How to Start Exercising Daily (10 tips to forming a workout habit)
Growing up I was never introduced to “working out” because we played sports and that was enough daily exercise to not have to worry about it. Let’s just say I played enough tennis every day to blow through an evening of all-you-can-eat pasta and breadsticks at Olive Garden and still be at an average weight – though I was never skinny, I was always the “athletic” build. And no, thank god I never did the Olive Garden trip – but just saying, I could’ve…I do love pasta.
So when I got to college I wasn’t playing as much tennis, maybe 5-6 hours a week on the club team, and the weight started to slowly creep on. It wasn’t the freshman 15 or anything, but over the next 3 years the late night ice cream sandwiches (my favorite drunchie – drunk munchy for those of you that don’t know the cool college kid lingo), all-you-can-eat cafeterias, and of course the all-you-can-drink booze that accompanies the college lifestyle caught up with me.
Then at the start of my spring semester of junior year, I broke my wrist badly snowboarding and had to have surgery. I had 2 pins stuck in my right wrist for about 8 weeks so it was impossible to exercise – even walking made my blood start pumping and it would hurt.
I didn’t change my eating habits either so without exercise my weight started piling on even faster. By the summer of my junior year I was up to 180 lbs!! I’m 5’9″ so 180 isn’t obese or anything for my height, but I definitely needed to get back closer to 150 which is about what I weighed going into college. I’m going to show you a picture…as much as I hate it. It’s one of those pictures you instantly de-tag yourself from on Facebook (you know the ones) and now I’m sharing it with the world. Lol, I guess there are worse things.
Tackle one habit at a time
When I was on a mission to lose those 30 extra lbs I didn’t really even know how to exercise and I found it really hard to motivate myself, two things that made starting my habit difficult. I also didn’t know much about healthy foods and nutrition (my favorite thing to make for dinner was the Garlic and Herb Pasta Roni…). Thinking about learning how to work out and eat healthy all at once was overwhelming. It made it all more intimidating and less motivating. I tried doing both at once and I ended up breaking both habits within the first 2 weeks. It felt like too much pressure, an impossible task. So I started over and thought I’d try just tackling one at a time. I wanted to first get into a habit of working out and once that was in place and I knew I would stick with it, I added the healthy eating. When you try to do too many new things at once, you often fail because its fucking HARD. Learning something new is hard. Learning something new and trying to form a new habit is even harder. Give yourself a break and start with just one at a time. Move onto the next habit once you’re confident your first one is set in stone.
Schedule your time to work out and then don’t work out
Ok, let me explain this one a bit since it’s counterintuitive. If you’re really having trouble getting started and simply cannot find the motivation to workout like ever then start with the very very least amount of effort that you could possibly do. Something that’s so easy its pretty much impossible not to do. I’m talking about something as simple as just getting in the habit of setting your schedule and driving to the gym. Seriously. Commit to getting into your workout clothes and driving to the gym at the scheduled time say 3 days a week. Let yourself off the hook for the first week – don’t even work out at this point, just get yourself into the mindset of “this is my gym time,” and get comfortable with the gym. Maybe spend one or two of the days walking through it and checking everything out. You can always do more once you’re there, but this will be the least amount of effort you’re committing to and just hold yourself to that. If that’s too easy, start by committing to driving to the gym and just walking on the treadmill for 10 minutes. Or walk on it for 30 minutes and watch a favorite show. That’s it. Don’t make starting too difficult and if you can, try to make it fun. Maybe you only allow yourself to watch Law & Order SVU at the gym – that would get me going at least once a week for an hour! 😉 Starting a new habit is the hardest part. If you make it too hard and try to do too much too fast, you’ll 100% fail. For me, I started by choosing some home workouts that ranged from 15-30 minutes because I knew that was a manageable amount of time I could commit to 5 days a week. If you’re choosing a workout DVD – start with one that sounds more fun and has some shorter workout options. Don’t jump right into P90X. You’ll get too discouraged! Build yourself up to that one and start with easy workouts. 😉 I like this quote from Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect:
“Since your outcomes are all a result of your moment-to-moment choices, you have incredible power to change your life by changing those choices. Step by step, day by day, your choices will shape your actions until they become habits, where practice makes them permanent.”
The small, moment-to-moment choices we make every day will eventually lead us to the success we desire. Those small choices will eventually compound until they’ve formed into habits. I promise, one day in a few months down the line you’ll wake up and realize how much you’ve changed just by simply making a few small choices every day. Start small.
Sleep in your workout clothes
This is one of my favorite exercise tips to make working out a habit in the mornings, which is when most of us should be working out since we’re least likely to be interrupted then. If I’m already in my gym clothes when I wake up, it’s that much easier to just get up and get to my workout or the gym. When I was first starting to workout, if I even gave myself the time to think about whether or not I felt like going to the gym, I would often skip it or tell myself I would go later. Don’t give yourself this moment of hesitation or a chance to make a decision about it. Sleeping in your gym clothes takes away that decision and moment of hesitation. You’re already prepared, you’re already one step closer than you would be in your PJs, and let’s face it, PJ’s are so comfy and warm they’re hard to take off first thing in the morning, especially chilly winter mornings! When you’re already wearing your workout clothes you don’t have to deal with a cold morning and choosing your gym outfit – BAM it’s already on. Now get going. If you find your sports bra or gym clothes are uncomfortable, 1) suck it up, this is your health! and 2) just remember that this is only temporary, just for a few weeks to get your habit set up.
Find what works for you
Everyone enjoys exercise differently. Some people love group classes, some people love the gym. Some people love playing sports, some people love workout DVDs. Find whatever makes you comfortable from the beginning. If you hate going to the gym or you’re intimidated by it, you’re not going to stick with a habit of making it to the gym every day, don’t kid yourself. When I first started my fitness journey I had no idea how to use gym equipment. Every time I went to the gym to stick with my new habit I ended up meandering around, looking at the machines, trying one out and then running back to the safety of the elliptical.
So the gym thing failed at first. I decided I’d try some workout DVDs so I could workout in a place where no one could judge me, not that anyone ever was at the gym, but sometimes it feels that way! Workout DVDs can be amazing – as long as you’re able to motivate yourself enough to just push play you’ll be fine. My favorite way to workout now is through boxing and now I’m actually really excited to go to the gym – it’s one of my favorite parts of the day, it’s never a chore anymore. If you can find a class that you love or something similar it makes all the difference for sticking with your new workout habit.
Get a work out buddy
This is definitely a tried and true method. Not only does it help to have a friend who’s going through the same process, but it takes the “chore” feeling out of it. Think of it as friend bonding time – or couples therapy maybe? When you’re working on similar goals you can hold each other accountable, even if you’re not at the gym together. Dasha & I used to work out together all the time and we’d box multiple times a week together. I really do hold those memories close to my heart <3. We had so much fun in those classes. Try to motivate a friend to commit to starting a new workout habit with you or at least ask them to help hold you accountable – checking in every day to make sure you’ve accomplished your daily goal, at least the very small amount of effort you’ve committed to in tip #2! You’ll be much more likely to succeed and stick with your new habit with some help from a friend.
Get to know people at your gym
Whether these people are the regulars at your time, the front desk staff or trainers at the gym, it makes it easier to get to the gym when you know you’ll be greeted by people who actually know and care about you, who will give you a warm smile, a hug, a high five and ask you how you’re doing. Plus, everyone can use more friends! They’ll also be the first ones to help you get equipment you need or show you how to use a machine if you need help, and if you already know them, you’ll feel much more comfortable asking them for help. On top of that, a little voice in your head will be saying “Marge is going to be wondering where you were if you don’t make it in todayyyy…” Lol, oh Marge. All it takes is a warm greeting, ask them how their day is going and then say, I don’t think we’ve properly met yet, I’m Ali, and voila, new friend. Spend a minute or two talking to them when you get there and saying bye when you leave and soon you’ll even look forward to seeing them and catching up. Honestly, this is really something that has helped me start to get back into my gym habit after getting the OK from my doctor. Hopefully you don’t go to a gym where the people who work there are douches. If you do it’s time to switch gyms!
Schedule and pre-plan your workouts
When you have your workouts planned for the week it’s much easier to stick with them. First of all, you will be more efficient with your time and you won’t feel like a total amateur walking around thinking of things to do. That’s the worst feeling and really was one of the main reasons I hated going to the gym at first. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing and just sort of wandering around doing a few bicep curls here and a few lunges there without any structure. Get your workout planned ahead of time and it’ll be much easier to follow through and get it done in 45-60 minutes instead of 2 hours because ain’t nobody got time for that! Know what muscle groups you’re going to work on which days and break everything down into the sets and reps along with any cardio and core you plan to do. This is mostly for gym-goers who are focused on weight lifting (something I encourage all women to do!) but also applies to those going to classes or doing workout dvds – know what you’re doing for the week so you’re not trying to make a last minute decision about which DVD to put in or which class to jump into. When you leave decisions like this up to the last minute you’re so much more likely to just say meh, I’ll skip it today. Also make sure you schedule the times for your workouts in advance and don’t let anything change your plans! If it’s not your priority, you won’t stick with it. Even if friends ask to hang out at that time – ask them to do a different time – otherwise you’re making “hanging out” a priority over your new healthy lifestyle.
When you stick with your goals or at least the least amount of effort you’ve committed from #2, treat yourself every week! Everyone knows positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to make a habit. Whether it’s a manicure, a massage, dinner at a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, or making time for yourself to meet with a friend for drinks – whatever it is that is going to make you feel good. Working out isn’t a punishment, it’s a gift to be able to move your body and challenge yourself, so start seeing it that way. If you need daily rewards then think of something you can treat yourself with every day – maybe it’s a long epsom salt & essential oil bath to soothe your muscles, a piece of dark chocolate or a favorite post-workout protein shake. Get creative with it and have something to look forward to after you work hard.
Track your progress
One of the most important steps in making a successful habit is tracking. Tracking helps you stay motivated when you see your progress – use photos, measurements, and short and long term goals. You’re able to see how far you’ve come and make more plans to move forward. When I started out on my fitness journey I took all sorts of measurements all over my body so I could measure the inches lost. Trust me I lost something like 20 inches over my entire body. Pretty crazy. I also took pictures along the way which really helped me see the progress in a way you don’t often get to see when you look in the mirror every singe day. Just take it from Darren Hardy himself:
“All winners are trackers.” – The Compound Effect
Buy a new workout outfit
When all else fails…buy a new workout outfit. Ok, once you’re sort of in your routine and your habits are working, you might find yourself getting into a rut or you may have a couple of days during the week where you just don’t feel like working out. To spark that motivation again, sometimes all it takes is a new workout outfit. You’ll feel so on fleeeek that you’ll be singing Sia’s “Unstoppable” soundtrack in your head on repeat. This always seems to work for me. It could be just a cute new sports bra or a new tank top but there’s something about having new gear that gets you pumped for the next workout.
I hope you find these tips useful and you learn how to start exercising daily or at least how to exercise with more motivation and enthusiasm. Sometimes it takes creative methods to get a habit forming – but just try these out and see what works for you! Then hopefully you’ll be well on your way to a habit of daily exercise.