A lot of people have been asking me about my workout routine recently, especially around how I find time for it all. I have a long commute, an hour and fifteen minutes, two young children and I have two active side projects. I thought it would be helpful to talk about my routine and what I do to keep up with it all.
Putting Yourself First
The most important part of my workout routine is making it a lifestyle and not a chore. The most important part of my day is getting to the gym. It helps me with my stress, it gives me an early win in the day and I always make sure to make it a top priority. I've been consistently going to the gym for 4 years now and have been able to build a daily habit. Building that habit can and has been a challenge.
Building the habit
I've slowly built a daily routine that started off with me going to the gym a day or two a week. I've always been an active person but struggled going to the gym. I would go for 6 or 12 months and fall off for years. Building a habit is no easy task. There are lots of great articles about ways you can build a habit. I really love the advice from James Clear on building habits. I found his techniques work well for me, mainly starting with a habit that is so easy you can't say no. When I started going back to the gym, I just gave myself a goal of going 1 day a walk for 30 minutes. In the beginning I didn't worry about going 5 or 6 days a week. I just wanted to build the habit of getting to the gym. I slowly built this up until I was going 5 to 6 days a week. Pick a small habit that you know you can do and slowly build on it. Maybe you want to be more active, a great way to start is walking 20 minutes a day. You'll be surprised how well it works.
My Daily Routine
My current routine consists of 2 workouts 5 days a week and 1 workout on Saturdays. I've been doing this for about a year and am loving it. I start my day at 5am by going to my local gym for 45 minutes. During this time I strictly do strength training with weights. My routine as of now consists of working on 1 body part per day (Monday is back, Tuesday is chest, Wednesday Legs, Thursday arms, Friday shoulders) and I'm doing light weights and high reps. I try to keep my rest period to 30 seconds between each set. I've been doing a high rep routine for about a month and have found it challenging. My body is still responding positively to the routine and I'm seeing great gains. I'm far from a professional trainer so please take my routine with a grain of salt. I find the routines on bodybuilding.com extremely helpful and find the site as a whole motivating and helpful. A great place to start is their training section.
Part two of my workout is something I do at home with my wife. About a year ago she heard through a friend about a workout routine on YouTube called Bikini Body Mommy. I was a little skeptical about it at first but after seeing her do the workout for a week I was a fan. I started doing the workouts with her after the first week and haven't looked back. The workouts are challenging and fun. The trainer does an amazing job mixing up the routines and keeping it fresh. She also has daily journals and a meal plan you can purchase. The hardest part of keeping a healthy lifestyle is eating the right things. I find keeping a clean diet a huge challenge but I'm determined to make it work. It's all about being prepared and changing your mindset (thinking about it as a lifestyle rather than a diet). Lots of people find going to the gym intimating and inconvenient. I think workouts like Bikini Body Mommy are a great alternative. I also think they are perfect for people who are busy, travel or always on the move. The workouts are only 20 minutes long (who doesn't have 20 minutes?). If you don't like her routine there are tons of other options. Between my 5am workout and my evenings with Bikini Mommy Body I'm able to get a solid hour of intense workouts in while not having to miss out on spending time with my family.
The last thing I've added to my daily routine is walking. I love being active and I love to walk, I find it therapeutic and relaxing. I make sure to walk at least 30 minutes a day and try to push myself to an hour if possible. I think 20-30 minutes is plenty but I really enjoy walking. I've found using a step tracker to be helpful and motivating as well. It keeps me on track and helps me push myself to make sure I'm walking enough.
My routine isn't for everyone but it's what works for me. It's also something that my single 30 minute workout has evolved into, I could have never gotten this far without taking things slowly. I think living an active lifestyle is extremely important and starting a daily habit is a great way to begin. Pick something you know you can do without failing and take small steps to build up to a daily routine that works for you.
Preparing for the Worst
One of the realities of doing anything is making sure you are prepared for roadblocks. I find this to be the most important part of my diet. I'm constantly going to family gatherings, kid parties and all kinds of events on the weekends. The office at work is always filled with all kinds of goodies, chips, soda, you name it. The best way to deal with this is to be prepared. I bring my lunch with me to work, do your meal prep! I also have healthy snacks and try to find things that are healthy alternatives. I love chocolate and ice cream. One of the things I've been doing lately is making dark chocolate dipped raw almonds. If I'm having a chocolate graving I'll have 3-5 almonds and I feel better. I eat smaller meals every 3 hours and I always get hungry 2 hours in. I prepare for this by making sure I have water and usually keep a small bag of raw almonds with me. I also make sure I recognize when I'm having an "off" day or am feeling stressed. I know it's going to be harder to keep away so I find alternatives. Always prepare yourself and think through the situations you think you will encounter throughout your day. When you do fall off a little and have a miss-step don't kill yourself about it, just move forward and be prepared for the next challenge. I find building a system is a lot better than setting goals (more on this in a future post).
Taking breaks is extremely important. I am constantly pushing myself and find I can run myself down if I don't schedule breaks. I'm horrible at taking breaks, whether it's taking a must needed week off from the gym or taking a night off from building my side project and relaxing. As with everything you should listen to your body, if your body is tired and you don't feel like going to the gym maybe it's time for a break. Keep track of these patterns to see how long you should go between breaks. I try to take a week off every 4-8 weeks depending on how my body feels. It's important to remember to give your body time to recover. It's also important to take breaks so you don't get injured. Remember to stretch correctly, do warm ups and take breaks! I take Saturday off from my weight training and I take Sunday as a full rest day. I always find my end of the week workouts are a struggle and these breaks help get my energy back.
I'm up at 5am everyday and put my body through a lot of stress, I have a long commute and I have long days at work. I have 2 young kids at home on top of it all. It can be a long day and my body needs to recover. The past few years I have put a lot of focus on making sure I sleep no less than 7-8 hours a day. This is critical to keeping my mind and body healthy. I can feel a big difference if I don't get my 7-8 hours and this is something that is not negotiable. I make this a high priority for me.
I thought it would be good to walk through a list of my daily workout tools. Below are a list of tools I use to help keep me going.
- Fitbit: I love my fitbit and find it extremely helpful and love being able to see how active I'm being throughout the day. If I'm having a lazy Sunday I may get out and take a walk with the family just to keep myself moving.
- Weights: We have a small set of dumbells at the house (5lbs, 7lbs, 15lbs and 20lbs) that we use for our at home workouts. I love them and find I can use them for creative workouts if I happen to miss a morning workout
- Fitness Journal: It's really important to keep track of what your doing. This way you can look back at your data and see if your hitting your goals.
- MyFitnessPal: Recently I've decided to start tracking everything that I put in my body. I consistently struggle with my diet, I have a terrible sweet tooth, and have been trying to think of ways I can help myself make better decisions. So far this has been working great. I've been tracking my food for a week and a half and am doing great. I will see where this takes me as it's been a lot of effort but I eat a lot of the same foods throughout the weeks so it's getting a bit easier.
- Support Structure: I don't think this is talked about enough. Having a group of people around you that can support you and are also living a healthy lifestyle is a must. It's important to have people around you who keep you honest and who can push you when needed. Missed 2 workouts in a row? There is nothing better than having a friend or loved one help push you through it and get you back on track. You are the average of the five people around you.
As I've gotten older I've found it harder to stay healthy and keep my body feeling good. My body and mind don't bounce back the way they used to and it takes a lot more effort to keep myself feeling good. By no means is my routine perfect and it's ever evolving but it's been working for me. The most important thing you can do is push yourself to be healthy, make sure you're eating the right foods, keeping active and getting enough sleep. We all live busy lives but you need to keep your body and mind active. As always, before you start any routine you should consult your doctor and consult a professional trainer. In the mean time drop the remote and take a 20 minute walk, you'll feel great when you're done!
I'm not a professional trainer nor do I claim to be. This article is about what I do to keep myself active and should be used as a reference to help motivate you. You shouldn't follow any of my advice without consulting your doctor. I've also found it helpful to work with a trainer and if you haven't workout in the past you should learn how to workout properly from a trained professional.