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How to Turn Exercise Into a Habit That Sticks

One of life’s greatest mysteries might be how to stick with a workout routine. While motivation and excitement can be great ways to get started, neither lasts long, and many people wonder where they went wrong. But the truth is, creating and building a new habit is hard, especially if you’re going from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one. But it’s not impossible either. 

So if you want to know how you make exercise a habit you stick with, keep reading!

Start Simple

One effective way to get going with a fitness routine is to keep it easy. Like, ridiculously easy. That way, you can be sure to stick with it even when you’re short on willpower, motivation, or time. Consider implementing the two-minute rule where you just focus on getting started. So if your workout for the day is a run, focus on changing your clothes and putting on your running shoes rather than the whole workout. You’ve succeeded! And often, just those few minutes will be what you need to keep going. 

Setting smaller goals can be a great way to change your perspective from seeing exercise as an impossible chore to an easily achievable goal and a natural part of your day.

Create a Ritual

A habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” So to get to that settled or regular practice, it’s important to repeat the desired behavior over and over again. And that can be done, in part, by creating a ritual. And, similar to our first tip, just getting started can be the key to that repetition. That’s why rituals and routines are so important – they can make a workout routine automatic, making it much easier to follow through with consistently. 

You can start building a ritual by adding a workout to an already-settled habit or creating a schedule. For example, set your intention to exercise by completing this sentence (extra points for writing it down, which can help make it more concrete!): 

This week, I will exercise on [day] at [time] at [location] for [length of time]. 

A study published by the British Journal of Health Psychology found that 91 percent of people who planned their intention to exercise by completing the above sentence ended up following through. On the other hand, a group that read motivational material about exercise but did not make a plan showed no increase compared to the control group (which only tracked how frequently they exercised). This reveals the power of intention over motivation.

Don’t Focus on the Results (Yet)

Most folks start a fitness journey because they’re focused on the results, such as losing weight or looking toned in a swimsuit. They’ll typically set goals such as, “I want to lose 20 pounds in four months.” While this can be an excellent initial motivator, what matters most when starting is building a routine you’ll stick with, not the results you’ll eventually get. So rather than focusing on those 20 pounds in the next four months, set a goal not to miss a workout in the next four months. Once you’ve established an exercise routine and have become the person who doesn’t miss workouts, you can focus on what results you want to achieve. 

One tactic to consider is setting limits on your routine. If you’ve decided to work out in a gym, set a time limit, say 10 minutes, on how long you can stay (remember to start simple!). Gradually increase this over time, and before you know it, you’ve become someone who has created a workout habit. From there, you can focus on progress and results.

Ask for Help

A great way to make exercise stick is by asking someone to hold you accountable to your routine. Whether you invite a friend to join your workouts, sign up for an exercise class, or work with a personal trainer, you can create a support system that helps you establish the habit and continue it.

At Forge, we think that working with a fitness coach is critical to a successful wellness journey. They can create customized workouts and keep you on schedule, help pick you up when you stumble, and keep that exercise habit going strong!

Schedule time to chat with us if you’d like to learn more about how a personal coach can help you build an exercise habit. We have a team of certified trainers ready to help you!