Of course we all would love to make exercise a habit but life often gets in the way and stops us in our tracks. The routine we had gets bulldozed out of the way by work, family and excuses.
Getting back on track always seems supremely difficult as adopting positive behaviours needed to create a habit is hard, really hard. We see that first jog, bike ride or gym session as a task of Mount Everest type proportions. We make the task just too difficult for ourselves and hence we just avoid making those first steps needed to create that lifelong exercise habit.
But what if there was a way to turn our ability to fail in changing behaviour into an ability to bring about successful and positive behaviour change by just making life as simple as possible.
I have been using the three strategies below to build my own training routine, which I have stuck to for two plus years that sees me hit the gym three to four times per week, get a bike ride or two in and if I’m lucky a game of tennis. My weekly minimum goal is an attainable three gym sessions and everything else is a bonus.
I don't claim to have all the answers but I'm happy to share 3 simple ways to make exercise a habit and get that momentum you need to stay motivated.
1. Develop a ritual to make exercising easier
This is quite a simple strategy and to coin a well know tagline from a well known sports brand - “just do it”. Or we can also say “get started”. If we get rid of the clutter and busyness in our minds and focus on the doing and the starting we will be twenty minutes into our session before we know it and feeling great as a result. The key is starting.
If you consistently get started you will create the behaviour that will form the habit of exercise. So the consistency of starting time after time will over ride any negative thoughts we have against exercise. Once we start the happy hormones take over and we just embrace the effort, the pain and the journey.
This is why rituals and routines are are vital to making the starting your workout mindless and automatic. An example can be having your gym gear ready the night before, pop it in your car, and hey presto you will find yourself in the gym on your way to or from work.
We can also make our exercise session part of our schedule. Why not take out your phone right now and schedule three training sessions over the next week. Lock in your day, time and location. Set a reminder for each session as you would your morning alarm. Ideally set these sessions as a recurring appointments. So a habit is born.
2. Start with an action that is ridiculously small….and easy
The best way to make exercise a habit is to start with an exercise that is so easy that you can do it even when you are running low on that vital currency willpower. Make it so easy that you can’t say no.
Here's one strategy that you can use in the beginning: The 5 Minute Action.
Take your gym session for instance. We focus on finding a pathway to getting our training session started in just 5 minutes and that is all we focus on. We are not worried about what comes after. We fill our water bottle, pop in our earbuds, open up our kick-ass gym playlist on our Spotify, grab our towel and march right over to the treadmill and just hit the start button and just walk for a few minutes. Ok we have started, let the session begin.
Sixty minutes later we have smashed it and feel absolutely amazing. Why not repeat this little routine for every training session. These mini habits/routines set us up for success. This little 5 minute action will be enough to get your motivation and momentum flowing and help you maintain your exercise habit.
3. Focus on habit first…results later
The typical approach to nutrition and exercise is to focus on results first. We start with a goal of “I want to lose 10kg in the next 4 months”. I think that this approach places us under enormous pressure and sets us up for failure. We hammer away at that goal but never put a concrete system and process in place that makes that goal realistic and attainable. We need to focus on the system and process rather than the goal.
When we are at the beginning of our journey we need to establish a new set of behaviours and routines that are easy to follow and stick to. We need to trust our new normal and believe it will deliver results but we must stick to the little processes and systems we have put in place.
For any habit to succeed we need to be so consistent every day, every week and every month. We stick to our systems, processes and routines. We must measure success in our adherence to our routine, systems and processes and not the results we get from our training.
Once you become the type of person who doesn't miss workouts, then you can focus on making progress and improving. Because you have created bulletproof processes you will get rewarded for your adherence and hard work and nothing will knock off your path to success.
So build the habit first, and the results will follow.
Should you wish to find out more about what you need to do in order to build an exercise habit please feel free to contact me here.