4 Simple Ways To Make Exercise A Habit

By Annija Bodniece

Annija Bodniece is a Latvian author, blogger, and an artist. She is the founder of Fervent Writing, a blog where she shares thoughts on self-development, writing and creative-work. She has a deep passion for life, adventures and words that encourage. Usually loves to lift weights, bake healthy desserts and laugh unapologetically loud.
Check out her blog: www.ferventwriting.com

Let’s face it, we all dream of being fit and healthy one day.
We set big goals for ourselves that leave us feeling overwhelmed in the end. No new habits built, no goals accomplished.

The same goes for building a new habit of exercising. We all, you, and I, want to build an exercise habit that lasts, right?

Obviously, wanting and doing are two different things. Changing something is difficult. Building a new habit and actually living it is hard.
We are quite different when it comes to personal feelings about self-worth, self-confidence and body image. But one we have in common – we are all human beings and our bodies function more or less the same way.

So, I want to share some strategies that can create this habit-building process easier.

To build my own exercise routine, I have tried plenty of strategies before. I have come to a conclusion that the combination of these four steps is pretty effective. It’s been more than two years that I have stuck to an exercise routine and I still remember the very beginning of struggling. It’s no unicorns and fairy tales, we all know that, but the outcome is definitely worth it. I’m more than happy to share how I succeeded in making exercise a habit, knowing that it might help you too!

So, let’s get to it.

1. Develop a ritual to make starting easier

To break it down, habits are simple behaviours that we do repeatedly. But behaviours we build by little rituals and routines of our daily lives. Therefore these tiny rituals are super essential when it comes to starting out. If you establish a ritual that makes starting your workout automatic or even mindless, then the habit-building-ball will begin to roll. It will be much easier to keep going.

When I first started out I exercised at home all by myself. Nobody actually knew that,

besides my family (mysterious fitness chick, ha!). You can imagine the size of dedication I needed to keep the habit consistent.
Nope, it wasn’t easy at all.

Since I am a complete fanatic of time management, I decided to create a time plan for my exercises. There were sticky notes placed on my calendar for each day I had planned to exercise. Also, what kind of exercise it’s going to be.

This kind of plan built a ritual that prepared me for the upcoming week, the upcoming day. Having the image of the sticky note on my calendar saying Legs&Cardio running through my mind all day long made a difference. It kept repeating over and over until my brain completely absorbed it. The urge to just get it done and feel relieved was huge.

It’s interesting that our brain can’t tell the difference between something we vividly imagine and something we actually experience. Constantly having the image of that sticky note and the image of myself working out in the evening all day long activated strong sensation. It played over and over again in my mind, reinforcing the ritual of starting my workout automatically when I come home from work. It’s fantastic!

2. Find A Routine That You Like

We have to understand that fitness is not a one-size-fits-for-all and that exercise is not all about the gym.

“Pushing yourself through a workout style that you hate is not the way to form a healthy relationship with exercise. A routine that feels fun for you can help keep your interest and make it easier to keep going,” says my favorite fitness trainer Kayla Itsines.

For example, if you’re not a gym person or if you don’t find the idea of exercise for the sake of exercising attractive, then give it a function. Cycle to work when you would have taken the public transport or car. Walk to meet friends or family on weekends.

Join team sports training if competition is what you prefer. Or plug in some headphones and go for a long walk or a run if you need some more headspace and love solitude. Join a dance, yoga, Step class, whatever it is, make sure it’s both a great fun and a challenge to your body.

3. Start with something ridiculously small

Majority of us fail to stick with a new behaviour because we have great expectations.

We want to take huge steps and start out all strong. It’s cool and all but it rarely works. All you need is something small to just begin with.

I’ve found a great way to make exercise a habit by starting with something that is so easy that it’s possible to do even when there’s no motivation and willpower.

Make it so easy you can’t say no.

Leo Babauta

It’s pretty simple: instead of worrying about the workout itself, focus on finding a way to just get started.
Struggling to get up for a morning workout? Prepare your sportswear the night before. Put it right next to your bed, so the next morning all you have to do is turn on some good music and reach for the clothes.

Feeling lazy to go for a run tonight? Just put on your running shoes and fill up your water bottle.

When I struggled to find motivation for my evening workout, I usually started out with dancing to my favorite songs. It always (literally always!) led to a workout.
Sometimes I even wore my sports bra the whole day to remind myself that there’s a workout that needs to be done right when I arrive home, but please, don’t tell that to anyone.

Honestly, these little things which are easy to do will be enough to get the motivation flowing and therefore help you finish the task.

4. Track Your Achievements & Reward Yourself

This is actually the most important one. In order for a change to last, we need to condition the new pattern until it’s consistent.
Set up a schedule to reinforce your new habit. Set up some tiny goals, or milestones, and when you reach each of them, reward yourself immediately.

Don’t wait until you’ve exercised five times a week. When you’ve taken the bicycle over your car to go to work, give yourself a reward already!
When you’ve taken stairs instead of the elevator, give yourself a pat on the back!
Don’t wait until you’ve lost forty pounds. Don’t even wait until you’ve lost a pound. The moment you choose a piece of fruit over a sugary cup of cake, congratulate yourself!

This way your brain very soon begins to link the reward with the new habit and the behaviour strongly gets reinforced. And reinforced means – it becomes consistent!

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