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Making fitness into a habit isn’t simply about building strength or endurance. In order to ensure you’re making a lifestyle switch that’s both consistent and effective, it’s important to give your attention to general self-care tactics while you develop exercise habits.
Self-care takes a lot of different forms—some fitness related, some not. No matter how they manifest, they can be meaningful tools in your fitness journey.
The benefits of stretching and warming up
Probably the most important fitness-related form of self-care is establishing and maintaining a good warmup and stretching routine.
According to fitness instructor Katie Austin, it’s “something that people overlook a lot because they’re super busy and think that they don’t have 10 minutes” to give to warming up or stretching.
But you do have the time, she argues. All you need is five minutes before and five minutes after your workout. Taking the brief time to warm up, cool down and stretch will not only “help you in the long run” by preventing injury, it will likewise “help you perform better in your workout,” she says.
Dedicating just 10 minutes to the self-care practice will “prevent injury, tension [and] stress in your muscles.” Plus, “it will be better for your mental health as well. You’ll sleep better. You’ll breathe better.”
Attention to the mental health benefits of movement is at the crux of the fitness instructor’s message. Whether we’re talking about increasing your fitness or implementing more consistent self-care practices (such as stretching), the goal is the same: to improve your mental health at the same time as your physical health.
“The mental health benefits are a huge reason that we all need to be exercising and eating healthy,” Austin explains.
Austin’s other favorite forms of self-care
An integral part of establishing any sort of routine—and, in this case, a fitness regimen—is making sure you have the right approach to forming habits. Austin thinks that, too often, people strive for too much when approaching new habits. They try to implement a new practice every day of the week, which makes them far less likely to establish consistency.
The key is to make your goals “doable and “realistic.” Rather than trying to read every day, aim for three or four days a week, she urges.
With Austin’s wedding to fiancé Lane Armstrong set for the spring, her current self-care regimen is guided by the impending big day. But, given the nature of her job as a professional fitness instructor, much of it revolves around ensuring that she’s feeling her best physically.
In the coming months, she intends to use a massage gun four times a week, walk five days a week, hit her water goals and do red light therapy four times a week. She has other goals, too, but those are some of the important ways by which she hopes to feel her best come wedding day.
Her point is simple: making your goals doable and achievable is key to making them a habit. Also, making exercise a habit is about much more than building strength. It’s about overall wellness. Start there.
Be sure to check out Austin’s on-demand, at-home fitness content on her platform, where she also shares her favorite easy and delicious recipes.