How to Make Exercise a Habit This Year

By January 17, 2015 No Comments
Adam Bowers Working Out at Gym

Gettin’ Sweaty at the Gym

Shouldn’t a post on exercise have come closer to January 1, not a couple weeks in? Nope. Now’s the time when fighting for the last open treadmill at the gym is starting to wear on you. Don’t worry – it will start to thin out soon, but let’s make sure it’s not you that stops showing up. It would be much easier to NOT go to the gym, or exercise outside, or move at all, frankly, than all this struggle. But speaking from personal experience, if you want to improve your quality of life in an amazing cascading ripple effect of awesome, exercise is the one habit to build in 2015.

The list of people who point to exercise for their unbelievable productivity and success are many. Richard Branson swears by it. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (great read!), has identified it as a “keystone habit” – a simple discipline that makes all your other positive life-changing habits stickier and more potent.

I’ve certainly seen this effect in my own life. I eat better because I exercise. I like to think of myself as a logical person, so it makes no sense to me to go through the effort of working out to then rush to McDonald’s and slam Big Macs. Also, I just feel so much better mentally and spiritually after working out. Recent research suggests that a workout session is nearly equivalent to taking an antidepressant drug.

So, if your enthusiasm to follow through on your New Years resolution to exercise is starting to wane, here are a few tips that have helped me turn exercise into a regular habit:

1. Sign up for a gym membership if you can.

This was the first step in the process for me. I dabbled in P90X at home, and followed it through for a while, but eventually lost steam. Working out at home in your own fitness area may work for some, and if so, great. But for me, there’s something about the habit loop trigger of going to a separate physical place that forces me to exercise, because at home there’s so many other things to be distracted by (chocolate, organizing my sock drawer, etc.).

There are so many different types of gyms out there, but my recommendation is to find one near your home or work with decent equipment and 24 hour access so you can go early or late depending on what works (and it’s just all about what works for you). Plus, the investment in a gym membership will keep you going (at least for frugal midwesterners like me who hate “waste” and not getting the most out of things you paid money for…).

2. Pit exercise against something else you hate more.

For me, it’s sitting in rush hour traffic. There’s few things I hate more than stop-and-go, hope that maniac behind me brakes in time, dumb, inefficient commuting. So instead of sitting in my car and feeling the road rage bubbling up inside me like lava, I go to a gym near my office and productively wait for traffic to die down. This way I feel like I’m doubly winning – avoiding something I hate while simultaneously improving myself.

3. Do something you love while exercising.

Just because you’re working your butt off doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself with a guilty pleasure at the same time. Make a workout mix with plenty of B. Spears and BSB (that’s Backstreet Boys, to be clear). I listen to podcasts while working out, so I’m improving my body and mind at the same time (easy there tiger). Listen to a book on tape – whatever. Workout time is your time, so even though it’s tough, it doesn’t have to be all drudgery.

4. Use technology to track your progress.

It’s important to be able to see the strides you’re making, even if the mirror doesn’t reflect them immediately. Tech abounds to make this process easier, from the ubiquitous Fitbit to just your cell phone itself being able to track your steps, distance, calories, etc. I use Runkeeper to track all my workouts and see my progress over time. You don’t have to “get social” with apps like that, but if you do connect with other people, a little competition never hurt: the social pressure could keep you exercising on days you feel like doing nothing. For bonus points, get a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor that syncs with your phone for even more data.

You can do it. Make habitual exercise your goal for 2015 and see where else it takes you. Feel free to ask questions or leave other tips in the comment section below. I’m off to the gym…[share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”]