We’ve all heard it a million times—all you have to do to lose weight is eat less and move more. The problem with that saying, while it’s true, it’s overwhelmingly negative. As long as we look at eating healthy and exercising as something we HAVE to do, we will automatically resist it. Most people approach a new exercise program as this optional, strenuous, annoying thing they have to get out of the way. I promise if you view it this way, it will not become a permanent part of your lifestyle. So, what’s the difference between these people and the ones who love exercise? And how do I get from here to there?
The key lies in making exercise a habit. Stick with me here. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s amazingly powerful. I’ve been consistently exercising for a year, and I love it. But it wasn’t always that way. When I started out exercising I was definitely one of those people who dreaded it and looked at it as a necessary evil. If you feel that way too, I put together a list of the things that have helped me make exercise a habit in my life, and I hope some of them will help you too.
10 Tips to Make Exercise a Habit
1) Stop looking at exercise as a way to burn calories. Yes, you’ll burn some calories from exercise, but to be honest, the number is pretty insignificant unless you’re exercising hours every day.
2) View exercise as a gift you are giving to yourself. Exercise for what it adds to your life–energy, vitality, emotional stability, and a greater sense of self-love and empowerment.
3) Get addicted to the high. Exercise is seriously invigorating and uplifting. I think it’s a combination of knowing you pushed your body hard and that you pushed your mind even harder. Let yourself revel in that satisfaction. That feeling will help get you to the gym.
4) Find an exercise you love. Try a variety of different types of exercise until you find one that fits your lifestyle, personality, and available time frame. Most days I only workout for 20-30 minutes, but that’s long enough to experience all of the benefits. Don’t think you have to do something because it’s what everyone else is doing. Hate running? Don’t run. Feel like a dork in that Zumba class? [I’m speaking from personal experience on this one.] Don’t do it. It’s your body, your life, and your exercise.
5) Combine exercise with another enjoyable activity. Until exercise becomes a habit and you start feeling the positive benefits, it helps to pair it with another activity you love. Create a rocking playlist, watch Netflix while you run on the treadmill, or listen to podcasts.
6) Fall in love with the process. While it doesn’t hurt to set goals, sometimes they keep us future focused. Be present and enjoy the process of becoming fit. Pay attention to small non-scale victories like being able to run a little farther or faster, not getting winded when you climb the stairs, and being able to button your favorite pair of jeans [This one happened for me this week.]
7) Forget about exercising to lose weight. Decide that you will continue to exercise even if you never lose a pound. Don’t worry, the results will come, but that can’t be your focus or you’ll get discouraged, and want to quit, when it doesn’t happen as fast as you’d like.
8) Decide that you are a person who exercises. Sometimes acting “as if” will help you become. If you act like a fit and healthy person would act, you will become one. Make exercising part of your identity. If you tell yourself that you’re someone who exercises, you’ll soon believe it. And who knows, you might even start to feel like an athlete.
9) Start small. Part of making exercise a habit is learning to trust yourself. You have to follow through with what you say you’re going to do. You can even start with just putting your exercise clothes on, or promising to walk around the block. Often once you get started, you’ll keep going and do more than you planned.
10) Create a minimum standard. Decide on a minimum amount of exercise that you are willing to commit to for the rest of your life. Pick something easy enough that you can do it no matter what, then be okay with it. If there are weeks you can only do the minimum, that’s perfectly fine. My own personal minimum is 15 minutes 3 times per week. The majority of the time I do more than that, but as long as I stick with my minimum, I know that I won’t fall out of the habit, and that I can trust myself to follow through with what I say I’m going to do.
Join the Conversation
How do you feel about exercise? Love it? Hate it? Do you exercise to burn calories or for another reason? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.