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Experts reveal how to find a workout you will actually stick to this year

Tips and tricks for finding a workout you actually like

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Your best friend still swears by CrossFit, but the 10-class pass you purchased in 2016 still has nine classes left—a coat rack. Your favorite marathon involves Netflix. You may share tons in common with people who live for these workouts, but a love of the same exercise is not one of them.

Still, you may want to start a workout routine this year. Fitness instructors and other experts always reiterate a version of the same line: The best workout is one you like because you’ll stick with it. The problem? You haven’t found one you like, despite tons of advice from family and friends. Your “trial and error” phase always seems to end in an error. Experts suggest trying again.

“More exercise can help avoid plateaus and bring health improvements such as cardiovascular health, increased energy levels, enhanced mood, stress reduction, better sleep, and weight management,” says Margaret Barschow, M.Ed., the founder of MARGO’S Low-Impact Health Club. “Setting a goal to exercise more is a positive commitment to one’s overall well-being.”

Barschow and a pair of other trainers shared tips for finding a workout routine you like and crushing your goals.

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Engage in self-reflection

Feel overwhelmed by the options on the market or at the gym? Are you dubious of starting a workout routine after a few starts and stops? Put working out aside for a moment. How do you like to spend your free time?

“If you like being outdoors, activities like hiking or cycling might be appealing,” Barschow said. “If you enjoy music, dance-based workouts could be a good fit. Aligning your workouts with your interests can make them more enjoyable.”

Asking yourself some key questions can also help. Luke Carlson, the founder and CEO at Discover Strength, suggested asking yourself:

  1. Can I stick with the workout when busy and life throws me curveballs? Carlson explained you want an activity that keeps you returning even when the going gets tough. “If it isn’t sustainable when you are busy or stressed, don’t start it,” Carlson said.
  2. Does the workout align with my goals? Get clear on what you want to accomplish. Are you aiming for weight loss? Feeling good? Building muscle? “Pick the type of exercise that drives these results,” Carlson said.

  3. Is the workout safe? Your motivation may be sky-high, but going from couch to marathon in a New York minute isn’t recommended. “Too many well-intended exercisers end up injuring themselves in the name of the exercise,” Carlson said. Luckily, apps offer filters for workouts for beginners, and personal trainers can help you customize a plan.
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Give a ton of options a try

Gyms and apps may offer intro offers that allow you to try different classes at a reduced (or no) cost. Take advantage of the perk as a way to experiment with different activities.

“Trying different types of exercises exposes you to a variety of options,” Barschow said. “Whether it’s dancing, hiking, weightlifting, or yoga, exploring different activities increases the chances of finding one that resonates with you.”

a man doing push ups
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Sign up for a challenge or program

Get your competitive juices flowing and form a new habit while you do so by signing up for a challenge. You might see them frequently on social media — doing 100 daily push-ups or moving for 30 minutes five times weekly — especially in January. Experts share some are worth trying, especially if they’re linked to an app or gym.

A program will map out your training schedule and take out the guesswork for you,” said Luke Zocchi, a Centr personal trainer. “I’m a big believer that the easier it is, the more chance you will do it because it’s not too complicated.”

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Make working out a group effort

People who work out together…stick to fitness regimens longer. Signing up for group fitness or exercising with family and friends increases your chances of sticking with a workout routine.

Exercising with others can add a social element, making the experience more enjoyable,” Barschow said. “Joining a class or having a workout buddy provides motivation and accountability.”

a man doing a plank with dumb bells

Pivot when necessary

You tried a workout and got another mental “error” message. The routine simply doesn’t feel “you.” Should you stop? That depends.

“You’ll know right away if you like a certain activity or not,” Barschow said. “If there’s a lack of interest, try something different.”

However, be honest with yourself.

“If it’s just that you find it challenging it’s recommended to give a new workout routine at least four to six weeks,” Barschow said. “It takes time for the body to adapt. If there’s significant discomfort or pain, stop immediately.”

Then, call your doctor.

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Enlist a personal trainer

Working with a personal trainer can be especially useful if you’re trying to formulate a workout routine for beginners or need more personalized help finding the exercise you love.

“A personal trainer can be great to work one-on-one with the person and really individualize what they need,” Zocchi said. “They are really good at holding you accountable and getting the most out of a training session because it’s just you and the trainer.”

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Fitness instructors suggest finding exercises you love will help you stick with a workout routine. However, that can be more challenging than movement to some. You may feel rather burned by the whole idea of fitness if you’ve tried finding a workout you enjoy only to strike out. Experts recommend giving working out another chance. Think about what you enjoy outside of the gym, like outdoor time. Perhaps you’re better suited for outdoor cycling than a treadmill in a cramped gym. Working with a personal trainer and giving group fitness a try can help you find accountability buddies and turn exercise into a social activity.

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