Designing (and staying motivated during) your own home workouts

I'm back! Well, back-ish. I am currently on a glorious 2-week break from rotations, post-Medicine and Surgery, pre-OB/GYN. (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post reflecting on the past 4 months of intense rotations). I am down in SoCal visiting Aditya, who is now a med student at UC Irvine. The past few days have basically been a lot of this: 

La Jolla sunset. I don't hate it. 

I spent the first few days watching an entire season of Jane the Virgin on Netflix, Facebooking, calling friends and reminding them that I'm alive, and sleeping in (yes, waking up at 8 AM is sleeping in). I also joined Aditya's boxing gym for 2 weeks, and it reminded me of how much I miss being in a workout class. I push myself so much harder when I am in a class--Tony's kickboxing class this afternoon left me on the floor, gasping for breath. It felt like being part of my Crossfit gym again. 

An American Gym. If you're ever in Costa Mesa, I highly recommend!

I have been progressively sporadic and lazy about my at-home workouts, both due to lack of time and motivation the past few months. I realize that working out in a class offers two key things missing from an at-home workout: (1) that "competitive" push you get from your coach and the other people in your class and (2) the variety and programming that takes the guesswork out of your workouts. You simply show up, do what your told, and get that great burn. If I had the time/money, I would always pick a class over a home workout. Sadly…yup. I don't. During med school/residency, your priorities are your patients and your clinical duties, and that means your schedule can be wildly unpredictable. I definitely could not have made it to a workout class the past 4 months, although that may change on easier rotations. Still, most gyms require at least a monthly commitment, and your schedule can be very variable rom week-to-week on even a less-busy rotation. 

So, here are a few rules for designing at-home workouts that will help you stick to them:

1. Program your workouts at the beginning of the week: You know the old adage-- fail to plan, plan to fail…or something to that effect. Your workouts will be the first thing to go when you come home from 11-15 hours at the hospital unless you have a workout plan already written out. Here's a sample 5-day plan: 

Day 1- upper body strength training A + metcon
Day 2- lower body A 
Day 3- rest
Day 4- upper body B + metcon
Day 5- lower body B  
Day 6- metcon
Day 7- rest

2. Keep it short and high yield: For me, 45-50 minutes, including a short warm-up, is the sweet spot. Any longer and I will either find an excuse to skip the workout or not finish it. This means that I generally warm up for 5 minutes, strength train for 30-40 minutes, and do a Metcon for 15 if I have time. If I'm not strength training, I will do a longer Metcon (30 min) or a workout video.    

3. Mix it up: I use a variety of sources for my conditioning so I don't get bored. Most Crossfit gyms post all their WODs online, so you can simply find a gym with great programming online and follow along, modifying if you don't have the equipment or the ability to do a skill. Two great sources I use are the Amity Crossfit website (my old gym) and the NorCal Crossfit websites. DailyBurn and Youtube (I usually search for "MMA circuits" > 20 min) can also be good.   

4. Be realistic and flexible: You will not be able to workout every single day. On some rotations, even 1-2 times a week may be a big accomplishment. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't happen the way you planned, and don't use it as an excuse to fall off the wagon. 

5. Use a workout video to keep you motivated: I signed up for DailyBurn about a month ago and have liked it so far, especially Anja's and Bob Harper's videos. However, it can get a little old doing the same workouts over and over (see #3 re: my fitness ADD). So, I simply change the moves! I will write down my own workout, but have DailyBurn playing in the background, and substitute different exercises in. That way, I have the coach yelling at me, the camaraderie of other people working out…all in my own living room. This is one of my favorite tricks for pretending I'm in a fitness class.  

Oh, Anja. Love you. Hate skier extensions. 

6. Have an accountability partner: One of my close friends in med school, Monica, also loves to exercise. Working out with her is fun, but with different schedules it's hard to make it happen. I text her if I work out, and vice-versa. That way, if I'm on my couch at 7 PM wanting to eat ice cream and I get a text that she's at the gym, I'm way more inspired to do my own workout. 

7. Eat a snack at work before coming home: By the time I'm driving home, I'm usually ravenous for dinner. However, once I eat dinner, I am too full to workout and have to wait at least an hour…and then it's already time for bed so I can wake up at 4:30 AM. I also haven't had much luck working out in the morning. A good proteinaceous snack around 5 PM keeps me going so I can exercise before eating dinner. 

What are your tips for sticking to at-home workouts?  


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