I’m not an early morning person. You won’t find me bouncing around the house greeting the day with infectious energy. My mornings used to evolve around an established, ironclad routine. And then everything changed with one sun salutation.

A few years ago, I felt the weight of my fairly sedentary lifestyle taking a toll on my physical and mental health. I’d botched every attempt at sticking with a fitness routine. Exercise was so easy in high school. It was part of the curriculum. I took it for granted. When it was my turn to be accountable for my physical activity, I failed miserably.

Investing in Time

I knew the key to winning at exercise would be a solid routine. But where the hell would I fit it in? Between sleep, eat, work, eat, hobbies, family, sleep – I barely had time to breathe. But isn’t that the kicker? Time. We’re our own worst enemy when it comes to time. We never have enough of it.

Secret: there is always enough time. You just have to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to spend it more wisely. There’s always five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes that you could reallocate to something that really benefits and stimulates you.

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Photo Credit: Adrienne Perrot, Phoenix Creative Healing

Start Small

I always thought if I didn’t spend at least an hour exercising, I was losing. Might as well burn my yoga mat and binge-watch True Blood. But I also knew that successful routines are built with baby steps. One of my favourite creatives, Austin Kleon, said it best: “Something small, every day.” With this as my motto, I examined how I invested my time to see where I could sneak in a few minutes to exercise.

I’ll admit, my first go at this failed. I mistakenly chose the most non-routine part of my day. Evenings. No one evening is alike in my calendar. And the sacrifices! Yoga or Breaking Bad. Yoga or margaritas. Yoga or curling up with a book. You get the point.

So I sacrificed my beloved morning routine and stole ten minutes of sleep. The clincher was to find something I could do at home to make the best use of my time. Yoga was an obvious choice – I just needed a mat and enough space to fall over. I also discovered the Bad Yogi 30-Day Challenge around this time. So I had the what, where, when and why, I just needed to tackle the how.

I wrote “Something small, every day” on my bathroom mirror and set my alarm back ten minutes.

Making a Routine

At 5:50 a.m. on the first day, I hit snooze. This sabotage happened for three days. I needed to change my thinking. What was I really losing – ten minutes of sleep? Peanuts!

On the fourth day, I dragged myself out of bed. I didn’t even bother to get into workout clothes (most of the time, I still don’t). I did my ten minutes, felt an incredible burst of energy and rocked my day. Fast-forward three years: I crave yoga. I’ve even extended my ten minutes to half an hour. Me, the anti-morning troll, gets up at 5:30 a.m.

Truth: some days it’s hard. If I’m sick, I take that half hour back and sleep. I know my body needs it. And I know that once I’m better, my body will also need yoga again. If I’m away on vacation, I take a break. There’s always this niggling fear that I’ve broken routine and it’s going to be hell to get back on track. I need to give my mind and body more credit – it remembers the routine very well.

Thinking about starting a yoga routine? Having difficulties sticking with a routine? I hear ya. Here are a few tips and tricks that I hope will help you on your journey:

  1. Start small. Just get your ass on the mat – be it 5, 10 or 15 minutes.
  2. Stick with your chosen timeframe for a month. Word is it takes 30 days to build a habit. Everyone is different; if it takes you longer, don’t sweat it.
  3. Miss a day? Don’t beat yourself up. Start over and try again. The point is to try.
  4. Print out a monthly calendar and give yourself a gold star for every day you get on the mat. It sounds childish, but it’s rewarding to see a full month(s) of gold stars!
  5. Mix it up. A routine can get old when you’re just doing the same thing over and over. There are so many great fitness channels, like Bad Yogi, on YouTube that post new videos every week.
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Photo Credit: Adrienne Perrot, Phoenix Creative Healing

Do you have a successful exercise routine? Tell us about it in the comments!