You may have made fitness resolutions for the year ahead, and we often focus on the motivation needed to do them and to continue to do them. Motivation is important, but it isn’t the only component necessary to make exercise a regular habit. For example, is it motivation that gets someone out of bed at 5am to exercise because it’s the only time they can fit it into their day? Motivation is an important element, but it’s primarily because it has become a habit.
But habit alone also won’t cut it; there must be some sort of reward for doing it. The reward is different for everyone, and it’s such an important component. For me, the reward is about feeling good, as well as strong sense of accomplishment. Whatever your reward, the key is to ensure that it’s something worth working for.
It sounds easy enough to give yourself a reward and you’ll start exercising – but, at the start of this new year, let’s get real and acknowledge that it’s not that simple, if it were everyone would be doing it already. For the non-exerciser, the new exerciser and the exercise hater how is it possible to create an exercise habit?
What is a Habit?
A habit is a behavioural pattern we perform repeatedly and consistently. We all have many habits, and unconscious patterns of behaviour that we perform every day. For example, driving the car – we don’t have to think about the hundreds of movements needed to drive.
This automation allows us to do these things without thinking, which frees up the brain for other important things. The only way to make behaviours automatic is by doing them consistently.
The Key Ingredients for your Exercise Habit
So you need motivation, consistency and reward, and you need to crave the reward – after all, cravings are what drive all of our habits.
Another important element of maintaining your exercise habit over the long term is having a belief that you can actually do the workout you’ve planned. The belief and confidence doesn’t just happen but comes about when you approach exercise in a way that’s right for you.
So now you have the key ingredients for a long term, and satisfying, exercise habit. In Part 2 I will look in more depth at the steps needed to create your exercise habit and make it a consistent part of your life.