Using routines & investment for motivation

I’ve written about habits and routines before… but something happened today, which sort of surprised me, and I thought I’d share it and how I got here with it all.

If I’m honest, it’s taken me years to get here, but with the right environment and actions, I’m grateful to say that being motivated to be healthy and fit feels easy for me. Second nature, a big part of my life.

With working from home in lockdown, one of the benefits it’s provided is more flexibility, less time commuting (not that there was much anyway), and an ability to fit in more in the mornings, lunchtimes and after work. All leading to a better balance between work, life, health and fitness.

In the last few months I’ve been also trying to focus on getting better / longer sleeps, and touch wood this month I seem to have finally nailed it. Sleep for me is key to getting a balance with everything, when I lack in sleep it all seems to go haywire, but when sleep is good, life seems to be good.

This morning I was sore from the last two days strength workouts, and in my training routine and plan I’ve accommodated for that by planning a cardio / spin session on a Wednesday… to help ease things off, and get the blood and endorphins pumping. Or sometimes I listen and take a day of rest, without feeling guilty.

But this morning, when the alarm went off at 6am, I decided I’d lie in, til 8 or 830, then maybe do the bike later. But oddly my body and mind had other plans…

For some reason, I did as usual, as my routine has me do it – to get my first coffee to have in bed, at around 630am… I listened to some music, then an audiobook, and had my second coffee by 7am… and by that time, I felt I might as well just get up as normal and do my spin session.

I was in the garagym and on my spin bike in front of an Apple fitness workout by 7:38. 50 minutes later, I had finished in enough time to get ready for work, fuel with my breakfast (and another coffee!) to start my work day at 9. Feeling great from the workout, snd from getting enough sleep too.

There are a number of reasons why this was easy for me today, and below I’ll go into some of the reasons for that… why I felt motivated to stick to my habit of doing exercise first thing before my shower, breakfast and work.

Granted, I don’t have kids, and I have a very motivated and fit other half who also motivates me… but here goes…

These are key things – habits and routines that I’ve learned and put in place over the years, and maybe they could help you too. Or maybe you’re doing some of them already.

1. Getting enough Sleep
2. A balanced weekly training plan
3. An overall goal
4. Workouts you enjoy
5. A place to workout (with equipment you’ve invested in)
6. Flexibility without guilt
7. Morning routine
8. Evening routine
9. Friends / support / social support
10. Fuelling and Supplements

I’ve invested a lot in the above over the years. And I’m pleased to say that it all seems to be working for me.

Here’s a bit more on each of them:

1. Getting enough Sleep
For me – key to being at my best is to get enough sleep, and to have a good sleep routine. Ideally I like to get about 8-9 hours sleep a night if I can, and as I wake at around 6-630 weekdays, that means being in bed by 9-10 at night. I have this thing where if it’s past 22:22 then I need to be in bed, and anytime earlier than that, or earlier than 10pm is a bonus.

Recently I think we’ve got into a routine of going to bed around 9:30pm, which has meant I’ve been getting around 8.5-9 hours sleep, and I’m feeling good on it.

Whereas a few months ago I was getting 6/7 hours a night and having many broken nights…

I have struggled in the past with waking up in the middle of the night and getting up, sometimes for hours. Some of that is worry about something that’s happening, some of it is maybe getting into that habit of waking up, and allowing myself to be up when I shouldn’t be.

To fix this, I listen to audiobooks to take my mind off worry / racing thoughts, focusing on the story or words… and I usually drift off. Or I allow myself to get up to write the thoughts down for another time.

Talking things out in day time can also help, so the thoughts are dealt with before attempting to sleep (but not close to sleep time).

I recently saw a study that taking probiotics / health bacteria can also help with sleep… it seems to be working for me (see food and supplements below).

I also have an evening routine, see below, which includes things I do and things I don’t do, in the aim of getting better sleep.

As I said above, I think getting enough sleep, and getting undisturbed sleep is key to living your best life. Other tips include – our bedroom is dark with black out curtains, I have a wake up light, and I exercise regularly to tire myself out.

For more, read these books, I have them in audiobook format:

Night School by Richard Wiseman

Why we sleep: the new science of sleep and dreams by Matthew Walker

And finally, I wear my Apple Watch at night which gives me the charts above, and seems to be quite an accurate tracker. I also use my watch’s bedtime feature which reminds me before it’s bedtime and wakes me up without having my phone in the room on charge.

And my garmin gives me health and training data too, like body battery, stress, vo2 max estimate, and all the other stats (you know I like a stat or two right? 😂)

2. A balanced weekly training plan
If you read my blog regularly you’ll see that every week I plan and write out / publish my weekly training plan. I’ve learned I’ve the years what works for me in terms of training, tied into my goals, and right now I’m enjoying cross training whilst trying to build my running back up.

Above is a sample plan, but in general my weekly training plan looks a bit like this:

Mon: Strength / Bike
Tue: Run / Yoga/stretching
Wed: Bike
Thu: Run / Yoga/stretching
Fri: Strength / Bike
Sat: Run
Sun: Strength / HIIT / Stretching

With walks dotted in when I fancy it, and rest too.

My weekly training plan fits in with my overall goal, which at the moment is be active, cross train, take advantage of our garagym, and build my running back up.

This might be different if I was training for an event, with more running and more rest. And I might also put in a week every now and again where I have a full week of rest / just walking to get a good break from it all. Maybe coinciding with a holiday or travelling… but that’s not happening right now is it?! … boooo. So this routine it is instead.

Each week I look back on what worked and what didn’t work, and tweak it accordingly. This enables me to have a weekly plan that works for me and fits in with my life.

If you’re busier than me, or have kids etc, you might do less than me but have a focus on one or two things. Like getting out a walk four times a week, or two to three online classes / strength of HIIT classes a week. Or walks with the family etc.

You’ll see I don’t have any rest days in the plan, but what I do is I listen to my body, and if I feel like I’m tired, sore or need rest, I’ll take a rest day and maybe go a good walk, or just do absolutely nothing and have a proper rest / chill sometimes. See below about flexibility:

3. Flexibility without guilt
One of they key things I’ve learned about training and fitness is that rest and recovery is important and should be a part of the plan. Particularly if you’re training for a big event or marathon.

I’ve learned to take a day, a weekend of even a whole week off sometimes, giving your body and kind time to recover. Recognising when life or work needs to take over, so training and exercise might take a back seat, but hopefully you’ll be able to get a balance with it all.

There have been weeks at work when I’ve been so busy that I only exercised maybe 2-3 days a week, but my mind and body were confined by work. Or when my Mum passed away, when my mind had to deal with that, snd running became an escape on autopilot.

Flexibility also comes into play if your work can be flexible. If you can go a walk outside on phone calls / meetings, if you can finish early or take time back. If you can get out on your lunch time for some fresh air and a walk with someone for a chat or support.

Sometimes taking rest or time out might make you feel guilty, but I don’t let the guilt come in. I check to see if I need the rest, snd I get a plan together on how I’ll get back to exercising, whether it be the next day or the next week. Tomorrow is always another day to make a difference.

4. An overall goal
I mentioned this above, but having an overall goal is a great way to keep motivated. I’ve succeeded in being motivated in the past by having monthly mileage goals, for running or walking or cycling, or rounding mileage up to the nearest 5 or 10 miles. Or an annual target…

Exercising with others or entering an event or a month challenge to get a medal can also be motivating. Of exercising with those who can’t exercise in mind also helps.

For my first marathon back in 2011, I was finding the winter training hard. But I was running in aid of Brest Cancer Care anc my friend who had recently been diagnosed at an early age. I managed to get myself up to train for her and for the charity. (That was me – sore – after the marathon).

Nowadays with no events on the horizon (apart from the Brighton marathon in September which who knows if it’ll go ahead or not)… I’ve taken to the goals mentioned above – Being fit and healthy and using cross training and building up my running to hopefully get me in a position to be able to run the marathon in September / the jury is still out on that one!

I’ve also honed a morning routine which works well for me – see below.

5. Workouts you enjoy
I like running, walking, strength training, cycling and swimming. But I also enjoy doing some of these things with other people for the chat and social aspect (more in that below).

Something which has made a real difference in my motivation is having Apple Fitness workouts on hand, and having the space to do them in (as below). Or getting out on a bike or out for a walk.

Over the last 12 or so years, I’ve also learned about the activities above …. strength training, running, cycling, spin so that I can hopefully be at my best when I’m doing them. I’ve leaned about the recommended levels of activity you should do, to be healthy, I’ve learned how to lose weight and get strong, and I’ve learned how to balance it all.

Although recently it seems to have all gone back on again, I’m at a healthy weight and have got a balance with it all I think.

But most of all, I’ve learned what I enjoy best. So when I plan to do them, go a run, a walk, cycle, spin or strength training, I usually enjoy them and get a buzz from it. On the other hand, I don’t like rowing, or rock climbing, so I don’t do them. And although I like swimming, I tend to get ill after effects now, and the pools aren’t open anyway.

So find something you like, and get a buzz or good results from and do it. It could be as simple as regular walks on your own or with your friend or family, or a fitness class, whatever works for and motives you. Then build it up so that you’re regularly active and moving.

Back to Apple again…( I fear I may be becoming an Apple whore)… Apple Fitness has their ‘Time to Walk’ series which has various people talking to you and telling you stories as you both walk. It’s quite a good way to get lost in the moment and just walk (as are podcasts and audiobooks).

6. A place to workout (with equipment you’ve invested in)
As I’ve mentioned before, i feel really lucky to have Foxy’s Garagym in the form of our garage next to the house that we’ve done up. Particularly in lockdown it’s been a proper lifeline.

But it could just be a space with a mat and some weights or go a bit out and get a bike, or rowing machine if you thought you’d use / enjoy them. Inside just now, maybe outside in the Summer.

Fitness classes online are good too – from Apple Fitness (I’d recommend), to Joe Wick, Les Mills or a local PT running metafit or their own classes online). Or, once gyms open back up, you could go to them.

The main thing is having a space or place, or workout routine that works for you and makes it easy. I’ve learned over the years how I can do my own training, but it’s good to have others to motivate you and take you through workouts too.

It might cost a bit, for weights, or a bike, or treadmill, or classes, but invest in you and take the time to do the exercise and you’ll get the returns of health and well-being. Priceless.

Also, I’ve invested in gadgets too… my Apple Watch, my Garmin for training, all the kit in the garagym, the garagym itself, my bike and our spin bike, trainers etc etc etc. (Lucky I have up drink years ago (2009), and we can’t book holidays right now! = £££ to pay for it all). But it’s all an investment in helping and motivating me.

7. Morning routine
I’ve always found that in order to get my exercise / training done it’s best for me to do it first thing in the morning, before my breakfast and shower. It also helps me that my other half wakes at 6am and is in the gym for 630-715 every weekday morning.

– So my wake routine is set for around 6-630am.
– 630-715am I get myself a coffee then watch a Ted talk or listen to music or an audiobook back in bed… then get myself another coffee, make my breakfast so it’s ready, then listen or watch some more in bed.
– 715-830am is my time for exercise – it might be 45 mins strength and 30 on the bike… or less than that, but each weekday morning I do at least 30 minutes of movement in that time.
– 830-9 or 930am I get ready and have my breakfast.

I try not to check Facebook etc in the morning as it tends to have the ability of sapping time, but music or watching or listening feels like it gets me set up for the day. It’s good to have the windows open for some fresh air too, even if it’s cold. It’s nice hearing the birdies just now too.

At the weekends my body clock is mostly set as above, and I might get my exercise done early but not stick to such a rigid routine. Maybe getting it done by 9 or 10am then starting my day with anything else.

I appreciate that having kids might change the ability to do the above, but that’s where support from others or habits and routines can help too. It can be good to meet others for a chat and a run or workout too… something that motivates me for sure.

All of this can work well, but for me, it also depends on having a good evening routine where I get to bed at a reasonable time, and I get there chance to wind down ready for bed.

8. Evening routine
Again lockdown life and working from home has helped this… no longer does it take 10-30 mins to get home from work… 1 minute and I’m downstairs after 5 or 530.

– So then it might be a walk right after work to break the work day from the evening.
– Or / then it’s dinner between 530-7pm.
7-9 watching TV with the lights down mostly and I put my phone on charge in the livingroom, usually around 9.
– I’ll have had a chance to catch up with anyone in that time too.

The lights in our livingroom are now on wifi timers, so one goes off just after 7 making the room a bit darker, and the other goes off about 10pm. Darkness helps with the wind down I find.

Phones away, and just the TV and stories to take us away into another world and wind down. I charge mine downstairs overnight.

Recently we’ve been seeming to get to bed early around 930pm, but the aim is 10pm. Sometimes later at the weekend.

I tend not to have too many lights on before bedtime, and as I mentioned above, I used audiobooks to help me get to sleep. Some on my iPod or some through my Sony Bluetooth headphones from my phone.

I don’t tend to exercise in the evenings, as it winds me up, when I should be winding down, and I’ll have usually exercised in the morning anyway.

9. Friends / support / social support
I’ve mentioned my other half Fit Girl above and on here before – she really is one of the most determined and motivated people I’ve ever met. So it’s good we both like to exercise for health and fitness, and she pushes me to get going sometimes when I don’t want to.

(Fit girl prefers not to go public hence the lack of pictures of her… but trust me, she’s the most motivated and determined person you’ll meet!).

But support from others might mean they look after the kids, or join you on walks or runs, or encourage you to go out when you don’t really fancy it. Giving you time to yourself and maybe relying on you to support them in other ways too.

As mentioned above, I also have friends who I’ll run walk or train with, and it can be a really great motivator, and way to get things off your chest through chat. Or you could join a club or gym class once we’re able to again.

Find what works for you and get those who care about you to support you. Let them know your plans and see if they’ll be up for helping or joining you.

10. Fuelling and Supplements
Last but not least, in order to perform we need to be fuelled – and I like my food!

I tend to exercise on an empty stomach, but probably replace the calories I use through the day. I eat a good breakfast, and lockdown has enabled me to have simple home cooked lunches of maybe scrambled eggs on toast, or like yesterday I had a fillet steak and eggs for once.

I tend to eat similar things each day, which means I think I’ve got used to eating the right amount of fuel to keep me going, and hopefully don’t overeat too much or put on weight as a result. Saying that, I have got into a bit of a bad habit of eating a magnum a night, and a small mars bar when I probably don’t need them.

Find out what foods work for you and try to get a balance. Drink plenty water to hydrate too. Most importantly enjoy your food (but don’t over do it too often). It’s all about balance.

On supplements, some people think they’re a load of … but I take three regular ones which I think seem to work, plus I add a protein powder into my breakfast yoghurt for more protein in the morning.

Here’s what I take:

– Multivitamin A-Z
– Omega 3 plus
– Digestion

I have it after my breakfast, of yoghurt with protein powder, fruit n fibre or asda flakes with red berries, and blueberries, plus a black coffee. I tend to have most of my coffees black.

You could maybe get similar from boots or Tesco or whatever but they usually have good deals on. Like SAVE45… or my protein has the same stock and might have better deals.

For my vitamins, if you do get them, If you use this referral code, you get 50% off your first order too, so you could buy in bulk to start and see if they make a difference?

Multivitamins are what it says on the tin, all the vitamins you may be lacking form your diet. Omega 3 is the good fats which you get from salmon etc.

Digestion is the healthy bacteria … I saw it on a programme where a study showed they helped with sleep and health, and since I’ve been taking them I’ve noticed a difference (last month), although that could be to do with work settling down a bit.

I’ve also got melatonin from the US which I sometimes take at night, or ZMA which apparently helps with all sorts including sleep. I’m not entirely convinced on that.

Or for my protein, I buy impact whey protein summer fruits for breakfasts…

And I also get the odd protein bar for high protein snacks through the day…

My referral code for my protein is

Anyway, those are my 10 tips for being motivated to be active, fit and healthy. As I said, I’ve been tweaking all of this for years, and I am helped by having a supportive and motivated partner and friends who I can run and walk with.

But all of the above helps me to make movement and activity a key part of my life. It all helps me to be the best I can be, and makes me feel that I’m at my fittest and healthiest for a long time.

It allows me to eat a magnum / ice cream a night (if I want to!), or to be a bit more strict with food and intake and lose weight like I did in the first lockdown.

I think for this March, what I might do is be a little bit more strict with what I consume, and keep the activity up, and see what happens. Keep the magnums and other ice creams for weekends or treats.

But as my Dad always said, you can have a treat every now and again, just don’t have it every day.

The last wee thing I’d add is to try to have some fun. Find out what gives you joy and go do it. Life is too short. Do what you enjoy, connect and engage with others and make memories with those you love and like.

Here’s to less restricted times hopefully in the next six months to a year or so.

Hopefully all of the above might help you to get motivated to be the best you can be too.

Let me know what you think / how you get on / what works for you.

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