3 Tips to Turn Exercise into a Lifelong Habit.

How many times have you heard someone say:

“I’ve got no motivation for the gym today.”

How many times have you said it yourself?

‘Waiting for motivation’ is an interesting concept. Think of it like this: do you wait for motivation to eat? Unlikely. You do it because your body needs it. You do it because you’re hungry. But your body hungers for exercise, too.

Instead of relying on motivation, make exercise a habit. Do it so consistently that it becomes automatic. Hardwire it into your brain so deeply that you can’t live without it. Sounds hardcore right? The alternative (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, heart attacks) is hardcore too. Pick your hardcore.

Does motivation have a place?

100% yes. Motivation is your reason for getting up and going for that run/cycle/swim. It’s your WHY.

When I first started exercising, my ‘why’ was to lose weight. I’ve been exercising pretty regularly for 12 years now and my weight has gone up and down in that time. At my thinnest, I exercised pretty much every day. At my fattest? Pretty much every day. As I type this? I’m exercising. Jokes. The point is, I’ve reached a point where it doesn’t matter what’s going on with my weight OR my motivation, I keep exercising.

My actions are consistent. They’re hardwired. When I wake up in the morning, I brush my teeth, I exercise, I have coffee. They’re all equally important to me. When one isn’t there, I don’t feel like myself. I’ve formed a habit.

I’m using my personal story not to brag, but to illustrate an important point: motivation gets you started, habit keeps you going. So: find your why and use it to motivate you at the start. Stay consistent for long enough, and you’ll form a habit, too.

Here are 3 more tips to help you on your way.

1. Be a goal-getter. Write down what you want to achieve. Then break it down into smaller goals (AKA ‘objective goals’), like so:

·         Goal: I want to lose 10 kilos.

·         Objective goals: run 1km in under 5 minutes, do 10x bodyweight chin-ups in 90 seconds, sleep 8 hours a night and do weight training 2x a week. Measure progress every 6 weeks.

Objective goals are the smaller targets you need to hit in order to achieve your larger goal – they provide a roadmap to guide you. You may need the help of a personal trainer to create them.

2. Remove all obstacles. To increase the likelihood that you’ll exercise consistently, get rid of anything that stands in between you and your next sweat sesh. Here are some examples:

·         If you regularly end up working late, but your mornings are pretty quiet? Schedule morning workouts, when work is less likely to come between you and exercise.

·         Exercise EVERY DAY. You’re better off doing shorter bursts of daily activity, rather than 2 or 3 big bursts per week.

·         Prepare your clothes and gym bag in advance. The last thing you need to be doing is stumbling around at 5am looking for a pair of socks. Or your keys. (Guilty. And guilty.)

You’re not a robot. Things will get in the way. Life will happen. BUT consistency is the KEY to forming a habit. And this is the key to progress.

3. Track your progress. Here’s why:

·         You can see any improvements you make, identify your small wins, and celebrate them! Preferably NOT with a whole cake or a slab of beer. Celebrating your achievements reminds you of WHY you started in the first place. This feeds into your motivation and keeps your momentum up until your new habit is fully formed.

·         It keeps you accountable. As well as seeing where you nailed it, you’ll be able to identify where you’ve dropped the ball. If your step chart, for example, shows that you nailed 10,000 steps for 10 days in a row and then 5000 steps on the 11th day, you’re more likely to reflect on why that happened and think of ways to avoid it happening again. It’s hard to ignore bad decisions when they’re staring you in the face!

2 months from today you’ll be thankful you started.

Starting a new fitness regime is today’s challenge. But if you keep it up, it WILL become tomorrow’s habit.