You’ve been there: sitting on the couch watching Netflix as the clock ticks past your scheduled workout. Fortunately, there are psychological techniques you can use to get fitness motivation over the long haul. As Aristotle said:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Here are 6 ways to get fitness motivation and turn exercise into a habit.
1. Use Fitness Motivation Surges Strategically
You know those times you feel hyper motivated to do 10,000 push-ups and 100,000 squats? Instead of going all-in on one insane workout (and feeling terrible the next day), use them to do more than just exercise. If you take a step back and make a game plan for when and how you’ll work out, you can help yourself stay motivated once the initial surge wears off.
Think about it. Which will get you better results: 100,000 push-ups in one day, or 100 push-ups over 1000 days? Consistency is more important than any one workout. Using motivation strategically stops you from burning out.
2. No Hard Workouts, For Now
Ever wonder why people rave about exercise, even though it seems like it sucks? Early on, the key to working out is developing a positive relationship with exercise. You can’t do that if every workout makes you want to die. Nothing on earth feels quite like stepping out of the gym on a sunny spring day. Instead of breaking down in a puddle of sweat, start with workouts that get you moving just a little. Boost your heart rate for a few minutes, feel energized, and look forward to coming back for more.
You can scale up later. Remember, the goal of your first workout isn’t to get fit; it’s to come back for your second workout. Start easy now, see results forever.
3. Do Something So Easy You Can’t NOT Finish
Think to the future: one year from now, where will you be? If you keep burning out in a blaze of failed motivation, you’ll probably wind up back on the couch. But if you slowly, gradually build a workout habit—starting with one push-up and scaling up to a full-body routine—your entire life could change. After one week you might feel behind. After 10 weeks you won’t.
My first workouts were only 10 minutes long. Since then I’ve had days (not many, but some) where I was happy to spend four hours in the gym. You don’t ever need to spend that long, but by starting small you might surprise yourself.
How can you start small? Start with one push-up. Set aside a clear chunk of time everyday to do just one push-up. Do that for weeks, then bump it up to five push-ups and add a squat. Gradually work your way up to a full workout.
4. Use Chaining
Habits are easier to start if you connect them to other habits.
How often do you have to remember to brush your teeth? Not often, because it’s a habit cued by other actions (waking up, going to the bathroom in the morning). In contrast, I’ve always struggled to work out on weekends, because going to the gym using willpower to force myself into action. With nothing to cue your workouts, it’s a lot harder to get moving.
Just about anything can be a cue. I like to use leaving work as a guaranteed cue: going straight from the office to the gym means there’s no time to change my mind. You can use waking up, eating lunch, or any other regular event in your life to build your fitness habit.
5. Use the Right Workout Rewards
Rewards are a great way to keep your fitness motivation, but only if you use them right. A big, one-time reward like a new game or watch feels good, but it isn’t going to create regular positive feelings that you can associate with your workouts.
Small rewards can be anything! I like to get social rewards by hanging out in a coffee shop near my gym. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg recommends having a small piece of chocolate at the end of each workout to stimulate endorphins. In college, I used to hang out with my friends in the athletic building after my workouts.
Your rewards will work if they are small, regular, and associated with going to the gym. You can’t use something like “taking a nap” because that happens too long after your workout to be effective. Any fun or enjoyable reward you can get within 20 minutes of your workout is perfect.
With the right rewards, you’ll learn to enjoy exercise, get fit, and never need fitness motivation again.
Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com