Making exercise a habit isn’t easy, but the benefits of establishing exercise into your regular routine will far outweigh how difficult you find your workouts. While many people want a miracle method to get results overnight, that’s just not how the body works. The unvarnished truth of getting results out of any exercise programme is that it’s all about dedication and consistency.
The best way to achieve consistency in your fitness goals is by making exercise a habit, rather than something unfamiliar that you build up in your head to be a major inconvenience to your plans and has you making excuses to yourself. This might seem a little easier said than done, so here are a few tips to get you on track with making exercise a habit, seeing results, and hopefully enjoying it along the way.
It’s best to start small when making exercise a habit following a period of inactivity. If you go into your new exercise routine with huge expectations, you will be setting yourself up to fail. It’s good to be clear about what you want to achieve, but you have to take it one step at a time.
If you want to eventually bench 100kg but your current personal best is 50kg, then try to get to a point where you bench 55kg comfortably, then 60kg, and so on. You will get to your goal eventually, but to get there, focus on the next immediate step.
One of the keys to making exercise a habit is to keep it simple. Some exercise routines are very challenging or time-consuming. There might be an exercise routine online that claims to give six-pack abs in two weeks, but you may have to work out every day for two hours or perform exercises that are so demanding you’d need a six-pack in the first place just to complete them.
Tailor your routine to what works for you, in terms of the time you have available and your current fitness level. You can always readjust if your circumstances change, and as you get fitter you can seek out more challenging exercises.
Once you’ve worked out a schedule for yourself, it’s beneficial to set reminders for when you are supposed to be exercising. Once the reminder is written down or set in your phone, it doesn’t need to take up any mental space until you’re in the gym or putting on your running shoes. Setting reminders is a great way to start making exercise a habit, as it makes it less likely you will forget or miss a workout. If you set reminders for the morning of, or nights before your workout, that will give you enough notice to pack your gym bag, pack an appropriate lunch or whatever preparation you need to do.
There are some great apps for phones and smart devices to help you with your workout. It’s definitely worthwhile using it for reminders and a rest timer between sets if nothing else, but there are plenty of apps that can help you track your diet, plan your workout routine, chart your progress, and otherwise help towards making exercise a habit. Have a look at our list of recommended apps here.
One of the most common reasons people fall out of love with their exercise routines is boredom. If your workout is always half an hour on the treadmill followed by half an hour on the spin bike every time you go to the gym, you will start to resent it. Whatever your fitness goals are, there are plenty of ways to get there. Trying out a new lift or swapping out a bit of cardio for some core training, for example, will really liven up your workout enthusiasm.
You need consistency in your routine to see results, but it’s a good idea to change things up at least once a month so that you don’t plateau. It keeps your body working at its peak if it has to adapt to new techniques often. Besides, variety is the spice of life!
Whilst exercising should be hard work, it shouldn’t be joyless. You can strive for your fitness goals and have fun too. If you have friends who want to get fit too, train together – you’ll keep each other motivated and you’ll be combining your hard work with enjoyable social time. Starting a new fitness class or sports club is also a lot less daunting with a friend by your side.
Listening to music while training is a great motivator too. Get some decent headphones and make a playlist that pumps you up or just puts you in a good mood – it really can make a difference. Making exercise a habit starts with making it fun. Find the exercises and type of training you enjoy, and you’ll actually be looking forward to your next gym session.
This one might seem a little superficial, but it’s important. You need to feel physically and mentally comfortable with what you wear for your workouts. If you’re worrying about how you look or how your clothes fit whilst you’re exercising, then you won’t be pushing yourself as hard as you can. It doesn’t matter what anyone else in the gym is wearing or what the most expensive brand is, just get some gear you feel confident in, and it’s one less worry for you to carry around.
The most underrated part of all exercise and training is rest. Whatever your goals are, your body only makes changes when you are resting. Your muscles don’t get bigger while you’re lifting weights, they get bigger as your body repairs whilst you’re sleeping. You also won’t get as much out of your workout if you try and repeat a routine with tired muscles. Give your body the time it needs to rest, and you will be rewarded with results.
Having set rest days is also good for the mind. It gives you something to look forward to, and you can enjoy them guilt-free, knowing that you’ve done your work. Like anything, your exercise routine needs balance, and it gets that from rest. Your exercise should be something that helps you enjoy the things you do more, not something that prevents you from doing them.
No matter what your fitness goals are, making exercise a habit is the best way to achieve them. It will be tough at first, but once you’ve found a place for your workouts where it doesn’t stop you doing the other things you want to do, and you stick with it, there will come a point in the not-too-distant future where your workout causes you as little stress as your other habits, like taking a shower, or having your morning coffee.