I’m On a 34-Week Home Workout Streak—Here Are 5 Easy Habits That Helped

published Oct 29, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Every day around 6:30 p.m., I transform a corner of my living room into a makeshift gym: I drag my hybrid dining table/office desk/workspace to the center of the room, unfurl a yoga mat, arrange my highly-coveted dumbbells just so, cue up my music, and open one of several workout apps on my phone. I have been doing this since mid-March, right when stay-at-home orders forced gyms and fitness studios across the country to close. That means I’ve worked out at home for 34 straight weeks (and counting).

In a pre-pandemic world, I relied on group fitness classes as a major workout motivator: I made friends with instructors whose classes I loved, the can-do attitude of my fellow class-takers inspired me to keep pushing when I was tired, and the hard start time of the class made sure I checked my workout off my to-do list at a given time. Without those built-in motivators, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stick to a routine. As it turns out, there’s more than one way to commit to a workout routine when you work out from home.

Whether you’re recommitting to a workout routine, picking up an indoor plan now that the weather is turning colder, or looking to shake up your already solid game plan, it never hurts to assess your habits and tweak what isn’t working. Here are five easy habits that I’ve relied on to keep my workout routine going.

Work out with friends—even from afar.

Put the group back in group workout by taking the same streaming classes with friends or downloading the same workout app. One of my friends and I regularly sign up for the same Barry’s at Home classes, and it helps to know at least one friendly name in the Zoom portal.

Checking in with friends is a tactic that even the pros rely on every now and again. “I’ve had a few moments during the past few months where I’ve felt stuck or less motivated and I always think it’s helpful to talk to like-minded friends,” Jennifer Simpson, a senior instructor at Barry’s in New York City, told Apartment Therapy. “We can all relate to having felt that way at some point, so sometimes I just need to talk it out. We motivate each other to try something new, agree to take a class together, try a new instructor, et cetera.”

The point isn’t to try to one-up your friend by doing more pushups than the other—remember, every body is different and you can run the risk of hurting yourself by holding your body to someone else’s fitness standard—but rather to cheer each other on.

Dedicate a space in your home to your workout gear.

Whether it’s a set of weights or a pair of water jugs, chances are good you’ve acquired one or more pieces of at-home workout equipment by now. (One report from May found that sales of fitness equipment had grown 170 percent due to social distancing guidelines.) Rather than stash your stuff in a closet or in separate rooms when you’re not using it, keep it all together in one easy-to-access place.

Early on in the pandemic, I bought a large woven basket that matched my living room decor to store my weights, bands, yoga blocks, and towels. But the nook of my living room might be the spin bike in your bedroom, or a dedicated space in your garage or backyard.

“The beauty of working out at home or wherever your new ‘workout space’ is, is that you can build it on your own terms,” Chayanne Joël, the manager of group fitness programming at Equinox and Variis by Equinox, said. That flexibility can also pay off in terms of overall flexibility, too: “No one is holding you to ‘every day’ or ‘x amount of time’. It can be every other day. You can build things into your workout frequency so they become more joyful and beneficial versus becoming a mandate and ‘chore,'” he said.

Mix up the types of workouts you do.

Whether you download the Swiss army knife of workout apps or download six apps, subscribe to three YouTube channels, and sign up for studio streaming services, making sure your workout schedule has variety is beneficial in a number of ways. Not only will you lessen your likelihood of injury, you’re less likely to get bored—which might be the key to staying motivated.

“There are so many things you can change to refresh your routine,” Joël says, adding that you might want to try a new instructor, class format, or piece of equipment (if you can find it!).

It’s also worth listening to what your body both enjoys, and wants to do. “I love running in the summer but not so much when it gets cold out, so I have tapered that part of my routine off and switched in some HIIT sessions to keep my cardio up,” Joël says. He also committed to a yoga routine, which previously was “something I was inconsistent with in the past. Now it’s part of my weekly plan without question,” he added.

Simpson agrees. “Listen to your body!” she stresses. “For example, if you’ve been consistently doing high-intensity classes and you’re noticing your body is feeling tight and/or run down, mix in a stretch class or yoga to give it movement with some less impact. With time you will figure out what benefits your mind, body and soul the most.” She also encourages people to modify a particular move to their own skill level and needs.

“Each of us come to the table with a different body, different mindset, and different emotional capacity, so choosing to modify a routine or even a workout when you’re taking a class is 100 percent okay,” she notes.

Credit: Kenan Hill

Find the time of day that works best for you—and stick to it.

Joël, who loves working out in the morning, has his routine down. “I make it a point to get up, have my coffee and dive into something physical,” he says. But he also knows that it can take a while to stick to that appointment with yourself to begin with: “Habits take time to develop, so maybe you aren’t amazing during your session every single day,” he says. “But something is better than nothing, especially when it comes to movement and stepping into a new routine. The best part of this all happening ‘at home’? No one else is watching so celebrate your accomplishments, big or small.”

Simpson also prefers to work out in the morning, and uses it as a way to set the tone for the rest of her day. “I have my morning set with my workout of choice, followed by a breakfast I’m looking forward to making,” she says, adding that planning ahead is key for her to stick to a schedule. “I also get motivated by music, so sometimes it just takes making a really great playlist and I am ready to go,” she adds.

Where does that leave those of us who aren’t early birds? I prefer to work out at night, right after I finish work for the day. It signals to my brain that it’s time to stop thinking about meetings or deadlines, and take some much-needed time to myself.

Cut yourself some slack!

This cannot be said enough: You are not just working from home, and/or running a remote learning school from home, and/or doing almost everything else from home these days—you’re doing all of this (and sometimes even more!) during a pandemic. With that comes plenty of fear and uncertainty, and while working out can be a great stress-reliever, some days you just don’t have the workout in you. That’s totally fine.

On days when I cannot be bothered to workout, I log a rest day or spend some time stretching—both of which absolutely count towards doing something good for my body. And I had to quickly stop comparing how many times I worked out in a given week to what I did the week prior. By focusing on what I was doing to move my body in that moment, and not focusing on my past body, mood, and life, the more realistic and achievable my goals became.

And yes, workout fatigue comes for instructors, too. “Sometimes, like everyone else, I just don’t feel like doing it. On those days, I commit to at least 30 minutes of something,” Joël says. “I walked around Brooklyn one day for a couple hours and that ended up being my ‘workout.’ Was it an all-out cardio/high-intensity session or a yoga flow? No. But it was me moving, getting off of a screen and exploring my neighborhood. Every little bit counts.”

“Take it day by day,” he adds. “Acknowledge your accomplishments and keep going.”