How to Approach Your Life Like a Workout

Getting ready for training. The concept of female feet after work.

In the gym as well as in real life, success is all about what you do consistently. You may not be athletically gifted or have the perfect body type, but if you work hard and train right, you can be a long-distance runner, a chiseled bodybuilder or a master of Zumba. The same is true outside the gym. Want a promotion? Want to have a great relationship and close friendships? Just apply some of the same strategies you use in your workouts to the rest of your life. Flip through the following slides to see some of our favorites.

1. Use HIIT to break up your day.

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is a great way to get a lot done in the gym in a short amount of time. But you can also adapt the principles behind HIIT to make your workday more efficient too. One version of this is called the Pomodoro Technique.

Pick a task you’re dreading (answering emails, returning phone calls, recording this quarter’s numbers, etc.) and set a timer for 25 minutes. Stay focused on that task until the timer goes off, and then give yourself a five-minute break. Repeat four times before taking a 20- to 30-minute break. Play around with the timing to find out what works best for you.

Woman taking break during cycling workout in gym

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

2. Stay consistent.

You can’t lose weight, chisel your abs or get stronger if you only work out now and then. “That comes from eating and training consistently day in and day out. Over time you’re going to see those results,” says personal trainer and life coach Jesse Brisendine.

The same is true for anything you want to accomplish in the rest of your life. If you want to have deeper relationships or excel in your career, you’ve got to show up every day and give it your all. Just as you can’t expect to be able to meet your fitness goals overnight, neither can you expect a promotion, raise, award or other achievement without a commitment to hard work.


Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

3. Track your progress.

Keeping careful notes on sets and reps, PRs, mile times and fat loss helps you see what you’ve accomplished. A record of your progress helps keep you motivated and enables you to set realistic fitness and weight-loss goals for the future.

And in the exact same way, keeping a daily journal is a great way to track your progress in life. Recording your thoughts, feelings, accomplishments and failures in your professional and personal life enables you to get a better grasp of who you are and what you want. At the end of the month or year, you can look back and see how far you’ve come and set goals for future growth.

Active girl using smartphone in fitness gym

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

4. Know that discomfort leads to growth.

Working out should be a little uncomfortable. Sore muscles after a hard workout are a sign of progress. “In exercise, we’re taught to feel the burn,” says life coach Jesse Brisendine. “We want to challenge our bodies and push them physically beyond our normal comfort zone because that’s ultimately where our performance improves.”

In life, you’re inevitably going to experience some sort of discomfort, whether that’s a great business idea that doesn’t turn out as you thought or a relationship that goes through a challenging period. “It’s during those discomforting times that we often find our biggest growth platforms,” Brisendine says.

Exhausted boxer leaning on punching bag

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

5. Take time for rest and recovery.

Work out too hard for too long without a break and you risk overtraining syndrome — along with muscle aches, irritability, lack of motivation and fatigue. In life, it’s called burnout. A demanding career and the obligations of friends and family don’t allow much time for rest.

But just as your muscles repair and grow stronger during the recovery period after your workout, so does your ability to meet the demands of busy work and personal lives if you just take a break every once in a while. Take a “mental health day” when you need it, get a massage on your lunch hour, don’t check emails after work hours (and that includes weekends), do yoga, meditate, take a quiet walk in nature. Take care of yourself and you’ll be better able to meet life’s demands and challenges.

Meditation by the lake

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

6. Break down your goals.

If you want to complete a marathon, you don’t just go out and run 26.2 miles. You train for it over time, setting weekly and monthly goals to increase your mileage and improve your stamina. “You can’t focus on the finish line a year away,” says athlete and entrepreneur Tahra Makinson-Sanders. “Instead, have a plan broken down by every three months, every four weeks, every week and every day.”

She uses this same strategy when setting goals for growing her women’s athletic apparel line, TMak Sportswear. “Like triathlon training, my goals are broken down so I do not get overwhelmed. By the end of the month, if I followed my daily and weekly goals I will have achieved my monthly goal and made more progress toward the big goal.”

group of men with tablet pc and dumbbells in gym

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

7. Work on flexibility.

Better movement means better performance. It means you can switch directions on the tennis court and make that tough shot without wrecking your knee. It means you can get into that challenging yoga pose with ease. Life is no different.

When you’re rigid and unyielding, change is difficult. Situations that don’t go as you would like or people who don’t act as you expect will cause you great frustration and stress. On the flip side, if you can relax a little, you’ll be better able to absorb each bump in the road. This doesn’t mean being weak or passive. It means making a conscious choice to be open to change and consider new ideas or ways of doing things.

Runner athlete stretching legs

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

8. Meet resistance with persistence.

When life pushes you, push back. “We don’t accomplish anything in the exercise world unless we persist in the face of resistance,” says life coach Jesse Brisendine. “We don’t get stronger if the first time the weight’s too heavy we give up.”

Got passed over for a promotion? Don’t give up. Go back into work and and be persistent. Want a loving relationship? Don’t let the past keep you from connecting with people. If you continue to persist against challenges, you’ll ultimately succeed.

Female performing deadlift exercise with weight bar

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

9. Remember: Quality over quantity.

Spending hours in the gym every day doesn’t necessarily yield the best results. It depends more on how you work out rather than how long you work out. You can get just as good a workout in half the time if you make every set and rep count or give it your all on the treadmill or in a group exercise class.

It’s a lot like work — you can sit at your desk all day daydreaming and getting nothing done, or you can sit down at your desk for a couple of hours, be very focused and produce quality work. Work smarter and you have that much more time to spend at the gym or in your favorite fitness class.

Handsome young man in the gym

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

10. Get a coach.

Sometimes you need a little push to get to that next level — lift heavier weight, run a faster mile or lose the next 10 pounds. Or maybe you just need help getting started. Having a good coach can not only push you to succeed, it can also show you where you need to make improvements in form or technique.

Get the same edge in life by seeking out a trusted counselor, life coach or mentor. A therapist can guide you through challenges in your personal life; a life coach can give you that extra push to achieve your professional goals; and a mentor can see the bigger picture of your career and point you in the right direction.

Trainer taking notes on attractive woman working out

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

11. Switch up your routine.

Doing the same workout week after week is not only boring, it also won’t lead to gains in strength or speed. If you want to see real growth, you need to continually challenge your muscles to adapt so they can get stronger.

The message: Don’t get stuck in a rut. Strive to continually challenge yourself in your workouts and the rest of your life. Don’t stay in the same job just because it’s safe or comfortable. If it doesn’t challenge you and allow you to continue to grow, maybe it’s time for something new.

Determined bodybuilder rowing

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

What Do YOU Think?

Can you think of any other workout strategies that also apply to improving the rest of your life? What methods have you already used? Do you plan to use any of the ideas above?

Beautiful women working out in gym

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.