How to get back into an active routine after a summer of fun

Let’s be serious – summertime is spectacular. Hiking in the woods. Relaxing at the cottage. Socializing on the patio. It’s all pretty great.  

But one unfortunate downside is that your active routines can quickly go out the window. That’s why September is all about getting back in the groove.

Of course, for many that’s easier said than done. Kids are just back to school, the days are already getting shorter, and after a couple months of not doing much, it can be a little harder than simply picking back up where you left off – especially when it comes to exercise and physical activity.

It’s like Newton said, objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Once you’ve stopped, it can be hard to regain lost momentum.

With that in mind, here are some tips that will help you overcome the most common challenges and increase your chances of getting back into an active routine.  

1. Renew your commitment

To make a change stick, you have to fully commit. You can’t just want to start going to the gym again. You can’t just wish or hope or try. You will. You will go for a half hour walk every day, or start training for a 10k, or going to spin class twice a week, or doing yoga for an hour every Saturday. You will tell your friends and family that this is something that you’re doing. You’re determined. It’s happening. You will.

2. Start super tiny

Of course, you don’t have to commit to something massive. Small steps will take you far over time.

Starting small sets you up for success. It makes it easy. It makes you feel good and gives you something to celebrate, helping to create a positive feedback loop.

You do the good thing, you celebrate your win, and you feel good. So good, in fact, that you want to do the good thing again. And then you do, and then you celebrate, and then you feel even better. And the cycle repeats.  

The key here is making it really, really tiny. So tiny that you’d never want to skip it. So tiny that you’d be embarrassed not to complete it. Think 2 pushups, a five-minute walk, or just going outside.

That’s all it takes to start getting into a good cycle, then a good rhythm, and before you know it, an active routine.

3. Tiny, but frequent

Quick and easy is good, but you also want to aim for often.

It’s like taking pills – a pill you take every day is easier to remember than one you take every other day or only once a week.

That’s because almost half the decisions we make every day are out of habit. So, the key is making one (or a few) of those daily habits more active. Think of things like taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or stretching for a few minutes when you wake up, or doing ten squats while you’re waiting for your coffee to brew.

Tiny, but frequent. When you’re talking about going to gym, the magic number seems to be at least 4 times a week. But again, the trick is making it small. Think 10-minutes on the treadmill or elliptical, rather than an hour.

4. Have a trigger

Habits are easier to form if they take place immediately after something you already do. That’s why sneaking in some light activity as soon as you wake up, or after you brush your teeth, works so well. You’re less likely to forget, or make an excuse, because you have a reliable trigger.

Some other good ones are right before or right after you eat lunch, as soon as you get to work or right when you get home (if you work pretty regular hours), or before you go to sleep. Anything that you do consistently at about the same time every day can work.

5. Don’t rely on motivation

Finally, one of the biggest myths about forming a new habit is that it takes a huge amount of motivation.

This myth is a problem because, as I’m sure you’re aware, motivation comes and goes. You might be pumped about getting active right now, but what about next week? What about when you’re all snuggled in to your warm bed on Monday morning?

The solution? Stop relying on motivation alone. You’re not always going to feel motivated and that’s okay. That’s why focusing on forming a habit is so important. Because once it becomes a habit, once it becomes a normal part of your routine, you won’t need motivation. You’ll just do it because it’s what you do.

Bonus tips!

We’ve covered the five big ones, but there’s plenty of other smaller things you can do to get on track, like:

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day – just keep going
  • Celebrate your wins
  • Do something you WANT to do, not something you think you SHOULD
  • Don’t take an allor-nothing approach – a little bit is always better than nothing
  • Focus on what you WILL do, not what you WON’T
  • Lay out your workout clothes or running shoes the night before
  • Find a friend that holds you accountable and makes exercise FUN
  • Put it in your calendar, phone, or planner