The problem with trying to make exercise a habit, and it’s something that we’ve all faced, is that you usually try to exercise 3 or 4 times a week and that makes creating a new exercise habit difficult. The reason is that the more consistent an action is, the more likely it is to be a habit. That’s why exercising every day is something that becomes almost automatic, and much easier, instead of a constant struggle.
Do a 30-day сhallenge, and by the end of the challenge your habit should be pretty well ingrained. Here are some practical suggestions to help make exercise a daily habit:
1. Set a time. Decide whether you’re more likely to stick with it in the morning or lunchtime or evening, and stick with that time. If you don’t set a time, you’re more likely to put it off until you have more time or energy, and then put it off until the next day. Soon, it’s not a habit at all.
2. Send yourself a reminder. There are a number of ways to send yourself an email or text reminder, so you’ll never forget. Then, when you get the reminder, do it right away. Don’t brook any delays.
3. Start small. This is perhaps the most useful suggestion of all. When you start exercising, you always start with lots of energy, enthusiasm and ambition. However, doing too much in the beginning leads to burnout, which leads to quitting your habit. When you first try to make exercise a daily habit, chances are, your body won’t be used to that kind of stress.
The key: only do 20 minutes in the beginning, and do it nice and easy. Nothing hard. Even 10-15 minutes is fine at first, if you’re just starting out. The key is to get out there, get your body slowly used to daily exercise, and form that habit.
4. Progress later. Once your body is used to daily exercise, you can slowly start to increase the amount and intensity of your exercise. Wait at least two weeks before starting to increase — that’s the minimum your body needs to adjust. Once it begins to feel way too easy, you can start increasing the length of your workouts, to 30 and then 40 minutes, and eventually up to an hour. Once you do that, you can gradually increase the intensity — running faster or harder, for example. Try not to increase both distance and intensity at the same time.
5. Make it pleasurable. If you associate a habit with pain, you will shy away from it. But if it’s fun, you’ll look forward to doing it. Focus on pleasure. Go slowly, enjoying the scenery, the fresh morning air, the beautiful sky as the sun rises, the quiet time of solitude and contemplation. An mp3 player with some great music helps.
6. Lay out your gear. The fewer obstacles and less friction there is in forming your new habit, the more likely you are to be successful. If you have to not only wake up early but get a bunch of gear together while half awake, you might just want to go back into bed. But if you lay out your workout clothes and shoes, watch and mp3 player, or whatever you need for your exercise, you’ll be ready to go with no friction at all.
7. Just head out the door. Just get your running shoes on and get out the door. Don’t worry about how long you have to go or how hard it will be. Just get out and get started. Once you’ve done that, it’s a piece of cake.
8. Mix it up. Instead of running every single day, get a variety of sports to do, and that makes it much more interesting.
9. Have a relative rest day. Again, recovery is very important. Which is why you need to give your body a chance to rest. If you’re taking it easy, and only doing 20 minutes, you should be OK without rest days. But it’s still good to have one day of rest, where you’re not doing the same exercises as the other six days. You don’t want to skip the day completely, because then you’re not being consistent with your habit. The key is to do something every day, preferably something that gets you moving and keeps your habit formation going.
10. Don’t skip a day. It’s easy to say, “No problem, I’ve been doing it for five days … I’ll just skip today!”. But that will make your habit formation harder. Consistency is key, so try not to skip a single day. If you do, don’t beat yourself up, don’t judge, don’t feel bad — everyone messes up sometimes, and habit formation is a skill that requires practice. Just start your 30-day challenge over again, and try to identify the obstacle that led to your skipping a day and prepare for it this time.
Empower your wellbeing and reconnect with your best you!