Do you have a daily workout routine? Most of us, at one time or another, have thought to ourselves: “I should work out more.” Sometimes we do something about it. Sometimes we even keep it up for a few days. But then something happens (we get distracted, lazy, or just plain give up) and we find ourselves back where we started.
One of the most important pieces to the puzzle of regular exercise is setting goals. Too often, we make general statements, which are not easily measured (a.k.a. too easily rationalized). Even the statement at the beginning of this article (“I should work out more”) is too general. “More” is a relative term, so you could exercise once or twice and you could convince yourself that you have accomplished that so-called workout goal.
Set Goals for Yourself
A good goal is specific. “I want to be able to do 15 consecutive pull-ups.”
A good goal is written down. To remind you what you are working toward.
A good goal is attainable. “I want to be able to run 3 miles by the end of the month” vs “I want to be in marathon shape in three weeks”.
If you write down a specific and reasonable goal, you will be much more likely to accomplish it. You can then make a workout routine to help you reach your goals.
As you set bigger goals, try to make them incremental. For example, if you want to do 300 sit-ups next month, break that down into doing 10 sit-ups per day. It’s much less daunting when you break up the numbers, and you’ll also be less inclined to slack off on a given day (since you know you only have to complete one incremental step).
Measure Your Success
Another important piece is to track your progress. Print out a spreadsheet and mark your progress each day. You’ll be able to see yourself move towards your goal, which is very motivating. A few years ago, my roommate and I decided we wanted to do over 9000 push-ups in a month. So I made a basic spreadsheet to track our progress. After a couple of months of increasing our goals, we made it! The spreadsheet is simple, but it was very effective in helping us reach our goal. I have updated the spreadsheet to make it less boring, and now you can download my monthly workout chart:
You can change the columns to measure any workout activity you want: running, sit-ups, jumping jacks, squats, etc. After removing the sample values, I recommend printing out a copy of the spreadsheet for the current month. Write your goals for each workout category at the top of the sheet. Then put the paper somewhere prominent where it will be a visual reminder for you to do your daily dose of exercise. Tape it to the wall by your bed, put it on a clipboard on the couch… Pick a spot where you won’t miss it. Also, keep a pen with your spreadsheet, and fill in your daily amounts as you go. If you didn’t do anything that day, put a zero. But if you put a zero, know that you need to do twice as much the next day in order to reach your goal!
Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned a gym. That’s because when you first start exercising, you may not be ready to shell out the cash for a gym membership. And that’s okay — there are plenty of exercises you can do at home to help get you to the point where you are ready to go to the gym. You’ll be surprised at what a few regular laps around the block, push-ups, or sit-ups can do for you! The key here is to set a goal, and break that down to form your daily routine.
The last element is to pick a time each day when you will do your workout. Some people like to get up early and exercise first thing in the morning. Others like to work out right before bed. Or maybe when you come home from work. If you have ambitious goals, you can even break them up and exercise twice a day if you want (for example, 25 push-ups in the morning and 25 at night). It’s okay if you miss your regular time now and then, as long as you make it up. But the more regular you can be, the easier it will be to form (and keep) your daily workout routine.
So what are you waiting for? Download the sample spreadsheet and set some workout goals!