How to get back into a routine?
As summer comes to an end, we realize our routine has become anything but routine – with weekend travel and spontaneous adventures, that rhythm and momentum created in colder months can fall by the wayside. Maybe it's left you energized or maybe you're feeling downright exhausted.
You follow your diet religiously for a week and then break it with a weekend binge. You commit to working out more, hit the gym for two days, and then struggle to get off the couch after a long day of work. You set a vision for your career and get excited by the possibilities, only to get dragged down in everyday responsibilities and not return to your dream until months later.
I’ve been there too, but as time rolls on I’m beginning to realize something important:
These small hiccups don’t make you a failure, they make you human. The most successful people in the world slip up on their habits too. What separates them isn’t their willpower or motivation, it’s their ability to get back on track quickly.
There will always be instances when following your regular routine is basically impossible. You don’t need superhuman willpower, you just need strategies that can pull you back on track. Habit formation hinges on your ability to bounce back.
With that said, here are 16 strategies that you can use to get back on track and bounce back right now…
1. Set small, realistic goals
Hovering in and out of any routine (including exercise) can feel extremely frustrating but it’s important to remain positive. By setting realistic goals for yourself, you will manage your expectations and continue to feel proud of the little milestones you accomplish as you work yourself back into your routine.
2. Find a workout buddy
Working out with a friend isn’t just fun, it can also be quite motivating. Chances are your friend needs you just as much as you need them, so why not partner up and encourage one another? Maybe you book side-by-side bikes at SWERVE and look forward to that mid-ride high 5, or maybe you compete on different teams and put post-ride smoothies on the line. Whatever it is, you'll both be glad you showed up–for each other and for yourselves.
3. Invest in something new
With the change of seasons comes a sense of excitement, which is exactly the feeling that instructor Alex Porter taps into when getting back in the swing of things.
“As a kid, I loved going back-to-school shopping for supplies and clothes. I still feel the shift as summer ends and the weather begin to change. I'm no longer in school but I'm still a student of life, constantly learning new things.
It can be as simple as buying a new journal or investing in a new pair of running shoes. By doing or wearing something new, I bet you'll get that first day of school feeling.
4. Sign up for a race
“If fitness is your focus, sign up for a race! A 5k, 10k, half marathon, mud run, triathlon...whatever gets you excited to jump back into your workout routine,” suggests trainer Jamey Powell who is no stranger to races.
Fellow instructor Jenna Arndt agrees with Jamey, “I pick a fall challenge (usually a marathon) and really start to crack down on training. Having a concrete goal/set date helps me stay on track." When you have that date on the calendar, you can plan your workouts from there to make sure you're sticking to your training and cross-training plan.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
We've all hear "the only bad workout is the one you didn’t do," so if you aren’t exactly where you want to be don’t beat yourself up over it. You are making small strides to get back into the rhythm you’ve been yearning for. The important thing is to stay focused and consistent and before you know it, you’ll be achieving your goals.
6. Keep yourself accountable
By signing up for a class, keeping a journal of your workouts, or even nominating a friend to be your accountability buddy to trade early morning texts with, there are tons of ways to keep yourself in check, so find what works for you.
7. Make sure you know your why
The best way to keep up a consistent habit is to make sure you know why you're doing it. When it's tough to get out of bed, or you're tempted to trade a sweat session for a seamless order, think back to your reason for starting and imagine the outcome you're working towards.
8. Create a plan and write it down
Instructor Skyler Mosenthal is a firm believer in scheduling workouts in advance. “Make time for a workout by putting it in a daily planner or online calendar. Sounds simple enough, but simply writing it down makes it official and helps to commit consciously to getting after it.”
9. Make it a habit
By sticking to a plan for a certain amount of time, this becomes part of your daily routine thus ingraining the habit back into your life. Skyler explains, “In my experience, if I persist through something for 10 days, then it forms as a habit. I no longer have to make the decision to do it because it is just part of the routine!”
10. Celebrate your success
When something becomes a habit, it can be easy to take it for granted. It’s important to acknowledge your accomplishments and appreciate the hard work you are investing in yourself. Instead of just checking them off the list, celebrate the fact that you did what you set out to do, no matter how small the task. Success will continue to breed success.
11. Remember to live
Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans, so if something fun comes up that forces you to re-jigger your workout plans, tell yourself it’s okay. Just because something comes up does not mean all your hard work was for nothing. Go out and live your life and get back on track tomorrow.
12. Stick to your schedule, even in small ways
It’s not the individual impact of missing your schedule that’s a big deal. It’s the cumulative impact of never getting back on track. If you miss one workout, you don’t suddenly feel more out of shape than you were before.
13. Have someone who expects something of you
I’ve been on many teams throughout my athletic career and you know what happens when you have friends, teammates, and coaches expecting you to be at practice? You show up.
The good news is that you don’t have to be on a team to make this work. Talk to strangers and make friends in the gym. Simply knowing that a familiar face expects to see you can be enough to get you to show up.
14. Design your environment for success
If you think that you need more motivation or more willpower to stick to your goals, then I have good news. You don’t.
Motivation is a fickle beast. Some days you feel inspired. Some days you don’t. If you want consistent change the last thing you want to rely on is something inconsistent.
Previously, I’ve written about strategies for overcoming a lack of motivation. For example, focusing on your identity instead of your results or setting a schedule instead of a deadline or developing a pre–game routine.
It sounds so simple, but make sure that the habits that you’re trying to stick to are actually important to you.
Sometimes forgetting your habit is a sign that it’s not that important to you. Most of the time this isn’t true, but it happens often enough that I want to mention it.
It’s remarkable how much time people spend chasing things that they don’t really care about. Then, when they don’t achieve them, they beat themselves up and feel like a failure for not achieving something that wasn’t important to them all along.
You only have so much energy to put towards the next 24 hours. Pick a habit that you care about. If it really matters to you, then you’ll find a way to make it work.
16. Ask for help
I’ve shared this story in the past. But, I’ll repeat as quickly as I can.
Years ago, I joined a gym. I went three times a week with a friend. It was a win-win for both of us. We got to hang out together while also pushing each other to work out. Unfortunately, he changed jobs, and his schedule changed. Once that happened, I also quit going to the gym.
The point is this; don’t go on this journey alone. Turn to your support systems like your family and friends. Work with a coach or mentor. Join a support or organization. When you get ahold of your support systems — they can help motivate you to commit to your routine when you don’t feel like it.
Anticipating those backwards steps can make all the difference in the world. Develop a plan for getting back on track and recommit to your routine as quickly as possible.
P.S. If you want more practical ideas for how to build new habits (and break bad ones), check out my book Atomic Habits, which will show you how small changes in habits can lead to remarkable results.