Did you see my Facebook post yesterday? (source) I love the idea of making exercise a habit, because it makes the workout a much more positive experience. Once you achieve the mentality that exercise is a critical part of your day, you’re much more likely to enjoy the activity, to treat it as a reward you’re giving yourself rather than a punishment you’re inflicting upon yourself, to actually complete the exercise regularly, and to show improvement.
One of my absolute favorite things is to observe friends and colleagues who are beginning (or re-starting) their exercise journey. For the first several days, it’s an obvious internal battle, and they have to “force themselves” to go to the gym. Slowly but surely, though, they turn the corner and get hooked on the endorphin rush, self-confidence, and energy burst that exercise provides … and soon, exercise is a habit for them, as well!
You’ve probably heard the concept that a habit takes 21 days to form (although some studies show that it varies widely between 18 and 254 days!), so if exercise is not a regular part of your life, I’d encourage you to get started right now! Here are a few quick and easy tips to help you turn exercise into habit:
- Do some planning!! If you map out when you’ll spend time exercising during every day of the upcoming week, you’ll be much more likely to stick to it. Will you hit spin class after work on Tuesday? Go for a run on Thursday morning? Find what suits your schedule, and literally make note in your calendar. Of course, listen to your body – if you need a rest day, or just feel like changing it up a bit, you should honor that. (But don’t use that as an excuse!)
- Set out your clothes the night before. Some people like to sleep in their workout clothes, others like to put their shoes by the bathroom door so they’ll stumble over them. Whatever option works for you is great, just be sure to make it easy for yourself to get out the door without making excuses or delaying.
- Use social media to motivate you! Apps like MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal, Sparkpeople, DailyMile (and more that I mentioned in my post on making your workout fun) can help you track your progress and share it with others. When I see friends’ status updates with their amazing progress, I love encouraging them with a simple “like” of their status! Won’t you feel great about yourself if your whole social network is cheering you on?
- Find a friend and exercise with him or her! Tell each other you’ll meet for a morning class at the gym, or walk to a meeting place between your houses. If you’re in a new location, search for a local running club or activity group. Having others around you with the same goal can be very motivating!
- Cheer yourself on. Give yourself a small reward, or at least mentally recognize the progress you’re making. Look for small, midpoint goals, and celebrate them. It can be so easy to beat ourselves up rather than focusing on the positive. Instead, be proud of the days that you get in some activity!
- Think about how you’ll feel afterwards. I never regret a workout after the fact, and I love the burst of energy it provides. So, if I’m struggling to get going, I envision where I’ll be a few hours into the future and how great I’ll feel after having worked out.
- Set a “trigger” to check in with yourself. Every time you brush your teeth, or go to the coffee maker, or whatever else you choose … think about how you’ll fit in exercise the following day. Keeping it top of mind will help you on your way!
So tell me in the comments… what do you use to make exercise a habit? Have you tried any of these tips?