How to Acquire and Strengthen the Habit of Exercising

Habit of Exercising

This article about the Habit of Exercising is a detailed plan of action and advice for those who previously could not exercise regularly.

Often people try to introduce new healthy habits, such as running in the morning or regularly going to the gym. Still, the fuse is enough for only a few times. Then vanity and laziness take over them, and the annual subscription to the fitness room gathers dust on the shelf all year.

In this article, I will share my personal experience of implementing exercise habits. Let me explain right away that training is not necessarily two-hour classes in the gym, after which you can hardly stand on your feet. This could be a 10-15 minute exercise with abs or push-ups.

The important thing is that it should become a habit and become a part of us – just like brushing your teeth in the morning or tying your shoes before going out.

Where to Begin?

Habit of Exercising
Habit of Exercising

Before you start running in the morning or going to the gym, decide why you will do it and what long-term results you expect to get.

Only by understanding the importance of a new habit can you make a regular effort until that habit starts working.

Write down your reasons on a piece of paper. For myself, I have identified seven main benefits in sports:

  1. I will become more energetic both at work/business and in my personal life.
  2. During exercise, the body produces endorphins that stimulate positive emotions, suppress depression, and reduce anxiety.
  3. The body is tempered, organs and cells are saturated with oxygen, and immunity is increased.
  4. The muscles get stronger.
  5. Regular physical activity can help you burn excess calories and lose weight.
  6. With the alternation of loads and periods of recovery, energy resources and endurance, in general, will increase.
  7. The regularity of classes will make you more disciplined and purposeful.

What is a Habit in Terms of Physiology?

Habit of Exercising
How to Acquire and Strengthen the Habit of Exercising?

The habit formula is as follows:

Habit = Signal-stimulus (trigger) + Behavioral model (pattern) + Positive reinforcement (reward).

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Nobel Prize laureate in medicine, distinguished between unconditioned reflexes (present from birth) and conditioned (acquired during life).

How does this help us reinforce the habit? The mechanisms of habit development and the acquisition of a conditioned reflex are common. And the main task in forming a habit is to turn from irregular actions into a conditioned reflex, which is reproduced easily, almost automatically.

I applied this formula to the habit of playing sports, and for me now it looks like this:

Trigger Pattern Reward

Daily workout reminder in the to-do list (usually 1.5-2.5 hours after morning work) – Pack your backpack and go to the gym or, if time is short, put on sports shorts and exercise at home – Delicious breakfast – I have about 10 breakfast variations on the Trello board. I choose from them what I want today. On Fridays, this is usually macaroni and cheese – the trigger for the active work week’s last day.

Why You Can’t Exercise Regularly?

Habit of Exercising

Here is a list of the main mistakes people make when starting to play sports.

Trying to introduce a habit solely with willpower

Unfortunately, willpower is a minimal resource that usually runs out before the habit takes hold.

Taking on too heavy a load

If you come to the gym and a coach offers you an hour program, after which you have difficulty moving your legs, this is a sure way to give up such workouts after a couple of sessions.

Implementing multiple habits at the same time

I used to make this mistake regularly, trying to develop many habits at once. This usually ends with none of them being fixed. Focus and concentration are important factors when introducing a new habit.

You are not interested

People who try to go to the gym will understand me, but they are bored there.If it’s boring to pull the iron, go to a group workout, try CrossFit, or go for a run in the park.

Dramatically change your daily routine

If before you did not spend an hour and a half a day at the gym, and now you try to go to work out every day, your brain begins to resist actively, because it is very unusual for it.

To build such a significant habit into your life, take it gradually. For example, start with a 5-minute exercise in the morning, after two weeks exercise for 10 minutes, after another two weeks add 15-20 minutes of jogging, and so on. This process is perfectly described in Robert Maurer’s book One Small Step Can Change Your Life.

How to Reinforce Your Exercise Habit?

Habit of Exercising

Habit of Exercising

Tip 1. Make a lesson plan

It is convenient to make it as cards in the free Google Keep service, and it will always be on your phone, even without access to the Internet.

The plan must be phased: you do not need to start with intense training immediately, 10 minutes a day is enough for the first weeks.

Tip 2. Add variety

The brighter your workouts, the more fun it will be for you to introduce the habit.

Come up with locations for bad weather: for example, option 1 – charging in the room; op2 – group workout in the gym; 3 – pool + exercise bike; option 4 – a rocking chair and so on.

For good weather, choose 2–3 parks or other beautiful places to run or exercise.

For more motivation, you can take a photo at each workout and once a week/month make collages of these photos (for example, in Google Photos, they are created in a few clicks).

Tip 3. Prepare in advance

On the weekends, prepare your gym for the week. It is ideal when you have different clothes for different activities (for example, at home you train in one T-shirt, for the gym you have another, and so on). So, the brain will feel even more diverse in training.

It is also convenient when there is a special drawer or shelf in the closet for the form so that you do not waste extra effort remembering where what is.

It is essential that the uniform is comfortable and you like the way you look in it: then you will be happy to wear it every time.

Make a playlist of music to keep you energized while exercising or running – many services, such as Google Play Music, Spotify, and others, allow you to collect playlists and listen to them even offline. Or you can just download the songs to your phone and organize them already there. The more motivating tracks you have, the better!

Tip 4: Add physical activity reminders to your calendar

You must plan your workouts and set reminders, then the chances of exercising are significantly increased.

For example, I entered my daily physical activity in the to-do list planner, which reminds me of this every day. This function is available in all electronic organizers, including Google Calendar, MS Outlook, Evernote, and others.

Tip 5. Use the “if-then” method

Often, because of some reason, you can’t get to the gym: for example, the boss decided to hold a planning meeting in the evening, and the group training had to be skipped.

Use your imagination and develop 2-3 options for how you can add physical activity to your routine in such cases:

  • after work, get off the metro to the station earlier and walk home to the house;
  • walk the dog for half an hour more in the evening;
  • go to the pool and swim, and so on.

It is clear that walking 2 km is not the same as CrossFit training in terms of load, but our task is to consolidate the habit. The type of activity is not critical because regularity is important.

And if you just don’t feel like going to the gym today, that’s okay – just figure out what you will do instead.

Tip 6. Record your results

First, it will help you see your progress, and second, it will help you perceive the acquisition of a new habit as a game. Your boring task – going to the gym – will turn into an exciting one – go to the “new level” by completing, for example, 20 sessions in a month.

It is convenient to record the results in a table where the percentage of completed per month is calculated. You can highlight the cells with colors depending on the type of activity: I mark days with intense green training and light training in yellow.

Transfer the results for the month to the table with the results for the year. Then you will have a specific goal – this year to be better than last. You can also set goals by month so that, for example, March of the current year is more productive in terms of sports than March of the past.

Here’s an example: Over a year, I completed my training plan by 77% (159 out of 264 workouts planned). I think this is a good result, since last year, there were many flights for work, and on trips, you often get out of schedule.

And here is my result for a consecutive year, and the year started with a bang: the results turned out to be significantly better than the previous year.

By keeping such a table, you will turn physical activity into an exciting game, a competition where you compete to have a better tomorrow than yesterday.

Tip 7. Come up with a reward for yourself

For example, it could be a delicious after-workout dinner or going to the movies if you have completed your weekly lesson plan.

The reward shouldn’t be substantial, but it should be regular (every time you follow a new habit). It is, in this case, that the practice will be strengthened most effectively.

How Long Does It Take to Establish a Habit?

Habit of Exercising
Habit of Exercising

In his excellent book Psychocybernetics, Plastic surgeon Maxwell Moltz writes that his patients take an average of 21 days to get used to a new appearance. The formation of a conditioned reflex – not to be surprised, seeing yourself in the mirror with a changed face – is a habit.

But depending on the habit, you may need from one to three months to establish it. Of course, the longer you stick with it, the more the force of the habit will help you in the future.

A habit is a wonderful tool with which we can radically change our lives. The difficulty is that habits are introduced gradually, and for their formation, you need to follow basic rules, for example, the principle of “trigger – pattern – reward.” But once the habit is established, it will be easy for you to follow it.

If you want to live an exciting, vibrant, and fulfilling life, you need to form the right habits. This is perhaps the most important thought that I wanted to express in the article.

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