In Part 1, I looked at the foundations for making a solid and sustainable exercise habit. In Part 2, I’ll look in more detail at where to make a start.
Creating Your New Exercise Habit
We often approach exercise thinking “I’d like to lose some weight, and get fit, so I’m going to work out every day for an hour.” It’s positive because you can see a new and improved future version of yourself; it’s exciting, and the current you is eager to go. But what happens when reality hits?
Just think of everything you must do to exercise every day, including the planning that goes into your workouts, the preparation time, the journey time to get your session, and doing the session itself.
Working out involves a series of small behaviours, but they add up to a lot when you don’t already do those things. And when you realise how hard this process is, the reward may pale by comparison to the amount of work you’ll have to do. This can be especially true if your goal is to lose weight, a process that is usually very slow.
That’s just one reason many of us fail to stick to an exercise habit, even though we want to be fit, healthy and lose some weight. So, how do you do it?
Plan your Cues
Think of a cue as a trigger for your brain to think, “It’s time to exercise.” This might be:
- Scheduling your workouts on your calendar – Pick times and days you know you can squeeze in exercise, even if it’s just 5 minutes. Maybe a walk after lunch every day or after dinner.
- Putting on your workout clothes as soon as you wake up or get home from work.
- Write down your workout plan and keep it to hand.
Plan Your Workouts
This is the critical part and often where we make our biggest mistakes. Because we’re so eager to lose weight, we want to make up for lost time, and can go too far with our workouts. Maybe you try to go back to a level of exercise you used to be able to sustain, or maybe you plan your workouts based on what you think you’re supposed to do.
The problem with that approach is that you’re risking soreness and injury, and it’s not a great reward! The only way to make exercise a habit is to ensure that your workouts are doable, and your progress is at your level and pace.
As I mentioned in Part 1, one of the key ingredients to making exercise a habit is the belief that you can do it. It’s not about being a good or bad person based on whether you lose weight or not. It’s about choosing your workout plan and knowing that you can do it.
Forget about working out for an hour or doing hard-core cardio training, and think more about a workout you can do no matter what, even when you’re tired, stressed, or low on motivation.
Plan Your Rewards
Some of the rewards of exercise come naturally. For example, just completing a workout feels good and, over time, if you’re consistent you’ll crave that feeling.
As mentioned before, other rewards are feeling accomplished and feeling good from the endorphins released during exercise. You can also create your own rewards such as:
- A 2-hour Netflix binge
- A glass of wine with dinner
- Pay yourself. Give yourself Â£2 for every workout you complete and plan what you’ll get with that money at the end of the month.
Reward yourself every time you work out so that you start to crave the reward.
Tips for Making Your Habit Stick
- Try doing your workouts at the same time every day.
- Log your workouts. Keep a simple calendar, and note what you did and how you felt. I keep mine on the fridge.
- Do something you like. You don’t have to love it, but it should be an activity you know you can do without too much pain or discomfort.
- Focus on the habit first, then the results. Too often we’re so focused on losing weight that we end up quitting when that doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like. Instead of focusing on that, focus on just doing the workouts, no matter what those workouts are like.
The key to creating an exercise habit is to make it as easy as possible to do your workouts, and keep them simple. Getting started can be the hardest part, so the easier you make it the more successful you’ll be.