I tend to tell clients, colleagues, and anyone else I cross paths with that there are no set rules when it comes to getting and staying in shape; there are only guidelines. However, there are some rules that work for everyone, no matter what:
Rule #1: Show Up
I couldn't tell you how often I'm asked for advice on what is the best time of day to work out, or what are the best exercises to combine, "should I do cardio before weights or weights before cardio?" And many, many more questions beyond these. While there are guidelines and ideals for optimal results that work for most everyone, keep in mind that we are all individuals and not everything will work for everyone. There is, however, one "rule" that works for EVERYBODY:
Rule #1: Show Up. No matter what you for your workout or activity, or where you do it, you have to show up for it. If you're not there, it's just not going to happen - not today, tomorrow, not ever. So you have to joyfully commit to it, and show up for it.
Now, there is another "rule" that is very important as well, and that is...
Rule #2: Do Something That Makes You Happy
If you can find activity or workout that you like, you are more apt to stick with it. If you like Zumba and aquacise, but you think the only way you can get into shape is by running - and you force yourself to run - three weeks from now you will be nowhere near the track or treadmill, probably more like stewing on the couch. So stick with what works for you, if it makes you happy, challenges you a little, and you are getting the results you want (give it time).
Rule #3: Make it Convenient To Work Out
That means if your workouts happen in a gym, go for a gym close to your home or job, if you don't have a car that you can leave shoes and extra clothes in, then rent a locker - it's worth it. If you don't like gyms, then make sure to find, for example, a lake you can walk around or a group fitness/dance/martial arts class you stay with.
Rule #4: Make Room For Your Workouts
If you don't schedule time for your workouts and stay diligent with them, they will dwindle away into nothing. Be smart and strong about it - if you don't do it for yourself now - then when? Life can easily get in the way, and it is your responsibility and yours alone to make sure that your workout happens. You are fully capable of this. It make take some planning and focus at first, but it's time rearranging, really.
Rule #5: Consistency Is Key
First get consistency going, before you worry about anything else. Keep your eyes on the prize and on the big picture. It is more important to get all kinds of workouts in; good, medium and even "eh" workouts. What's important is that you kept going, no matter what was going on in your life. And, the big picture is that every workout, big and small, awesome and not so awesome contribute to your end result and to maintaining your level once you have achieved what you want...although we tend to want more - which is absolutely great!
Rule #6: Always Follow the Body* First and Foremost
*Meaning: your whole being, body, mind and soul
Rather than following programs to a tee, keep your focus on what feels organic and fluid. Only you live in your body, and only you have to feel comfortable in your skin. Let everything else be guidelines, and follow your own body for the right type of exercise and what size you are happy at, and the level of fitness that is right for you.
You may be doing all this for a myriad of reasons; you may want to see children and grandchildren grow up. You could also be looking for stress release, weight gain or loss, mood stabilization, and many, MANY more goals. So think long term. Exercise with the next workout in mind, staying safe and working out smart. You want your body and your fitness regimen to work for you and with you; not struggling through every single second of it where it eventually breaks you down physically and emotionally. Your program is for you to build yourself UP on all levels, where you continue to improve throughout the weeks, months and years to come. It's OK to feel good and it's good to be Happy!
Show up, do what makes you happy.... And stay....