I didn’t want to have good fitness habits.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be healthy, but getting there was not enjoyable. For many people being healthy requires having good fitness habits. Generally, this includes exercising regularly and eliminating unhealthy (but often really tasty) foods from your diet.
No. Thank you.
Unfortunately, as I got older the fact really settled in that this body is the only one I’ve got. We’ve got one go at life and this physical vessel is what determines how long that go is.
So, healthy it is. But how to get there? How do I push myself past doing all of those things I don’t want to do? For exercising, I used a series of tricks that were easy to implement and turned the chore of working out into good fitness habits.
1. Include it in Your Routine
Habits are something your mind tells your body to do while on “autopilot”. They are a natural response to a predetermined cause. Sometimes that predetermined cause is a certain time of day or specific event. Oftentimes, what triggers the habit is a cue of some kind. You’ve just performed an action and your mind automatically knows it is time for the next action.
How many times have you found yourself at work thinking “Did I put on deodorant this morning?” or “Did I remember to lock the house on my way out?” It’s easy to forget whether you did these things or not because they are part of a set series of events – an automatic routine. Showering is often the cue to then put on deodorant. Leaving the house is often the cue to lock the door. This is how people get locked out of their houses. They missed one step in the routine (grabbing their keys) but the other cues kept the mind running on autopilot and now they left the house and locked the door behind them.
It’s much easier to work on a project when everything is ready for you. When I cook a recipe, I like to pre-measure every ingredient into small bowls and have all the needed utensils nearby. It should be the same with exercising. Have yourself prepared ahead of time to make it nearly effortless to get started.
This could be having workout clothes in your gym bag (if you’re a gym-goer) or by your bedside (for those early morning exercisers). I like to have my clothes, sneakers, and a glass of water by my bed for when I wake up. Whatever workout video I will be following is also ready to go with all of my weights and equipment nearby. I am dressed, hydrated and starting my workout within minutes of getting out of bed every morning.
3. Make it Easier
When things are difficult or inconvenient, it provides excuses for us to not do them. Sometimes they aren’t excuses and the difficulty or inconvenience prohibits us from following through.
Make it easy to stick to your good fitness habits. We do our working out in the morning in our bedroom. As simple as it may seem, I know that if I had to go downstairs or to another part of the house to exercise as soon as I roll out of bed, I’d just climb back under the covers instead.
Making fitness habits easy to stick to could be as simple as using a gym closer to home or parking a little further away from your office building each day.
4. Set Goals
Set some S.M.A.R.T. goals so you know what you are trying to achieve. Having a clear view of your end goals doesn’t just allow you to create a plan to get there, they also serve as motivation. When you have a vision of the end result of your fitness habits, it motivates you towards that end.
If you want to take it a step further, write down your goal every day. Do this when you wake up in the morning and keep it on top of your mind throughout the day. This daily motivation will serve to push you towards that goal.
5. Have a Plan
Angela and I are big advocates of planning. Once you have a clear view of what your goal is, now is the time to create your plan to get there. When you have a well-thought-out plan, following that plan becomes much easier.
For good fitness habits, you might want to decide what workouts you are going to perform and on what days. Many of the programs we use come with a calendar of workouts that are easy to follow. All we have to do is put on the specific video that corresponds with a given day and we’re ready to go. By choosing our work-out program ahead of time, we have a pre-built plan to follow.
6. Set Milestones
The only downfall of setting our end goal is that we tend to set a fairly high bar for ourselves. This is good in the long-term as we should always be striving to push ourselves as high as we can go. However, when we set big goals for ourselves, we sometimes get discouraged at how long the journey to reach them can take.
Milestones are mini-goals that we work towards as we make the journey towards our larger goal. These mini-goals give us reasons to celebrate over shorter periods of time. Confidence is a great motivator and nothing builds confidence quite like the feeling of surpassing milestone after milestone after milestone.
I’ll often break down my fitness goals into week-long milestones that give me smaller, short-term targets to shoot for.
7. Set Recurring Rewards
Rewarding yourself for working out can be tricky. Many people line up big rewards for lofty goals. They then have to wait so long to receive the rewards that they get tired of doing the work to earn them.
The best thing you can do is set a series of regular, smaller rewards. For instance, instead of telling yourself that when you lose 5 pounds you’ll buy yourself a new outfit, try allowing yourself a fun night out each Friday when you met your exercise goals for the week.
8. Identify Challenges
Working out is rarely easy. That’s probably why they call it working out. Before you begin, identify the challenges you’ll face on your path to good fitness habits. Perhaps it’s that you’ve designated right after work as your time to exercise, but you know you always want to crash on the couch with the TV on at that time. Maybe it’s as basic as not having the right equipment to do the workouts that you have planned.
Whatever the challenge, right it down. Make a list of what could possibly be standing in the way of you completing your goal.
9. Overcome the Challenges
Once you know what could come up to hamper your progress, then you will need to come up with solutions. No problem is without a solution, it’s just a matter of finding it or determining what the best one is.
One of my challenges is that after work we spend time with our kids and once they go to bed I only want to sit on the couch in front of a TV or my laptop. Because I identified that early on, I came up with the solution that I would have to get up early to fit in a workout. That presented its own list of challenges, but I systematically came up with solutions to those as well and now I have an early morning routine that not only allows time for me to exercise but also to pursue other activities that I could never seem to fit into my day.
10. Find an Accountability Partner
Nothing keeps you going down a hard path quite like having somebody there with you. In the case of building good fitness habits, they don’t need to physically join you (though that can sometimes help as well). They just need to be aware of your goals and your progress towards them.
Let a close friend know that your fitness goals are important to you and that you need their help holding you accountable. Then, check in with them regularly, even daily. Let them know how you are doing towards those goals and give them the right to make you feel guilty if you start faltering or skipping workouts.
11. Have a Reason Why
This can be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal towards building good fitness habits. Many people need that big reason why. Many of the biggest success stories of people who have become incredibly fit were because they were given a short time to live based on their weight, or they wanted to be around to see their kids grow up.
Your reason is your own and no reason is a bad reason, but just make sure you have a powerful one. Once you find that driving force, find a way to remind yourself of it every day.
You’re On Your Way Towards Good Fitness Habits
As you’ve probably figured out by this point, turning something into a habit is all about making it easy enough for your body to do on autopilot. They fewer barriers that stand in your way and the more it is a streamlined piece of your day, the easier it will be to have taking care of yourself become a habit. Taking care of yourself physically is incredibly important, and hopefully, by following these tips, you are well on your way to doing just that.