5 Fitness Habits To Finally Make In 2018 (And 3 To Break)
The new year is the perfect opportunity to re-dial in on your workouts, whether you’ve fallen out of your regular routine or you’re just looking to make your sweat sessions more effective. But while having the intention to focus on your fitness grind is great, your fitness habits are really the foundation of all of your efforts.
Fitness habits aren’t about the "best" workout or hitting the gym a certain number of times a week; they’re about establishing practices in your life that will support your workout routine and help you reach your goals.
Of course, fully embracing good fitness habits also means saying goodbye to the ones that don’t serve you. Sure, it takes time to make and break habits, but this isn't just about January get-fit resolutions—it’s about using the beginning of the new year as an opportunity to create long-term change.
Here are five key fitness habits everyone can benefit from in 2018.
1. Stick to a consistent fitness routine—even if that means planning fewer workouts a week.
Consistency is a major key to making fitness a part of your lifestyle. This starts with setting a schedule you can stick to. If you tend to fall off the fitness wagon, only to swear you’ll start working out six days a week (for real this time), you might be setting yourself up to fall short and give up—and so the cycle continues.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Instead of beating yourself up about it, re-evaluate what’s realistic for you.
Maybe you can hit the gym only three days a week, even if five looks better on paper—or maybe nights work better than mornings. In addition, “pick the best days for you to work out, even if it’s a Saturday and Sunday, and make those the days that you commit to," says fitness and lifestyle expert Lisa Tanker. "This will create consistency and help you establish the habit of working out."
When working out truly becomes a habit, you’re less likely to "yo-yo" in and out of your fitness routine, which can slow down progress toward your goals, explains Tracy Roemer, cofounder of Chicago-based interval workout Shred415. "Slow and steady wins the race. Keep your workout routine and your healthy habits consistent and you will definitely see results after a few months," she says.
2. Plan out your workout before you hit the gym.
When you’re wandering around looking for the next machine you want to use, or you’re mulling over the next abs exercise you want to do, you’re not just wasting time—it also might be making your workout less efficient.
Rather than winging it, decide what you’re going to do before you get to the gym. "Having a workout plan will keep you focused on executing exercises specific to the results you are looking to accomplish," says Tanker. You can write this out in your Notes app the night before a morning workout or decide on your game plan for the whole week on a Sunday night. (This helps ensure you’ll fit your workout into your schedule too.)
Plan out the moves you want to do, along with your sets and reps (or seconds). This will also help you resist the temptation to skip out on those last few moments when you don’t feel like it. Your plan should be structured but flexible enough that you can move things around if a machine is taken or there’s no floor space in sight.
3. Actually make warming up a priority.
"Don’t skimp on warming up and stretching before your workout," says Tanker. It may be easy to cut out, but it sets up an important foundation for the rest of your session. Warm-up stretches should be dynamic, which means you’re continually moving through them (rather than holding them in one place, or static stretching).
A dynamic warm-up preps your body for the work it’s about to do because it quite literally warms your muscles by driving blood flow to them. As your heart begins to pump more blood, your muscle cells become more ready to take in the oxygen (and other compounds) that are supplied through your bloodstream. Plus, warming up also reduces your risk for injury; muscles and connective tissues are more elastic when they’re warm, so there’s a lower chance of pulling and straining them.
In short, it’s worthwhile to take five to 10 minutes before a workout to get in the zone (physically and mentally).
4. Diversify your workout routine—at least a little bit.
While it’s awesome to center your fitness routine on things you feel good doing, repeatedly doing the same exact workout will make it less effective over time, as your body gets good at it. "We all tend to get in the habit of doing the same things all the time, and the body adapts," explains trainer Shauna Harrison, Ph.D.
Part of that adaptation is good. After all, it means you’re fitter or stronger, and it takes consistency to get to that point. That’s awesome! But if your workout starts feeling easy, that’s a sign that you need to mix things up. Otherwise, you might maintain your gains, but you won’t continue to see improvements. Not to mention, doing the same thing over and over again can just feel boring, which makes you less likely to want to do it.
There are several ways you can keep your body challenged (or just interested). "Make the effort to try something new. Whether it’s a new class, different machines, or even changing up the order of your exercises, find new ways to add variety. You might enjoy it more than you think and maybe even get better results," says FitFusion trainer Kenta Seki. You can also switch up your speed, intensity, weight, type of workout, time, and distance, suggests Harrison.
If you always do steady-state cardio at the gym (like a treadmill jog), you can also try high-intensity interval training to jumpstart results. "Focus on pushing hard for one minute, followed by one minute of recovery, or try switching to 30-second pushes and 30-second recoveries," suggests Bonnie Micheli, co-founder of Chicago-based interval workout Shred415.
All this doesn’t mean abandoning your favorite type of exercise entirely—it just means that it’s not the only workout you should do. Keep a few different workouts in your rotation, and mix things up when they start feeling like a piece of cake.
5. Start a goal-setting practice (without focusing on aesthetics).
When you have a specific objective you’re working toward (rather than simply staying or getting in shape), you’re more likely to stay on track with your routine. "This year, try writing down your goals, and break them down into monthly, weekly, and even daily smaller targets that you must accomplish," says Seki. "Set deadlines and hold yourself accountable." Make a practice of regularly re-evaluating as you meet them. (Maybe that’s once a month, or four times a year.)
These should be measurable goals, such as being able to do a full push-up off your knees, running a certain distance without stopping, finishing a particular race, or lifting a certain amount of weight.
Keep in mind, it’s important that you’re not only working toward aesthetics, stresses Harrison. "Mentally, [working out] becomes a far more freeing experience when we move for the sake of feeling good, for strengthening our minds and bodies, and for really experiencing the body and all that it can do," she says.
And here are three habits you can leave in 2017.
1. Lose the all-or-nothing mindset.
People often think of a healthy lifestyle as all-or-nothing: Either you're working out every day and eating flawlessly, or you’re not. It’s time to break out of that mindset, says Seki. "Fitness doesn’t have to be this way. Just because you [didn’t feel great about your nutrition] for a week or missed a few workouts doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel until next year," he says.
Keep picking up where you left off and moving forward, even when you think the timing isn’t right. (Maybe you’ve got a vacation coming up, or you’re really busy with work.) "You can’t wait for everything to be perfect for you to get your health and fitness on track. That perfect moment may never come, so always do what you can," says Seki.
2. Stop doing workouts you hate because you think you should do them.
This one’s a biggie, and trainers say it time and time again: The best workout is the one you’ll do. If you hate indoor cycling, don’t do it just because your roommate swears by it. If you can’t stand running, no need to force yourself to log miles.
While it is important to have a mix of cardio and resistance training in a well-rounded fitness routine, it’s hard to stick with something you don’t like just because you’ve heard it’s good for you. Try different workouts until you find some you actually like. Maybe that’s CrossFit, boxing, or barre. And don’t forget, a brisk walk counts as moderate physical activity too—so you can always put on a good podcast and go for a walk if more intense exercise just isn’t your thing.
3. Crack down on procrastination.
This happens to the best of ’em, trainers included. "If you’re like me, sometimes you sit around and delay going to work out," says Seki. "You watch a little more TV, scroll through Instagram, and say you’ll work out in a bit. But sometimes you delay so long that it’s too late and you have to skip your workout completely." (Sound familiar?)
Procrastination can seriously interfere with your fitness hustle. While it’s easier said than done, the best thing you can do is push through the urge to lie on your bed in your workout gear. "Make an effort to ignore that little voice in your head that tells you to wait a while," says Seki. "Don’t even give it a chance to talk. Just get up and [go]! The more you flex your willpower muscles, the stronger they get." And this goes for making and breaking all fitness habits.