Let me clarify the title of this post:
This guide is not the "ultimate guide" to building a working out habit because it's the best, but because it's as good as any.
Do you find yourself reading many “ultimate guides” to habit formation, but still waiting for that magic moment to start working out?
Time to stop spending time researching and watching videos on how to build habits. The key is to transition from planning and learning to taking action.
Stages To Building a Habit
Let’s break down an example of “becoming an active person.” by building a working out habit:
1. Start with a Decision and a Why:
- Choose One Small Thing: Choose one habit to develop, like working out for 20 minutes every morning. Avoid trying to change multiple aspects of your life at once. It’s immensely better to make a tiny improvement to your life than aiming too high and changing nothing.
- Your Why: Reflect on your reasons for wanting to start working out, such as improving health, boosting energy, or enhancing mood.
- Commit: Sit with yourself and commit wholeheartedly to building this workout habit. This commitment is essential – you must decide to give this an honest shot for your reasons.
2. Set up your triggers:
- What Are Those: These are one or more cues that signal your brain to start the action or the new behavior. It’s better to have multiple triggers for one action.
- Our Workout Triggers: For instance, every morning at 8 am, change into workout clothes and go for a 20-minute walk at the same place.
- Strategy: Set phone reminders to lay out your workout clothes every night and to start the workout at 8 am. Lay the clothes next to your bed or wherever you think you will be at 8 am. You can even add sticky notes on your mirror or calendar entries.
3. Define Your Actions:
As we mentioned previously, start very small.
- Week 1: Start with simple 20-minute walks.
- Week 3: Incorporate ten air squats into your routine.
- Week 5: Add ten push-ups to your walks and squats.
Gradually increase your workout complexity to keep it manageable.
4. Make it Accessible And Appealing:
Change is hard. Uncomfortable activities like working out can’t always compete with more instantly gratifying activities like scrolling on social media or relaxing on the couch. So try the following:
- Accessible: You need to remove as many barriers as possible; that’s why we chose workouts that you can perform without a gym membership. Remove any other obstacles you can think of.
- Appealing: Pair this new working-out habit with something enjoyable, like only listening to your favorite podcast during your walks. This trick can reinforce the habit.
When I started learning to play guitar, I bought multiple guitars and sprinkled them all over the house where I sit. I even placed two guitars in the same room, one connected to the AMP and another on the couch, where I paired doing the evil finger exercises with watching my favorite Netflix show. I’ve improved a good amount since I started doing this.
On the other hand, I’ve been trying to learn a new language for 7-8 years now. It’s been a total failure. This year, I made a change to my approach: 5 minutes of Duolingo while drinking my coffee in the morning. I also added a 3rd trigger: the Duolingo plugin on my iPhone’s home page. It’s right there, staring at me every time I go to check my email. So far, I finished the first unit of German.
5. Check-In Weekly:
Sit down with yourself once a week to assess your progress. Be honest about what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust accordingly without self-criticism.
- Talk to yourself like you would your child or a loved one: If you could stick to your routine that week, be proud of yourself and celebrate the small win. If not, dig in and investigate. You might always like the answers because you might learn things you don’t like about yourself, but that’s the point of this exercise. Figure out why you couldn’t execute your goal, learn what you need to change and try again. No judgment. Don’t be too hard on yourself at first.
- Accept that starting and doing it for a few days is much easier than maintaining. Regular check-ins and honesty are crucial.
- Remember, it gets easier with persistence. There’s no shortcut; there is only consistency, proven methods, and inspiration from others who have succeeded.
- You can share this habit with someone you trust to keep you accountable, but there is no better accountability partner than yourself.
- Make the check-in day a habit of its own. For example, You can go to Starbucks, have a coffee, and do your check-in there.
- Print out a simple habit tracker and check a box every morning. Sounds silly, but it’s extremely powerful. Try your best not to skip a day.
There you have it, a simple strategy to building your working out habit:
- Decide and define why
- Set up cues and triggers
- Define simple, manageable actions
- Make the actions more appealing and accessible
- Check-in with yourself regularely
Don't let this be just another article you read and forget. Make it the turning point.
Start small, but start today.
Maybe it’s laying out your workout clothes for tomorrow and scheduling reminders on your phone right now, or maybe sticking a note on your mirror and adding a calendar entry.
Whatever it is, let this moment be the start of your new habit. Define your triggers and actions, and get going. Good luck!
Thank you so much for reading!