Exercising regularly is not easy for many people. Most of us simply don’t feel like we have enough time, with so much else to do. Or we just find it too big of a challenge and give up after a period of time. But determined to keep trying to build the habit, I decided to embark on a journey of 100 Days of Daily Exercise and see what happened. Below are 12 lessons that Regular Exercise taught me along the way. I hope they inspire you to keep on going!
1) You make time for what’s important.
2) Focusing on building a habit will take you further.
3) Small goals will help you get to the big one.
4) Exercising in the morning is a game-changer.
5) Do challenges to keep yourself motivated.
6) When it gets tough, don’t give up.
7) Alternate intensive workouts with relaxing stretch routines.
8) Regular exercise has a ripple effect on the rest of your life.
9) Try different workouts to find your perfect routine.
10) Over time, exercise becomes enjoyable.
11) What you eat (and drink) will affect your results.
12 Results take time, so commit to the long term.
Many of us feel like we don’t have time for regular exercise.
The truth is, you make time for what’s important to you.
In May of this year, I had just quit my 9-5 job and was doing a lot of soul-searching. In one of my sessions I asked myself a tough question: “Sian, do you really want to get super fit and do that amazing advanced yoga pose one day? Or not?” It was a goal I’d ‘wanted’ for the last couple years, but had never managed to stick to a regular exercise routine, and so hadn’t progressed. I asked the question to myself again “Sian, seriously, do you want to become super fit or not? Because if you do, you need to make it a priority. If you don’t, forget about it and focus on other goals”.
My answer was “Yes. Yes, I do want to be super duper fit.”
Is exercise important enough to you to prioritize?
I realised that, if that was true and I did want to get to my fittest body, I needed to commit to it. I had to put in the effort and work towards the goal if I was going to see any progress.
And so I committed to a personal challenge of 100 Days of Daily Exercise. There and then I said, “I am doing this, it is important”. And I made the time. Time I thought I didn’t have.
Yes, we are busy and tired and stressed. But you can’t say that you can’t carve out 15-30 minutes in the morning to move your body. If you really want to, you can make that time. By waking up half and hour earlier, you could make the change tomorrow morning.
Often we start exercising because we want to look better. Lose weight, slim down our legs, or build up muscle. Whatever the goal is, it’s usually focused on the physical aspect.
When you want to build a solid regular exercise routine, you need to focus on building a habit instead.
That means, doing it regularly.
Consistency trumps intensity.
You want to build an exercise habit that comes naturally, like brushing your teeth.
Exercise can sometimes feel like a drag, a chore, something you have to do on top of everything else. But by doing it consistently over time, you start to build a habit. Exercise becomes less of a burden and instead weaves into your life as part of your regular weekly routine.
Once you build this habit, it’s easier to stick to it for the long term. And what comes with longterm exercise…. results!
Instead of saying: ‘Okay, I’m going to the gym 3 days a week and I’m going to lose 5 kg this month!”
Say: “Okay, I’m committed to exercising 3 times a week indefinitely. This is a healthy habit I want to build because it is important to me. By sticking to this schedule, over time I will see the results I desire.”
If you want to exercise regularly, focus on building the habit, not the physical results. Create a weekly schedule that works for you, and stick to it. Try and do it on the same days, at the same times. Stop falling on and off that wagon, and instead build a real habit with longterm results.
Like with any big goals, it’s so important to break them down into smaller ones.
A big goal can feel too overwhelming. Whereas, when it’s broken down into small steps, can feel a lot more manageable.
This worked so well for 100 Days of Daily Exercise.
Set yourself milestones to keep up the momentum.
I set myself milestones along the journey – 30, 60, 90 and 100 days. 100 days of exercise felt too overwhelming. But aiming for 30 days felt a lot more doable. When I reached 30 days, I felt like I’d truly achieved something. It made me feel motivated and inspired to keep at it for the next 30 days.
Mentally, smaller goals are easier to achieve. And if you focus on only the smaller goals, one at a time, you’ll suddenly find yourself well on your way to the big goal. Exercising is a mental game too, and this helps you chip away at the block without feeling too overwhelmed and quitting.
Start small and focus on the long term.
Often when we start up exercising again, we want to go for it with intense workouts. But you run the risk of going strong for a few weeks and then falling right off that wagon over time.
This was an important lesson for me. By starting small, I was able to stick to it.
If you want to exercise every day, start with as little as 15 minutes a day in the beginning.
You could do a 30-Day Yoga Challenge as I did. This challenge is made up of 15-minute videos. Doing a challenge like this makes it much easier to stick to it. You simply wake up a little earlier, roll out the mat, and press play. What’s more, they are only 15 minutes, that’s it!
If you’re starting a new weekly gym routine, focus on going 2 or 3 times a week for a few months. Focus on a schedule that you can stick to over a period of months. Later on, you can increase it.
Getting my workout done first thing in the morning before the day started, was a serious game-changer
Unless you are very disciplined, leaving your workouts to the end of the day can be risky. Days have a way of sweeping us up and spitting us out at the end. Things pop up, and you may feel like you don’t have time to do your workout at the end of the day. Also, at the end of a long day, you may just want to relax and unwind… not exercise.
Each to their own, as some may love working out during the day over lunch break, or in the evenings. However, if you’re a beginner or wanting to build a daily exercise habit, morning workouts are your friend.
Get it done before the real day starts.
Working out in the morning at home is a great way to build a regular exercise routine.
You’re saving time (and money) by working out at home, instead of going to the gym. And simply need to get up a little earlier to get it done.
You’re also building a habit, by doing it at a similar time in the same place. This is a powerful way to build the habit quicker.
What happened when I didn’t exercise in the morning?
This happened a couple times, and it proved to be a real challenge to overcome!
For example, on Day 23, I went to Florence for the day. We left the house very early in the morning and I decided to rather do my exercise when I got home in the evening. It was really difficult to do it when I got home at 8 pm. On Day 68, I again almost fell off the wagon, going to Florence for the day and only getting to exercise at 10:30 pm that night.
Through experience, I’ve found that if you want to exercise every day, doing it in the morning is a great way to start. You can get it done before the day really starts and life happens. You’re far less likely to fall off the wagon that way.
Online fitness challenges are a great way to keep you motivated! There are so many online challenges to try, from 4 days to 30+ days. It makes it so much easier to keep it up every day, as you can just focus on showing up, and pressing play.
Start with a challenge.
I began the 100 Days of exercise with a DoYouYoga challenge. This was a great way to start, as it gives you a plan without having to think too much.
You could start with a simple 30 Days of Yoga Challenge. This challenge is made up of daily videos that are only 15 minutes long. That is not a lot of time to commit to, and all you need to do is wake up and press play. Let the teacher take you on a journey, and see where it takes you.
Try different challenges and learn more about the exercises you like.
Along the way, you can try all kinds of challenges. By doing this, you learn new exercises and poses, and start to find your favourites.
If you really aren’t liking a challenge or exercise routine, change it. There are so many free workout resources online, so find something you like. The first challenge I did was getting tough on my knees, so I found another awesome challenge I switched to on Day 10 that better suited my needs (and knees!).
Challenges keep you motivated.
If you lose motivation, stick to challenges, as they’ll really help you push through.
From about Day 40, I focused on challenges, one after another. A 5-day Slow Beginner Vinyasa, then a 4-Day Slow Intermediate Vinyasa, and then a 30-day Blogilates challenge. These challenges kept me going, as I didn’t need to think much.
Exercising can be a mental game too. And challenges allow you to think less and just focus on showing up. Once you’ve pressed play, you can just focus on doing what the instructor tells you to do, and use that as your motivation, step by step.
Exercising regularly, let along every day, is a challenge. It’s a physical and a mental game, and it gets tough at times. But push through, no matter what. You’ll feel even more motivated when you stick to it, even in the tough times.
When your body gets tired in the beginning, don’t give up.
In the beginning, your body will likely feel really tired.
After about 2 weeks, I started feeling exhausted. My body felt like it just wanted to lie down. In the mornings, it didn’t want to get out of bed. I’ve experienced this before, after not exercising for a while and then exercising regularly.
It’s part of the process, so push through.
You’re moving your body more than normal, and your muscles are tired. But don’t give up. Get up and press play, and know that eventually you’ll feel energised instead of dead-beat-tired. Trust the process and keep going.
Note: That said, check the next point, so you don’t’ overwork yourself. Your body needs time to rest too!
When your mind says no.
Your body may be tired and stiff, but mental blocks can be just as challenging.
There were a few days when I just didn’t want to exercise. I just wanted to get on with my day, or I wanted to just relax.
It’s important to remember that, over time, by doing it regularly, your mindset will change.
Exercise will become less of a chore, and more of an essential activity that makes you feel good.
This comes over time. As you build the habit, it comes more naturally to you. Also, as you get used to the exercises, poses and routines, you’ll feel more comfortable doing them. And as you get better physically, your mind will become less and less resistant.
Doing intensive exercise every single day is not a good idea. Your body and muscles need time to rest!
A good idea is to alternate your more intensive workouts with yoga-focused stretch routines. Don’t forget, exercise doesn’t mean intensive, long workouts. Exercise is simply:
1 [ mass noun ] activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness (dictionary definition)
Doing a 15-minute yoga stretch routine is exercise. Moving your body is exercise. So find a nice balance of exercises that push you, and others that allow you to stretch and restore.
Alternating intensive workouts with relaxing stretch routines is great for a few reasons.
It’s important to strengthen and lengthen muscles.
Firstly, it’s important to strengthen AND lengthen your muscles. Especially if you want a leaner physique.
Something Boho Beautiful recommends in one of her videos is to Strengthen and Lengthen. She recommends that after an intensive workout, you should stretch.
I like her figure as it’s strong and toned but still feels lean. Instructors are obviously doing their own workouts, so this gives a good idea of the results.
Using this approach of strengthening and lengthening, I always stretch for at least 5 minutes after an intensive workout. If you don’t know what stretches to do, just find a short post-workout video on YouTube. I’m telling you, you can find anything on YT!
I will also alternate days between purely yoga, and intensive workouts. After an intensive workout one day, it feels so good the next day to stretch for 20+ minutes. I can feel my stiff muscles thanking me.
Stretching is just as important an exercise as anything else.
Many see stretching as an add-on, perhaps even a little bit of a waste of time. But remember that it has just as many benefits as intensive exercises like strength training or aerobics.
There are many benefits of stretching. You increase your flexibility and range of motion. Your posture improves, and your back strengthens. These benefits (plus more) are incredible and compliment more intensive exercises like gym workouts, weight training or running beautifully.
Make regular exercise easier.
Secondly, this approach will help you exercises more. Instead of only doing intensive challenging workouts, some days can be for yoga, where you can simply focus on stretching out all those stiff and tired muscles.
There are so many wonderful benefits of doing yoga and stretching, so take advantage of them. And of course, yoga can also be intensive so you can choose the kind of routines you want to do.
But by having more days where you focus on yoga-based routines, you can exercise more often, and at the same time, give your body a little bit of a rest.
Instead of 3 intensive gym workouts, you could exercise every single day. Just do the 2-3 gym workouts on specific days, and then do 15 minutes of morning stretching on the other 4 days.
Your strech-sessions won’t be as intensive, but you’ll still be reaping the benefits.
Exercising is not just about looking good. There are so many other benefits.
The healthy lifestyle ripple effect.
After about 2 weeks of regular exercise, I naturally started looking at other aspects of my life.
When you start improving one area of your life, you start naturally working on other areas over time.
After exercising regularly and feeling healthier, I started looking at other areas that affected how I felt. What I was eating. My portion sizes. How much water I was drinking. How much sleep I was getting.
Think about it. After exercising and working on your body, an unhealthy meal doesn’t seem as appealing. It’s a healthy lifestyle ripple affect.
After about 2 weeks I started making small changes to the way I ate – Eating slightly smaller portions (as most of us eat too much), eating breakfast (something I have always struggled with), and cutting out sugar.
The lesson here is that, by making one change (like exercising more regularly), you’ll start to consider making other changes to support this new healthy lifestyle. After 30 days I was drinking a lot more water, and thinking about all sorts of ways to eat healthier. It was just a natural progression.
Morning exercise motivates the rest of your day.
Exercise is not just a physical activity. It has a very holistic affect.
The biggest effect I experienced, in the beginning, was on my mindset.
Doing exercise first thing in the morning put me in a very good headspace. Afterwards, I’d feel like I’d achieved something important. Being first thing in the morning, I’d feel so motivated for the rest of the day. Proud that I’d already achieved something important, and amped to conquer more.
Of course, I noticed a positive difference in my body. After 30 days I felt more flexible, a little slimmer, and with a better posture.
But I noticed more of a mental shift. Partly because I felt more confident and connected with my body. But also the go-getter mindset it gave me in the mornings. I was so proud of myself for committing and sticking to these morning workouts, that I started to take the same approach for work. I’d set smaller goals and face them head-on, one by one.
By committing every single day to work on yourself and to nourish your body, you feel proud. You feel inspired. You feel motivated to face more challenges. And every day you tick that ‘exercise’ box, you feel even more empowered to reach for the stars.
Remember, exercise is more than getting the body you want.
You get a ton of additional benefits on top of a healthier, leaner body.
It’s an all over mind and body therapy.
Exercise builds self-confidence.
One of the first positive effects of regular exercise was that I felt better physically. I just felt more connected to my body, and it gave me a little boost of self-pride and confidence.
It wasn’t that I was getting slim and toned, it was more of a holistic feel good feeling.
Because of the yoga, my posture felt much better. It felt like I was stretched taller. That is what yoga is great for, posture. Many people, as they get older, they start hunching over. Yoga keeps that posture upright, strong and centred.
I felt like my body shape changed a bit too. I didn’t suddenly lose weight or slim down my legs, but my body just seemed to hold itself better.
It may sound ethereal, but by exercising you connect with your body. You are moving your entire body, getting all those parts moving around. Stretching out tired and tense muscles. Twisting and turning, strengthening and lengthening. Awakening muscles in your body that normally sit dormant.
And it really does have an all-round feel good feeling. Both physically and mentally.
I have definitely felt a strong connection between exercise and self-confidence. When I have exercised regularly, I have felt better about myself. When you dedicate regular time to your physical health, you feel a sense of pride. As though you are truly tending to something important, your health.
Exercise is simply physical activity with the purpose of being healthier.
You don’t need to exercise for an hour a day or do a certain type of exercise. You can make it work for you.
Make it work for you.
We’re all different, no one-size fits all.
Find the exercise that makes you feel good and a routine that works for you.
My preferred exercise incorporates Yoga, and my preferred routine is a Morning Home-Workout. That’s what works for me.
You might prefer only going to the gym or the yoga-pilates studio in the evenings. Or you may prefer brisk morning walks outside or perhaps even salsa dancing. Or you may be like me, who like to always incorporate yoga and stretching because it feels so good.
Think about what forms of exercise would make you feel great, and create a schedule that works for you. You can always edit it along the way but start here.
Experiment and try different things.
Over the 100 days, I had a lot of fun trying different workouts. There is so much to choose from, so try new things as you find your ultimate routines.
I started with a 14-day HIIT-Yoga challenge, and by day 7 my knees were not happy. The impact of jumping up and down, and the lunges and squats, were putting a strain on my knees. At first, I felt despondent, but then I started looking for workouts on YouTube for sensitive knees and was excited to discover some great workouts perfect for me!
I found this cool video that focused on leg exercises for sensitive knees and started including it into my weekly routine. It opened up my mind, and I realised that one size really doesn’t fit all. And just because my knees were too sensitive for high impact exercises, didn’t mean that I couldn’t do intensive leg workouts.
Over 100 days you have the chance to try different challenges and workouts, and you learn new things.
One of the exercises I discovered and love is basically an alternative squat for sensitive knees – to simply sit in a squat position, but with your back against a wall and pushing up from the heels. This sets my legs on fire but doesn’t strain my knees like lunges. Awesome!
Of course, I workout at home, but the same applies to any kind of exercise. If you go to the gym, perhaps try a different kind of workout – add a spinning class to your weekly schedule for a month, and see what happens.
You never know what you may discover, or what type of exercise you may fall in love with.
Have quick workout videos ready for when you have very little time.
When you’re trying to exercise every day, you will run into challenges. That’s just life. Something will come up, or you’re overloaded with work, or your alarm doesn’t go off and you have to race out of the house.
Whatever happens, know that you can still keep up your daily exercise.
YouTube playlists baby!
If you embark on a daily exercise journey, spend a little time collecting videos, like creating a playlist on YouTube. That way, you have lots of choices, and can quickly choose a video and press play. Find a bunch of 10-20 minute workouts that you can store here, for any time you need them.
On days when I really had very little time, these short intensive workouts were my saviour.
I went on a few day trips this summer and had to wake up pretty early to catch the early morning train. Sometimes leaving the house around 6am. On these days I didn’t do my morning workouts, and instead did them when I got home in the evening. By the end of the day when I got home, I was feeling tired and demotivated. All I wanted to do was chill, not exercise! But what worked is the moment I got home, I’d roll out the mat and just press play on one of my saved short and punchy workout videos. Before you know it, the 10-20 minutes have passed and you can now chill, feeling like you’re stuck to your agreements and motivated to keep going.
Exercise is often a must-do, not a want-to. It’s something many do because they feel they have to, not because they enjoy it.
When you do exercise regularly, you can change this thinking, and can actually start to enjoy your workouts.
Over time, you get fitter. You’re most energised, strong or flexible. You’re getting better at whatever activity you’re doing. And as it becomes more comfortable doing it, you can actually start enjoying it, instead of fighting it.
In the beginning, I felt stiff and uncomfortable. I have very tight hamstrings, and yoga after a period of no exercise is challenging. My body resists, and I really have to push myself to keep going. But, over time, with daily stretching, I became more flexible and would find myself enjoying the hamstring stretches instead of resisting them. Breakthrough!
Love the Burn
The same applies for any kind of workout. Whether you’re going for a walk or run around the block, or a gym session. Over time, by doing it regularly, you’ll become more comfortable with it and to a certain extent, you’ll start enjoying it.
One of the most awesome workout videos I do regularly is Boho Beautiful’s 20-minute Ultimate Butt Challenge Workout. OMG, this workout kills me. Even now, after doing it 30+ times, it still makes me dig deep. Currently, I do it every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s such a great workout and makes me feel like I am awakening dormant muscles in my thighs haha
In this video, at 13 minutes, she says “Love the Burn, Feel It“. At this point in the video, my legs are burning. And I love hearing this. Love the burn. Feel it. Stop resisting and enjoy it, because it’s for a good cause, yes!
Over time, with regular exercise, you’ll start to be able to enjoy your sessions. You won’t feel like such a potato. You’ll be more comfortable. As you become familiar with poses and exercises, you’ll start improving on them. Getting more flexible, stronger and in control. And hey… you may actually start enjoying and possibly craving it!
It was interesting to see how similar my body looked after 100 days of exercise! After 100 days my body looked and felt the difference, but the results weren’t big by any means.
I had assumed, and now know, that many other factors affect the results. You can’t just exercise every day and eat (and drink) whatever you want and expect amazing results.
Eating better will speed up your results.
I am pretty healthy about 90% of the time. I eat lots of vegetables and eat very little processed foods and sugar. But over these 100 days, I let myself eat pasta, pizza and other tasty foods when the occasion arose, within reason. I still watched my portions and didn’t overeat, but I wanted to see what 100 days of exercise would do, without too much effort on food.
I’m convinced that, if I’d cut out all carbs and especially sugars over the 100 days, I’d have seen much bigger results.
This definitely proves that food has a huge role to play when trying to get super fit. While my body definitely felt and looked fitter, the results would’ve likely been much bigger with more focus on what I was eating and drinking.
If you want to lose weight and tone up quicker, you need to be consuming fewer calories than you’re burning. Otherwise, you just maintain.
Exercising every day still had its many benefits, but if losing excess weight is your goal, watching what you eat is incredibly important. You need to be burning off more calories than you’re eating, to actually get to those fat-cells.
Whole30 Eating Cleanse.
One way to reset your eating is to do a Whole30 challenge. On this challenge, you cut out dairy, grains, legumes and sugar for 30 days. You basically cut out all the food groups that could cause allergic reactions, intolerances or any clog-ups.
You eat super clean for 30 days and basically reset your body.
It’s an incredible challenge. No other challenge has had such a positive impact on my body. When I did it for the first time, I shed most of my excess weight and felt amazing!
So, that’s the lesson here. Exercise goes hand in hand with what you eat.
And so, during the next 100 days of daily exercise, I will do a Whole30 cleanse and see what happens. I’m convinced I’ll see a big change. Moving your body 15-60 minutes a day every single day, and eating very lean and clean, is sure to amplify the results. I’ll be sure to share the results afterwards!
After 100 days of exercise, I didn’t see a huge change in my body. Perhaps I thought that I’d start seeing magical results. Perfectly smooth thighs, and able to fit into my little black shorts. Not the case! 🙂
My legs looked a little leaner… maybe. But I wasn’t thinking “Wow, look how slim and toned I am!”.
But, that said, I felt great. I was a definitely a little leaner around the thighs, and my stomach was definitely firmer (all those Yoga Plank poses!). I stood tall, felt more centred physically and mentally, and generally just felt fitter from the inside, and motivated to keep at it.
I learnt to let go of the pressures of getting super fit and toned. It’s become more of a physical and mental therapy, that makes me feel great from the inside out. And over time, the physical results start to show.
So, if you want a regular exercise routine, commit to building a habit for the long term. Then you can relax knowing that, of course, over time, with good eating, you’ll see all the results you desire. The only way is up.
You can check out my 100 Days of Exercise Instagram Stories here.
You’ll see that sometimes I found it tough, or ended up exercising at midnight because I hadn’t gotten to it all day. But after 30 days, you get more and more determined. It becomes too difficult to quit after 60 days because you’ve come so far. You build up momentum, and suddenly you’re on 70, 80, 90, 100 days! Whoop!
Are you inspired to make exercising part of your everyday life?
If you’re thinking about getting your regular exercise going, go for it! Whether you want to commit to daily exercise or a three-days-a-week gym schedule. Whatever it is, go for it!
Let me know in the comments if you exercise regularly, and what your challenges and tips are. I’d love to hear from you!
Keep shining xoxo Sian