How to Make Working Out a Habit

October 8, 2022

It feels so good when you can look back at the past seven days and feel that sense of pride and accomplishment in regards to getting your workouts in. Your heart bursts because you made time for YOU; a very worthy and important person.

Your brain is excited because you had a plan and you stuck to it, not to mention, none of the excuses got in your way! Also, your body is appreciative of the ability to get stronger and feel overall more capable.

So why is it so hard to make what happened the past seven days happen on a long term basis? Let’s talk a little bit about habits.

Creating Habits

Habits can be both beneficial and detrimental to our goals. As a coach, I am always reminding my clients that we need to replace habits that are not supporting our health and wellness goals with habits that do serve them.

Think of that full cup of water. If it’s full, you cannot put more water in it. You have to pour some out to make room. This is the best analogy for when it comes to habits.

What is filling your cup right now with habits? What can you let go of? What needs to stay? What do you want to add?

These questions will help guide you to ensure your “cup doesn’t runneth over” leaving you feeling overwhelmed and then leading to procrastination. I would suggest either putting pen to paper or using a digital document to help you identify the answers to those questions. Becoming aware of how you spend your time is an excellent way to create better habits for yourself.

Components to Make Habits Stick

Consistency is everything and in order for us to be consistent, we need to make sure we only bite off what we can chew. I’d recommend gauging your starting point and ensure you don’t expect too much from yourself right off the bat. Stay away from “I will exercise every day” or “I will go to the gym every day” as a goal as the key word is ‘every day‘ here. It’s not sustainable and not very approachable.

If you aren’t working out at all, I would start with two times a week with a few days between each workout to let your body adjust, then increase from there.

Choose a workout that is exciting for yourself! Not everyone loves working out like I do, so I always recommend to my clients to find something that excites them and feels good. Maybe that is swimming laps, maybe it’s Zumba dancing, or even getting into an indoor rock climbing gym. If you dread it, you won’t go and it will not become a habit.

Often, people tend to be ‘reward oriented’ so if you find that you want to reward yourself for, let’s say, getting in your three workouts a week for a whole month, stick to non-food related rewards. Perhaps you buy yourself a bouquet of flowers, get a massage or purchase a new sports bra. Having a little carrot dangled in front of you never hurts!

Last, I always aim to connect the ‘head and the heart’ in my coaching, so I am always having my clients list their non-scale victories or their “Wins” or their “Gratitudes” from their workouts. It takes the idea of “just working out” and extends it to have a deeper meaning. As you get your habitual workouts in, you will inevitably feel stronger, you will be able to have more endurance and you will feel grateful for creating that time for yourself.

Make sure you don’t sweep all that under the rug.

Note all of these side effects and let that help you keep your workouts a habit. This is how I have created my workout habit so that even on days when I am not motivated, I show up from the discipline I have created via the habits I have made.

Making Working Out a Habit

You may need reminders initially in order to create the habit.

Let’s say your goal is to exercise in a small group training class three times per week. Registering for the classes and getting email/text reminders will be important but also, make sure you put these classes into your planner/calendar. Be sure to communicate to people that live with you or your boss that these times you are unavailable so you do not get distracted.

Like I mentioned at the start of this blog, you will most likely need to let go of one or two habits in order to create this habit of working out. Let’s say you have a habit of hitting the snooze button once for 10 minutes every day and you have a habit of reading news articles as well as social media for another 10 minutes. Right there, if you let go of both of those habits, you just bought 20 minutes that could be used for a workout. See where I am going with that?

Another example would be letting go of the habit of watching two to three hours of TV a few nights of the week/over the weekend and instead doing your workout. You would be surprised you can still get some TV time in even with that workout happening, but you may find you want to watch it less because the workouts feel so good!

Creating a checklist or even a pre-planned calendar can be rewarding as well. Maybe you can put a smiley face sticker on your wall calendar each time you workout?

Last, getting a buddy or hiring a coach for accountability can help. Even if you plan your workouts ahead of time and have a reminder going off, some days are just hard to show up. Your workout buddy can help ensure you join them but you can also rely on a professional coach to ensure you show up too!

What to Do When You Go Off Track

Humans are just that… humans! Because we are not robots, naturally we can fall off track. This tends to be the case when it comes to getting sick or returning from a vacation.

  1. Let go of any guilt or shame feelings. Those feelings will never help or progress you further. They are self sabotaging emotions. Instead, tap into your ability to be resilient and pick up where you left off.
  2. Remind yourself how powerful and accomplished you felt after your previous workouts. Reflection is powerful!
  3. Call your coach or buddy and tell them your plan. Have them follow up with you to make sure you did it!
  4. Take a sticky note and write a note to yourself saying WHY you are committed to yourself.

Depending on how long you fell off track for, you may need to revisit your goal for your workouts and readjust. As you get yourself back on track, take it one step at a time. It will take a few weeks to regain the momentum you once had before, but it will happen with patience and diligence.

My last bit of advice is to evolve so that your “workout habits” are really more your “lifestyle habits”. When it’s more about living a certain lifestyle that gives you a healthy body that feels good and is capable of doing anything, the sustainability and enjoyment factors sky rocket.

If you want help building sustainable habits, chat with a coach to find out how we can guide you in this process!

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