply.
(Although… a large part of science IS experimentation, so I suppose I have my own science to back them up!)
Getting Started: Know Yourself
Are you a morning person or an evening person? Do you know? Our energy level naturally rises and declines throughout the day, so wouldn’t it be easier to plan your workout for when you will have a high energy level? Just because your fitness mentor works out at 5 a.m. or 7 p.m. doesn’t mean it’s best for you – it just means it’s best for THEM.
Work with your body, not against it.
Set Yourself up for Success
You wouldn't walk into an interview willy-nilly and without prep, would you? So give your body the same respect. For me, personally, that means trying my best to get to bed early so I can get up and do my workout early. If you’re planning to go to the gym for 8 a.m., do you think that staying up until 1 a.m. will help support or oppose your gym plans? Beginning (and maintaining) a successful exercise routine is all in how you set yourself up, and that starts the day before. You need to encourage a productive tomorrow. Meaning, you set up tomorrow’s success, today. (Let me reiterate: Tomorrow starts today!) Now, this doesn’t mean all evening activities are off the table. You can still have a drink or two with friends after dinner. Having one or two won’t affect your energy level the next day the way 5 or 6 will.
You can be fit AND have fun. It's not always a compromise.
"Once I'm up, I'm good, but how do I get myself out of bed?"
This is a valid question for anyone, whether you’re getting up to exercise or go to work. Tomorrow starts today, remember, so my first piece of advice is to get enough sleep.
Secondly, don’t leave your phone beside (or in) your bed. Make sure the option to ‘snooze’ is out of arm’s reach. Charge your phone overnight across the room, that way you MUST get up to turn your alarm off. (Bonus: you're less likely to be using it before bed now, too, which can send your sleep cycle out of whack.) This personally works for me because, upon standing in the morning, I need to pee straight away. The few minutes it takes to do that, is enough time for me to wake up.
Sticky Notes are Your Friends
Something else I do? I put a sticky note on my phone; something motivating, and because my phone is the first thing I engage with when I get up to turn the alarm off, my sticky note gives me a mental shot of motivation before the inevitable mental shot of “go back to bed” kicks in. (My current sticky note reads, “Rise, because it’s your time to shine” with a little hand-drawn smiley face sun, if that gives a better idea of what kind of notes I mean.)
The bathroom mirror is a great place to pop one up, too. Again, it will be one of the first things you see upon waking/rising.
Even throughout the rest of your day, pay attention to what you take in through your body (food, social media, negativity or positivity, etc.). This has nothing to do with being ‘woo-woo’ or eccentric; it’s a reminder that the physical, mental and emotional parts of you all share the same house – your body - so they affect one other. Ever binge on junk food because you’re sad or cranky? There you have it. Ever just wanted a drink after work because you’re mentally exhausted? There it is. So expose yourself to good stuff, rather than bad stuff, and you’ll be more likely to choose the good stuff over the bad stuff. That’s about as simple as I can make it.
Vision Boards, and Other Visual Reminders
Again, not an eccentric thing; vision boards are literally just a collage of photos that motivate you. That’s it. You can use it beyond that, but you don’t have to. I currently have a vision board on the wall in the gym. It’s just pictures and quotes printed from Costco, glued to cardboard. It has quotes (like “Visualize your best self and start showing up as her”) and photos (fit women who motivate me), and I get to see it nearly everyday. Which means I get reminded of my goals nearly everyday. It’s as simple as that. I highly recommend a vision board (or collage) if you are a visual person, like me.
Now, if you’re looking at these suggestions and thinking, “Yeah, I’m sure sticky notes and vision boards will help me, but I don’t want my partner/family/friends to see them and judge me or make fun of me” then you have to ask yourself: what’s more important? Your big goals, or others’ small opinions?
The reality is, people don’t think about you as much as you think they do.
But if you are feeling insecure about it and want to keep your visual aids to yourself, then do that. Tuck them away when guests are over, and pull them back out once they leave. After all, it’s your journey; you need not feel compelled to share it with anybody.
My Final Tip: Just Start.
I know you’ve probably heard this before, but hear me out:
You’re only going to build a successful routine by building momentum.
And momentum won’t just pop up, like a flower waiting to be picked. It needs to be built. So just start. Start where you are. You don't need to buy anything to get started. Buying stuff won't build momentum. Movement will.
So Youtube a 6 minute, no equipment workout and just do it, before you overthink it and DON’T do it.
Two Secrets to Takeaway
1. If you think I (or anyone else) wake up automatically pumped for a workout, you're mistaken. There are days I crawl into the gym, stare at my shoes and sigh, thinking about what I'd rather be doing. This is what I say to that: if you’re having a particular day where you really, REALLY don’t feel energized to do a workout, that’s ok. Taking a day off when your body (more so, your mind) asks for it is okay. You wanna dive into a new book instead of working out? Great. The way I see it, physical exercise is just one way we take care of our bodies. If you’re skipping your workout to do something else of benefit for yourself (like reading to learn a new skill or to destress), that’s ok. I would just advise against skipping a workout to do something that ISN’T of benefit (mentally, physically, spiritually, etc) for you. How you start your day sets the mood for the next 24 hours. So try your best to replace something good for you, with something else that’s good for you.
2. Speaking of 24 hours: if you want to workout, you DO have time to workout.
You just have to choose it. (This is a good time to think about why you want to implement a exercise routine, as your why will be your determining factor for success.)
Watched an hour of Netflix? That's one of 24 hours. That's the same hour someone else chose to hit the gym instead of the couch. You just need to prioritize it.
We all have the same 24 hours in our day. If you do an hour workout, you have 23 hours left. A half hour workout? 23 and a half hours left. Some days I do a 15 minute workout. That's it. We all have 15 free minutes hiding somewhere in our day. I'm not saying it's easy; I'm just saying it's doable.
Final reminder: You won’t begin your journey until you’re actually ready. This can take time, so be easy on yourself and remember that the only time we truly fail is when we stop attempting to start again.
And if there’s someone in your family or friend circle who you wish to join you – they won’t begin their journey until they’re ready, either.
So don’t bother pushing them, just push yourself.
Push for 5 minutes a day, or 50 if you prefer.
The push is the same, but it's up to you to initiate it.
I'm not saying it will be easy, but it will be worth it.