Five tips for making exercise a habit

By Alice Dore-Jones

I’m not going to sugar coat it. There is a reason exercise is often called a workout cause it takes… work. If you want to get something out of it then it takes hard work. I’ve come to understand in my 30’s what I didn’t quite get in my 20’s. It’s not even about motivation. Ask anyone starting a fitness plan or  working towards a fitness goal. They have motivation. They have images of things like hot beach bodies or running over the finish line in their minds. But motivation isn’t enough, it’s what gets you going but you need something more than that when the alarm goes off at 6am. You need habit and personal drive.

 Here are five things that got me on track and have kept me there:

1. Commitment aka discipline

Trainers say to make working out like an appointment with yourself. When I started exercising I made a deal with myself that I had to work out three times a week. That those work outs had to be no less than 20 mins (this was the minimum benchmark) and I had to really do them (no shortcuts). For instance, if  I say I’m going for a jog then that’s what I had to do. A walk didn’t cut it. I had to really commit to the workout when I started or what was the point.  It really pushed me to start thinking about what I had on during the week and making sure I took the time to slot in those workouts. Now it’s just 2nd nature to me but learning how to commit was part of habit building. Also, you have to learn to be hard on yourself if you don’t get them done. You can’t brush off missing one. You have to learn not doing workouts is letting yourself down. You have to make a commitment to yourself.

2. Find what works for you 

I can run and walk till the end of days. Ask me to swim and it would be another matter. I’m a big believer that there is an exercise for everyone. Find a team sport, go for a walk, do an interval circuit or ride your bike to work. Find something that you enjoy. This also means trying out new things. I do love running but it got really boring while training for the marathon that I did. So, I’ve started interval training, walking and pilates. By mixing it up I’ve keep my interest high and now running is something I enjoy coming back to.

3. Training your mind to like it

There is no point making barriers in your mind about working out. If you train your mind to not want to do something, then you can only expect that you are going to loathe doing it and procrastinate to avoid it. Working out might be hard but you’ve got to learn to love it. I run to music and let my mind get into the beat and have fun with it. Maybe, it’s getting to a location you enjoy near the water, having a TV show playing that you can watch or enjoying it as thinking time. If you can train yourself to enjoy it then you will actually look forward to it. You really need to frame it in a positive light. Go into it from a place of yes, this is good, rather than a negative outlook.

4. Pat yourself on your back for doing it.

I workout five times a week, 52 weeks of the year. However, I can happily admit that I’m not excited for every workout. In fact I still have to drag myself out of bed when that alarm goes off like anyone else. I want to lie in bed, read blogs and watch you tube videos rather than sweat it out. So, I’ve learnt to always congratulate myself for turning up. It’s important to celebrate every workout as a little win. The struggle is hard. The effort to do it can be huge. If you got up and you did it, then remind yourself how good that is for you. For me that has helped build a sense of achievement and goes to building commitment.

5. Setting an external deadline or having something your working towards can also help.

You’ve worked on your internal habit building but sometimes attaching short term external deadlines can help. I’m not a fan of weight-loss goals. It can make people feel like they are failing if the numbers aren’t coming. I’d rather you sign up for a fun run and have in your mind you want to jog the whole thing or if you do all your allotted workouts for two months you can buy a new dress. If you do want to set weight loss targets set sensible ones. I’ve personally done fun runs, set myself physical challenges to be able to reach targets (EG 10 push ups by the next month) or saying I can buy a ticket to a festival if I did all my allotted workouts.

If you can use these five skills to turn exercise into something you do all the time then you’ll be on your way to going beyond motivation and into personal drive! Most importantly don’t over think it or complicate it.
Just learn to get out the door and go, go, go!!!

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