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How to get back into an exercise routine: 6 tricks from a former fitness coach

Woman stretching on yoga mat outside on deck.
Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost/Getty Images
  • I'm a former fitness coach with a home in Mexico and a home in California.

  • When I travel, I often get out of my exercise routine.

  • It can be hard to get back into movement, but here's how I trick myself back into my routine.

As a former fitness coach, I often have to remember to use the very strategies I once recommended to my clients. A common challenge they — and I — faced was how to get back into an exercise routine after a life interruption.

I still have this challenge. My husband and I are both writers, which means we have a flexible work schedule and many opportunities to fulfill our passion for travel. We divide our lives between two homes — a house in the Mexican city of Guanajuato, and an apartment in Eureka, on the northern California coast, where we own a camper van for regional explorations.

While our life is wonderful, all this travel does disrupt my workout routine. Whenever we switch locations, it inevitably takes extra effort to get back on track, so I've developed the following strategies to trick myself back into physical activity.

I make sure my routine is fun

To make exercise as easy as possible, I focus on what I enjoy doing most. My options include walking, hiking, bicycling, yoga, Pilates, strength training, bodyweight exercises, paddle boarding, and even housework. I pick what is most pleasurable to me. Walking, for example, is almost as basic a rhythm to me as breathing; I can't not do it — but never on an elliptical! I need to be outside, breathing in the fresh air and noticing the season.

When we're in different locations, we have different options. In Guanajuato, within 10 minutes, I can be hiking in the hills above the city; in Eureka, I'll walk barefoot on the beach, or schlep my lightweight paddle board three minutes to the nearest dock and glide around Humboldt Bay.

And anywhere, lying on the floor to do exercises like spinal twists and yoga bridges requires almost no effort at all because they feel so good.

I do less

Since my goal after a disruption is not to accomplish a lot, but rather to get back into the rhythm of moving, I practice the Japanese concept of kaizen, which means "constant improvement" — I perform small actions to get myself over the hump, aiming to do a little bit better each time. For example, I might start with three planks or push-ups rather than 10, and the next day, I will do a little bit more.

Plus, I give myself the goal of three physical activities a day, even if they're small and I do them for a short time. I make it as easy on myself as possible to get back into the flow of things. For example, I'll start by walking, stretching, and sweeping. Or walking, jump roping, and doing gentle yoga moves, like a cat-cow pose.

I break up my exercise routine throughout the day and build it into my errands

I also focus on movement — the body's natural way of negotiating the environment — over exercise, a modern concept of physical activity that is often structured, timed, and expensive. Movement can be done anywhere and at any time, and this framing helps me see that I can do it throughout the day.

If I don't have time to walk a half hour all at once, I'll walk around the block a few times, then take another couple of short walks later in the day. Three 10-minute workouts throughout the day can provide the same health benefits as one 30-minute workout.

Whenever possible, I also take a break from my car and build exercise into the day naturally by doing errands on foot. Wherever I'm going — grocery shopping, the bank, the library, the doctor — if I can, I walk or ride my bike.

I turn housework and daily activities into a workout

The benefits of physical activity can also come from housework, according to research. In both homes, I sweep, wash dishes, and hang the laundry, since we don't own a dryer or a dishwasher.

As a 5'1'' woman, I used to resent the way so many cabinets and shelves are designed for taller people, but a few months ago I decided to reframe the problem as an opportunity to stretch. And I use picking up an object on the floor as a chance to practice squatting — just make sure to use good form.

I avoid scolding myself and stay away from should-statements

Far from motivating me, I've learned the hard way that lecturing and nagging just make me feel guilty and want to eat a lot of junk food. Now, when I notice that I'm scolding myself, I try to replace that critical voice with a positive thought.

As the saying goes, we teach what we need to learn. I hope these strategies still help my clients, but I know they help me. Because they're so easy to incorporate, within a day or two after a transition, I'm back in my happy place, moving all day long wherever I am.

Read the original article on Business Insider