Meal prep is a seriously hot topic right now in the health food world (Read my post on meal prep here). People are spending hours on Sundays getting healthy meals and snacks ready for the upcoming week. Being prepared means you are more likely to stick to your healthy diet, and less likely to be tempted by not-so-healthy choices. I started thinking about how effective this strategy is for people, and wondered if the same could be applied to getting into a regular exercise routine. Enter workout prep.
When I ask people why they don’t stick with a regular exercise routine, I pretty much get the same answers as why people don’t stick to a healthy eating plan. They aren’t motivated. They don’t make time for it. They forget. They are busy doing other things. Well, meal prep can pretty much take care of all of those excuses, so workout prep should be able to do the same, right?
In order to find out, I recruited a few people from the Nutrition and Wellness for Life Community who sometimes struggle with maintaining a regular exercise routine. My volunteers were Danielle, Erica, Kristen, and Dawn. I asked them some questions about their exercise habits, and then provided them with a few tasks to see if they could improve the frequency and consistency of their workouts.
Before I gave them their tasks for the experiment, I asked each participant to answer the following questions:
- How often do you exercise now?
- Do you exercise at home or at a gym?
- What obstacles get in your way of maintaining a regular exercise routine?
- Do you meal prep? (I know it seems unrelated, but go with it.)
Here is how each person answered:
I exercise on average 2-4 times a week. Exercise at home. I am very much a creature of habit so if my normal routine gets off track the exercise goes out the window. I do meal prep.
1 . 5 days a week if I don’t get derailed 2. Home 3. Appointments or changes in my daily schedule. I have a time and if it doesn’t happen then, it’s not happening! 4. I meal plan and do some prep for lunches.
I exercise when I can, sort of ebbs and flows but nothing regularly. I exercise at home. Biggest obstacle is time and energy, being ok with leaving a messy house or kids and take care of myself. I do not meal prep.
1-2 times a week when I find time At home Busy schedule with kids, work, etc… fatigue/difficulty waking up before 5 to fit it in before work No, I do not meal prep
Once I received these answers, I knew I was dealing with the perfect group of ladies for this experiment. All four ladies are busy moms who also work and struggle to take care of everyone else and themselves at the same time. Next, I messaged them with their tasks. It happened to be right around Christmas time, so it was really poor timing on my part. In fact, I had a few other volunteers who just couldn’t follow through with the experiment because of the hectic timing. I totally understood this, and I am so grateful to these four ladies for giving it their best shot. Here is the message I sent them:
Ok, so the experiment involves trying out doing some exercise prep to make it easier to stick with a routine. If you meal prep, then you know what I’m talking about. If not, then check out this post to get the idea.
I want you to try doing 4 things over the course of a week to see if any of them improve your odds of exercising.
- Using whatever type of calendar you want (paper, phone), write down your planned workouts for the week. Include what day, time, where you will work out, what type of exercise you will do, and the duration.
- If you are working out at a gym, pack your bag the night before with everything you need in it. If you work out at home, lay everything out the night before. This should include a top, bottoms, sports bra, underwear, socks, sneakers, water bottle, towel, and whatever else you need.
- If you are going to be listening to music during your workout, make sure your device is charged and loaded with a great playlist ahead of time.
- Set up a basket in your fridge and/or pantry and fill it with healthy pre- and post-workout snacks.
The idea here is that when you have a plan and some prep done ahead of time, it will be easier to fit exercise in to your busy schedule. I am curious to see if the same principles of meal prep can apply to working out. After your week passes, I will just need a little feedback from you. I just want to know if prepping helped you exercise more, and specifically which tasks and tips were helpful and which were not.
I realize that I picked the craziest time of the year to do this experiment, so just do your best. Thank you!
After a week or so, I checked in with the ladies to see how the experiment went for each of them. Each volunteer had varying levels of success, but I think they all saw the value of the experiment in some way. Here is what they had to say.
Ok done with the week. I wrote out my weekly plan last Wed which helped a ton. I generally write daily lists and if I put “exercise ” on the list I will do it. But I like doing a weekly list instead of daily and planning which days I worked out vs didn’t. I always put my work out clothes on as soon as I get up on the days I am scheduled to workout because it’s generally my days off of work and right after I drop the kids off at school. I find I am more likely to work out if I have my clothes already on as opposed to having to change into them. Here is my schedule for last week. I didn’t work out today because I am not feeling well.
I love the simple way Danielle used to plan out her scheduled workouts. Just using the Notepad on her phone helped her keep herself accountable. That plan probably took only a minute or so to get down. It seems like she also figured out that wearing her workout clothes first thing in the morning made her more likely to get it done. Great job, Danielle!
I found for me that having a schedule is the most important. I set a basic time daily to do the workouts and knowing what workout I am doing that day keeps me motivated because I don’t have to figure it out…kinda like planning out dinners for the week. I hang up the workout calendar from the DVD I am using. I also work out at home so my stuff is generally out and ready to go. The more I make it part of my schedule, the more habitual it is. It also helps that I am doing piyo, so I only need pants, sports bra and a mat!
Erica reinforces the fact that having a schedule planned out is what keeps her in the workout habit. She also seemed to see connection between meal prep and prepping for exercise. Keep at it, Erica!
I absolutely found that writing down was important/beneficial because it held me to what I was going to do. The bag prep wasn’t necessary because I Just do a DVD or YouTube video at home. The healthy snack also wasn’t really necessary for me because I don’t work out hard enough to need anything crazy after (I know some people need protein shakes, etc but I am not that hard core).
So Kristen also found that writing her workout schedule down ahead of time helped her stick to it more. Nice work, Kristen!
Dawn chose to message me daily for the first few days of the experiment, then she summed it all up at the end of the week.
Ok, so yesterday did not work, but today I got up early enough and the clothes waiting there for me made me workout… so, so far 1 for 2
2 for 3
3 for 4…
Today was good, Christmas Eve worked, but the day before that and on Christmas Day did not work out.
It seems like Dawn really found it beneficial to have her clothes laid out the night before. Awesome job!
Just like with meal prep, not every aspect of workout prep will work for every person. Our lives, routines, and needs are all different. But why not try a few different tasks to see what does work for you? Try this experiment for yourself for a week and see what happens. Feel free to message me your results. I would love to hear from other people to see what worked for them!