5 Tips for Making Exercise a Habit

We all desire to make exercise a habit or priority. With the best intentions, we start an exercise routine but it never turns into a habit. Let's look at five tips that you can evaluate in your quest to making exercise a habit.




 Start with YOUR Why

Simon Sinek, author of the bestseller “Start with Why” explained this so eloquently:

Consider the past and examine those times when everything seemed to go perfectly. The WHY does not come from looking ahead at what you want to achieve…You will discover your Why when you look in the complete opposite direction from where you are now. The WHY comes from looking back at all those times when you loved working on a project or loved a job. By examining those times when everything just “felt right” and you loved the experience – when you were living your Why – you will uncover the keys to discovering and articulating your personal WHY.

Simon Sinek is talking about the important of knowing your why as it helps you to better lead and inspire, but the core concept of his book can be applied to any facet of our lives.

So why do YOU want to make exercise a habit?

When I looked back into my past, the time I felt most healthy and fit was in high school. I played sports practically year round and I remember the strength and confidence I had about my body. This strikes a chord with me now as I am getting close to the two-year anniversary of having surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in my right knee. It was amazing how much muscle loss I had after being on crutches for only 4 short weeks. I remember struggling to be able to lift 20 lbs on the leg extension machine during physical therapy.

Your reason may not be due to an injury. Look back and discover why exercise is important for you to do regularly. And be sure to make it about YOU and no one else.

Find YOUR What

Incorporate the discoveries you made as you were uncovering your “Why” in the previous section. What types of activities were you doing when you were loving the experience?

As you evaluate activities be sure that your “WHAT” are physical activities that fit into your lifestyle.

Pressed for Time = At-Home Workouts

Because there are no commuting requirements, at-home workouts can easily save you hours and money each week. If you're up early in the morning, you'll see plenty of infomercials touting the next craze in fitness.

So you may be wondering if all these different at home exercise programs work? The answer is…YES! You know why? Because each program is based on consistency (we'll discuss that later). The program gives you a calendar of what you're supposed to do each day; if you follow their instructions, you'll get results. Some of the more popular ones today are Insanity, P90X, and Turbulence Training. For all you old-school exercisers, there's Billy Blanks Bootcamp (yes, I went there), and Winsor Pilates.

I've attempted/purchased all of these and they are all great programs. Another popular at-home workout is Bodyrock.TV. They produce short, yet amazing workouts (and have over 2.5 million fans on Facebook). Most of their workouts take less than 20 minutes to complete. Check out my bookmarks for links to some of my favorites.

Need Group Support/Camaraderie = Group Fitness Classes

If you prefer to work out with others, perhaps a group fitness class or sports team will work for you. There are so many options to chose from (some of which are available at your local gym/fitness center):

Running clubs are another great group activity. If you're in a great running group, there is always some race that the group is training for and planning to participate. What greater way to make exercise a habit than to commit to running a half-marathon in 4 months?

Need Personal Attention = Personal Training

A personal trainer is a great option because he/she will closely monitor your workouts to ensure that you have proper form. Plus, they also are on you like a hawk to ensure that you are pushing yourself.

Make Exercise YOUR Priority by Scheduling It

In truth, people can generally make time for what they choose to do; it is not really the time but the will that is lacking. ~Sir John Lubbock

At the beginning of every week, review your work, personal, and family calendars for events that you're committed to attending. Once those have been identified, schedule in your workouts. If your plan is to exercise four times per week, pick what days AND times you plan to work out.

The #1 Secret to Never Missing a Workout

Workout first thing in the morning. Yeah, I know, you're not a morning person. And neither am I. However, in order to get the result I want (my WHY), I have to be receptive to making some changes in my lifestyle. Working out in the evening after work helps me to sleep better at night, but there are so many things that can happen during the course of my day that makes it easy for my willpower to cave in and help me choose to skip my workout. Plus, when I exercise in the morning, it sets the tone for my day: I make better food choices and my mood is so much more pleasant.

Identify YOUR Potential Barriers to Commitment and Consistency

It's not about perfect. It's about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens. That's how change occurs. ~Jillian Michaels

Ramit Sethi, a best-selling author and expert on personal finance, writes a lot about the two types of barriers that prevent people from changing their habits. Active barriers are the things that stop you from doing something, whereas passive barriers actually stop you from getting things done. The key is identifying both. Let's look at a couple examples that could affect your commitment to consistently exercise:

  • Not being able to find your workout clothes. Solution: gather your workout clothes, socks, and shoes the night before and place them in a pre-determined place.
  • Leaving work late, which causes you to “potentially” be late to your group fitness class. Notice, I said potentially, and because we have this negative perception, we assume that we'll be late to class…so why bother even attempting to go? Solution: Start with the end in mind. Pre-determine what time you will need to leave the office/home in order to drive (at the speed limit) to your class without having to worry about being late. Once that time has been established, figure out what time you'll need to start ending the workday in order to ensure that you're out of the office/home at the specified time.

Barriers are more than excuses and can over-power the best “willpower” and “self-discipline.” Once you identify your particular barriers, you can start testing different ways to overcome the barrier.

To learn more about active and passive barriers, check out this article and this one by Ramit Sethi.

Just Do It

We all remember the slogan by Nike. If you've done the previous four steps, you should have success in making exercise a habit.

You know your why –> You know your what –> Your exercise is scheduled –> You're a regular “Buffy the Barrier Slayer” –> Just git ‘er done!

In Conclusion…

What is your why? What types of barriers do you have? I'd love to hear what your struggles are. Let me know in the comments area below. Perhaps we can come up with some solutions together.



Image: BenHeine