So you decided to go to the gym on a regular basis. For the first few sessions, you’re very motivated, you have a plan, and the future looks full of promise. But slowly, your motivation starts going down. Every time you need to go, it’s a struggle. You have to convince yourself to get out of the couch and go to the gym, but you still do it, you pull through. You might be successful for a month. But this constant struggle is not sustainable. One day something “important” comes up and you skip a day. After a while, you skip a few days and then you skip a week. You are then in this denial period where you tell yourself that when you go back to the gym, you will make up for that lost days. Before you know, it has already been 4 months since you’ve been to the gym.
To say that you will exercise on a regular basis is easy, but sticking to it is much harder. To keep exercising in the long run, we have to stop looking at exercising as this hard and painful drill, but instead turn your exercising into something fun and automatic. Our exercise routine has to become a daily habit. Exercising should become like brushing your teeth. You should do it every day without even thinking about it.
So, how can you make exercising as natural and automatic as brushing your teeth? The following are tips on how to build an exercising habit so that you can stay active for longer.
How to Exercise Regularly? Create A Habit.
The mistake that a lot of people make when they want to establish a new habit is that they want to do too much too fast. You should do exactly the opposite, start as small as possible. That is to say, schedule short and easy exercise sessions. Do you want to run? Start by running for just 5 minutes. Do you want to do weight training? Start with 10 pushups.
The goal here is to make the new habit so easy that you can’t not do it. When you make the task, so easy it becomes harder to come up with excuses. (You don’t have time to run for 5 minutes? You don’t have enough energy for 10 pushups? Give me a break!) This trick reduces the fear inspired by this new task and increases the chances of creating the new habit.
Create a Trigger
Have you noticed that there are certain sequences of actions that we do without even thinking? For example, when you wake up in the morning you probably go straight to the bathroom, brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed and then make yourself a coffee. During this time your mind is probably thinking of things that you need to do during the day, you don’t have to push yourself to do each of these actions consciously, it just happens naturally.
The trigger is what kicks off that series of actions. In the morning example, it could have been snoozing your alarm or wearing your slippers as you get out of bed. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg shows how to create a trigger to instill a habit. Ideally, this trigger should be easy to do and has to happen right before or in the same environment as the habit you are trying to create. For example, if you want to go for a jog every day your trigger could be putting on your jogging shoes. You then need to follow that by the habit that you want to introduce. The key here is that you need to repeat this sequence of actions every day and do it at the same time so that your mind has time to make it into a routine. At first, it will take more willpower to go from putting on your jogging shoes to then going for the jog, but the more you do it, it will turn into a habit and take less and less energy from your part.
Keep Yourself Accountable
Find someone to report to, so that it makes you accountable for your results. It can be your partner, a colleague, or a friend. You can even go further and commit yourself publicly on a dedicated website. Your motivation will be stronger if the person you share it with is closer to you. Being afraid to disappoint other people is one of the most powerful motivating factors to reach your goals, so use it to your benefit.
Stay The Course
Establishing a habit can take some time, so don’t get disappointed if it still feels difficult after one month. Research says that it takes about 66 days for you to establish a new habit. In my experience, it takes closer to 3 months.
Regardless of the time, it takes, just continue to exercise every day, in small sessions, until you do not have to even think about it. Only once it becomes a habit, then you can gradually increase the difficulty. If you were running 10 minutes a day, now try to do it for 15 min. Do 30 pushups instead of 10. Or add an exercise to your routine. The key is to move slowly; there is no need to rush, take it step by step.
Setting up a new exercise habit is no easy task. It requires a lot of willpower and patience. But what a reward! Not only will you be fitter, but you will also feel healthier, happier and have more energy.