Finding a sustainable fitness plan that works for you can be super tough. But when it comes to keeping good habits, we’ve found that simplicity and consistency are key.
It’s similar to Freshly meals, right? When you have lots of complicated options, a lot of brain power has to go into decision-making every single day: What to eat? Takeout or homemade? Is this good for me? With Freshly taking all of those questions off the table, so much headspace is freed up—just open the fridge and the choice is made. The same goes for exercise (more on that below).
For the consistency part, just remember that you’re thinking of your health as a long-term plan. Our Co-Founder Carter says, “Some of us make one small mistake in our plan, feel like a failure, and then scrap the whole thing. If you mess up, don’t stress! The stress is often more damaging to your health than your brief deviation from your larger health plan.” Here are our tips and tactics on making that long-term plan a reality.
16. Keep exercise easy.
We don’t mean you shouldn’t break a sweat! But keep things simple and accessible so it’s easier to follow through. This is where knowing yourself comes in handy. If you like working out right after work, join a gym as close to your office as possible. If you hate gyms but like the outdoors, make a recurring meeting for a lunchtime walk outside (more on that below). If you want to workout in the comfort of your home, there are lots of apps, digital videos, and programs for that. If possible, invest in what you need to make your habit as easy as possible, but just remember that expensive equipment won’t matter if you’re not using it—so make your plan around convenience over everything else.
MINI CHALLENGE: Write down your exercise goals and work backward from there by breaking it down. How often will you do it? Where will you do it? Are you setting yourself up for success? Make a plan and schedule it in for the next 4 weeks.
17. Schedule time for standing and walking throughout the day.
Studies show that those who take more “breaks” from their desk show positive improvements in waist circumference, BMI, triglycerides, and blood glucose. (Plus, your brain needs consistent breaks too, for both creativity and concentration.) If you’re taking a call or meeting that doesn’t need a screen, plan a “walk and talk” like on West Wing. Put a post-it note reminder on your desk, set alarms and standing “break” meetings on your calendar, or even stand up and walk around during TV commercial breaks at home. If you can, make a habit out of walking outside on your lunch break—there are added benefits in exercising outdoors so if you have the chance, take it!
MINI CHALLENGE: For every half-hour at work, use the 20-8-2 rule: 20 minutes of sitting, 8 minutes of standing, and 2 minutes of walking. Can you do this for a day?
18. Set. Record. Assess. Address.
In case you couldn’t tell yet, we’re big on writing stuff down (usually digitally but the ol’ pad and paper do just fine, too). After you’ve thought through the habit you’re trying to develop long-term, the first step is to set a clear goal for yourself with a strategy and framework around it, even if your habit is a small one. From there, it’s good to track your progress. That doesn’t mean weighing yourself constantly or obsessing over little ups and downs—for example, try recording how you feel before, during, and after a workout every time. Track measurements if you’re ready to abandon the scale. Track just the details of what you did and when you did it, anything to document your progress. Being able to see your progress over time will help you assess: Was the goal too big? Or are you ready to make it more ambitious? Does your plan need tweaking so you can follow through better? Being able to see clearly will help you address your issues going forward.
PRO TIP: You should record consistently but don’t “check in” too often, that can lead to anxiety about not seeing fast results. Just remember: this is about long-term habit building, so plan check-ins weekly, monthly, or even quarterly depending on the goal.
19. Streeeeetch it out.
Stretching plays an important role in healthy movement patterns, helping to improve flexibility and exercise performance, and prevent injury and arthritic pain. When it comes to stretching (and most other healthy habits), consistency counts. You’ll get the greatest and longest-lasting benefits over time from stretching daily, or even a few times a week. Stretching remains important as you age since your joints become less flexible over time, which makes everyday movement harder and even our balance unstable.
PRO TIP: If you want to get in the habit of stretching, it’s good to do in the morning to increase blood flow to your muscles and brain, but when it comes to exercising, stretch after and not before you work out—stretching is more beneficial when your muscles are warmed up.
20. The power of pairing.
Help solidify an exercise habit by pairing it with an activity you love. If you can only listen to your favorite podcast on the treadmill, you’ll have incentive to stick to your workout schedule. While it’s super helpful to pick an exercise you’ll enjoy more than others (maybe it’s dancing, a yoga class, long walks with your dog), pairing the activity with something that is positive, incentivizing, and rewarding helps you carry the habit through.
PRO TIP: Be specific. For example, don’t just say you’ll watch TV while you exercise. Pick a specific show that will help drive you, and use it as a motivational tool.
21. Keep yourself accountable. (By making someone else do it.)
For a lot of us, holding ourselves to a habit can feel really hard—we are able to accomplish goals for everyone but ourselves. If this sounds like you, it’s time you hooked yourself to a reliable accountability partner. While it’s fun to set goals together (for example, you’ll accompany each other to the gym every evening), your helpful person or group doesn’t need to be anything but available to you. Just telling someone you trust about your goal and asking that person to check in with you can be enough to kick us into high gear.
PRO TIP: Like everything else, there are apps for that! You can find meetup groups for just about anything. Even being able to see what your pals are up to on apps like MyFitnessPal can be extra motivation.
22. Track your steps.
Did you know your phone is probably already tracking your steps for you? (On iOS, you can find your number in your Health app.) It’s pretty cool to see how many steps you’ve been taking, and once you’re tuned into it, you might find yourself checking it regularly and finding little ways to boost the number up. If hitting 10,000 steps a day seems like too big a goal at first, set your own number and aim to reach it every day. (Working on #17 will definitely help get you started.) And speaking of accountability partners (#21), try setting up a friendly office competition—who can take the most steps over a week, a month, 3 months?
MINI CHALLENGE: Take the stairs seriously. The Health app also tracks stair climbing, and research shows “brief, intense stair-climbing” over sustained periods of time boost long-term fitness. Just 30 minutes a week (about 4 minutes a day) can make a difference.
23. Make a workout playlist.
Is there anything more motivating than a killer workout playlist? You know how it goes: a good pump-up song comes on and you find yourself going a little bit harder. Music isn’t just good for momentary boosts: it’s been shown to increase endurance, too. It’s good for the brain, it’s good for the body, and it makes working out a whole lot more enjoyable. Carter recommends: “Make your ideal workout playlist and start listening to it even before you work out. I know ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ still gets me going every time!”
MINI CHALLENGE: Refresh your workout playlist. If you’re sick of the same old tunes, crowdsource by asking friends what they listen to while working out. If all else fails, do a search for exercise playlists on Spotify.
Just remember: fitness + nutrition = holistic health. You’ve got this.