How to Simplify Your Exercise Routine

Confession time: I've been overweight for a decade.

Every year, I say it's going to be the year I finally get myself into a good exercise routine, improve my eating habits, and finally lose the weight. It's literally been a resolution, goal, or some weird combination of both since 2007. And while I've still got about 30 pounds until I hit my goal weight, I'm consistently losing both pounds and inches for the first time in years.

Admittedly, this is partly due to simplifying my diet, thus eating healthier overall, and being more consistent about my sleep schedule, but those are only two parts of the equation. The third and final part of that equation is developing and sticking with a regular exercise routine, which is something that hasn't happened in years...until now.


If you're anything like me, considering all the options for working out makes you want to crawl into a hole and never come out again.

Not everyone has the ability to work with a personal trainer, which means we're left to our own devices — googling #allthethings, contemplating different fitness classes, learning about all sorts of online program options, and wanting to cry a little bit when we see the number of results that pop up when you search "workout routines" on Pinterest.

You know you need variety, but there also needs to be an element of consistency and routine, or you'll probably never stick with it. You know you need to do cardio, but also build muscle and tone your body...oh, and there should probably be some stretching and stuff in there, too.

It's enough to make anyone's head spin and a lot of people give up altogether.

So how did I get past all the options and overwhelm and figure out a routine that fit in with my own life so I could finally workout consistently and start achieving the results I've wanted for so many years?


If there's one thing I've learned over the years of unsuccessful workout routines it's this: trying to force yourself to do something you hate is never going to result in a consistent habit.

I hate running. Plain and simple. I think it's boring, it bothers my knee, and aside from burpees or HIIT workouts, there's hardly anything else I would rather do less than run.

Despite this fact, I attempted to be a runner for three years. I kept telling myself it was an acquired taste and I just had to get used to it. If I ran more, got into better shape, and increased my endurance, I wouldn't hate it so much. I signed up for three 5Ks to do with friends as motivation. And I didn't run the entirety of a single one because, even after months of training and increasing my endurance and improving my times and such, I still hated running. (To be clear, I completed the 5Ks, I just ran/walked them instead of actually running them.)

Swimming, on the other hand, I love. Even when I'm exhausted and gasping for breath, I enjoy it and I always feel great afterwards. Same goes for biking, Zumba, and kickboxing.

You may love cycling or yoga or CrossFit or some combination thereof, and that is where you should start when coming up with your exercise routine — not with something you despise.

When I finally gave up trying to love something I didn't and instead focused on the exercises I'd done in the past and really enjoyed, it made working out something I actually looked forward to, instead of something I dreaded, which made sticking with it a whole lot easier.


I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person, which means when it comes to fitness routines, I've historically been one to jump in head first. Instead of easing myself in with a couple of workouts a week, I go from little to no workouts straight into a full-blown seven days a week of P90X. (Yes, that actually happened.)

Just like any habit, developing a consistent exercise routine takes time, and unless you have an abundance of free time, all of a sudden adding 30 minutes or an hour of exercise to your schedule five days a week probably won't end well.

You might stick with it for a week or two, but because you haven't taken the time to build up the habit, it's a lot easier to push it to the wayside when things get a little busy and you have to stay late at work or don't feel like getting up early.

Back in July, when I decided I really wanted to get serious about getting back in shape, I joined an online program that specialized in short but effective pilates workouts for busy women. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each workout is about 10-15 minutes long, and on Tuesday and Thursday, the workout is 30-45 minutes long.

For the first month or so, I mostly just did the 10-15 minute workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then I started adding in the longer Tuesday and Thursday workouts. Then I started adding cardio on top of that. And while I'm certainly not perfect, I've worked out more consistently in the last few months than I have in years because I eased myself into a routine and actually made it a habit, rather than jumping in with both feet and freaking out because the water was freezing.


As we've already established, figuring out the best workout routine for yourself can be quite overwhelming due to the sheer number of options out there. From CrossFit and HIIT routines to Zumba and kickboxing classes to yoga and pilates, the options are quite literally endless.

When I first started looking into exercising again, I knew there were certain exercises that would prove the most effective based on my own body and fitness goals. The problem is, I didn't know what those exercises were and I wasn't in the position to work with a personal trainer who could craft that personalized plan for me.

Rather than stressing about all the options and whether or not I was doing the best exercises for me, I picked the things I enjoyed and ignored the rest. 

After a bit of experimentation, I'd learned that I don't like any kind of exercises that has a frenetic or high paced vibe to it. This meant circuit workouts, HIIT workouts, cycling classes, and anything else that encourages you to do as much as possible in the smallest amount of time was not for me.

I wanted to work hard in my workouts, but I didn't want them to stress me out. I wanted to feel that wonderful kind of exhaustion, but also feel calmer and less stressed when I finished.

There were three kinds of toning and strength exercises that did that for me — pilates, yoga, and barre. And there were three main kinds of cardio exercises that did that for me — swimming, (power) walking, and biking. So I decided to focus on those and not worry about all the other options.

Because guess what? The most effective workout routine for your body and your fitness goals is the one you actually stick with.

Sure, working with a personal trainer or doing some intense HIIT workout might yield results faster than doing pilates and yoga, but I wouldn't stay consistent with either of the former options and I do stay consistent with both of the latter.

When it comes down to it, the formula for simplifying your workouts is, appropriately, quite simple — choose what you love, start small until it becomes a habit, and don't worry about the rest of it.


If you're like me and love those short but effective workouts and prefer less frenetic workouts like pilates and barre, then you should absolutely check out The Balanced Life Sisterhood from Robin Long.

This is the online program I started back in July and hands down, it's the best fitness related decision I've ever made. I've lost inches all over my body, I'm feeling stronger, and I'm working out more consistently than I have in years. Plus, Robin is super sweet and encouraging and wonderful.

The Balanced Life Sisterhood is Robin's membership program that gives you access to all the workouts she's ever created, a monthly workout calendar (so helpful for scheduling workouts) and recipe bundle, and a whole community of women who are seeking a balanced approach to health and fitness to cheer you on!

Enrollment only opens a couple of times a year and is open through Thursday, September 21. I cannot recommend the Sisterhood enough, so if you're looking for a way to kickstart your fitness this fall, definitely check it out!

(Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored in any way, but there are referral links. I just super love the Sisterhood and the affect it's had on my own exercise routine and I think you might love it too.)

Sarah Anne Hayes