13 Tips to Make Exercise a Habit that Sticks
It happens to the best of us. When we try to make exercise a habit, sometimes it just doesn’t stick. You invest in some fancy at-home workout equipment. Or you purchase a membership to a trendy gym with a long list of classes.
Then life happens, and you somehow slowly (or quickly) tumble off the exercise wagon. Now before you go beating yourself up, relax. It’s not because you’re lazy or a failure.
Consistent exercise is a habit that has to be built over time. I would even argue that building the habit is the most important step in this part of your wellness journey.
That’s why I’m sharing 13 tips that include small, doable steps that will set you up for success as you turn exercise into a part of your lifestyle as opposed to a short-term tactic.
1. Define your version of consistency
First and foremost, what does consistency mean to you? Does it look like doing something mild daily? Does that look like doing three or four days of workouts every week? Or is your version of consistency somewhere in between?
I do suggest doing some type of movement daily, even if it’s a 10-minute walk or stretch. These days would still be considered your recovery days.
2. Exercise at your peak time.
You’re probably expecting me to tell you to work out first thing in the morning. Yes, morning workouts are effective for most people. There’s something empowering about getting the hardest thing done first.
However, some people have more energy at midday or in the afternoon. Pick the time that makes the most sense for your energy levels and schedule.
3. Write (or type) your plan.
Now that you have an idea of how often and when you plan to exercise, write it down. This plan can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. But the more detailed, the better. Keep a copy of this plan somewhere you can see it every day.
4. Shift your mindset
Yes, it can be difficult to enjoy exercise. So, it’s much more empowering to focus on the results you’re seeking.
Before, during, and after you exercise, remind yourself of your vision for your health. One of the ways I do this is with affirmations. I repeat certain affirmations in my mind as I’m working out to give myself that extra boost.
5. Find something you enjoy
If you like it, you’re more likely to do it. So go for a workout that seems fun or interesting to you. You can sign up for class pass to try a variety of classes until you find something that feels good.
6. Or pretend you like it
Sometimes the exercise you have to do to get the results you want is not the exercise you enjoy. In that case, fake it until you make it. Avoid saying you “hate xyz” or “xyz is so hard”.
For example, I’m not a fan of lunges. But I’ve made a conscious choice to avoid saying, “ I hate lunges”. In fact, right before I do them, I say, “ I’m good at lunges”. And I must say, I’ve been doing lunges for years and I’m just starting to notice a difference in my form and strength. I’m convinced it’s because I’ve affirmed that I’m great at doing lunges.
7. Focus on form first
Regardless of what type of workout you do, having good form will take you farther faster. Proper form will prevent you from having injuries and even minimize soreness, which will make you more likely to return. When it’s time to focus on results, you might also notice faster results when you’re doing exercises properly.
8. Start small
Be realistic about your goals and your current level of fitness. If you’ve been sedentary for years, it’s probably not a good idea to start off with something intense, like a 45-minute HIIT session several days a week. You’ll likely get discouraged.
Instead, start micro. If a 10-minute daily walk sounds more realistic, begin there. There’s nothing wrong with starting small and working your way up. Progress over perfection is the name of the game.
9. Acknowledge and evaluate low-energy days.
You’ve probably been inundated with social media messages like “no days off”. Quite frankly, not taking days off or at least acknowledging that you can’t give 100% is not going to keep you consistent. It will only lead to burnout.
When you’re not feeling at your best, take a moment to evaluate why. Are you properly nourished? Have you gotten enough sleep? Is your fatigue cycle related? It’s also a good idea to account for cyclical fluctuations in your workout plan.
10. Lay your gear out ahead of time.
Have a special place where you lay out your clothes and shoes ahead of time. If you take any pre or post-workout supplements, have those ready to go as well. The more convenient you make it, the easier it will be to build the habit of working out.
11. Set a reminder.
Since exercising every day might be a new habit, it’s a good idea to set a reminder on your phone, especially at first.
12. Enlist some help.
Whether it’s a friend to hold you accountable or a paid coach, it’s always a smart idea to get someone else involved. Another person can provide you with the accountability and encouragement you might need when things get tough.
13. Unfollow the #fitspo.
I know this advice sounds a little jarring. But stay with me on this one. You’re probably following tons of fitness or health-related accounts. I suggest pausing or unfollowing any of these social media accounts that make you feel you’re far away from your goals or need to be doing more.
Sometimes this type of content can contribute to negative feelings about your current fitness level. I suggest avoiding it altogether until you develop a healthy relationship with working out.
Following these simple, yet effective tips will help you find joy in moving consistently and forming a life-long habit. After all, the main goal should always be to build a lifestyle that cultivates wellness.
Let me know in the comments if you already do some of these things or if there’s a tip that I missed.
What a superb way to deliver the tips. Felt really personal and inspiring.
Thank you for this!
I know that consistency was the hardest for me. I have started doing Yoga now adays.
I love these tips! They definitely feel doable, even for someone like me who doesn’t love to exercise but know I should. I appreciate how most of your tips put focus on what feels right for us as people, rather than what we think we should be doing by other peoples standards. That’s a super helpful mindset shift. Thanks!