What do you need to do to promote health, lose weight, and feel great? Exercise, of course! At least 3 times per week, but the more, the better. Yeah yeah, we know that. This agitation is already perceived as a daily morning mantra. But does it help, when you feel that you definitely don’t want to exercise today (…and tomorrow and in the next 1000 years?).
Maybe it’s because of the bad weather behind the window. Or because you feel exhausted after yesterday’s birthday party. In reality, there are a million and one reasons to think about shifting your exercise session to another time and that’s alright – we’re all human after all. But such thoughts are so attractive that, probably, you’ve already fallen into the sweet embrace of procrastination. And the most dangerous consequence of skipping a workout session just once is a tendency to repeat it again and again. In the end, we find ourselves near the fridge, practicing binge eating instead of a healthy lifestyle, and feeling guilty. What to do? Break the cycle, of course! And we’re here to help you do that and become your own superhero.
1. Build your exercise routine
Although sometimes the idea to skip a training session is justified by real reasons (such as illness or an emergency), in most cases we succumb to our sly brain. Why does it do this? Because it’s lazy and encourages us to practice “hakuna matata” philosophy all the time.
Historically, our human body has constantly been suffering from a lack of energy. Our brain tries to control that and stimulate us to spend as little energy as possible to save it for an emergency. Who knows, maybe you’ll be running away from a lion in the next minute?
Our life dramatically changed in a super-short period of 100 years. Nowadays, the western world is more or less safe and supermarkets are now full of food for any taste. Our level of comfort is rising fast. Unfortunately, this fact doesn’t relate to our bodies. We’re a new type of people, but have the brain of a caveman. And, believe it or not, you’ll never be able to explain it why morning running is good for your health and should be performed at least 3 times per week. Because, from the brain’s perspective, running is something you do, when hunting or trying to save your life from some predator’s teeth. This is, so to say, an ancient behavior pattern, that won’t be easy to break. But you can do it, literally training your brain to rewire its neural connections in the way you want it. And here is how.
2. Set up an inspiring goal
People are people: we always need a reason to start doing anything. Moreover, a reason should be strong enough to encourage us to do it for a long time. Usually, we are using a goal as a reason itself, but this is not quite correct. Because every goal should contain a reason inside, otherwise, it is just a wish.
Be maximally precise. For example, don’t set a goal “I want to lose weight.” Instead, explain yourself, why exactly do you need to lose it? Find the real reason behind your wish
A correctly set goal will be motivating you. So don’t forget to “nurture” motivation you get from the goal and feed your brain with supportive information. Read related articles and blog posts, watch videos, create an inspiration board on Pinterest… In other words, try to support your goal by inspiring examples and more relevant information, which can enhance your motivation. Also, this method will allow you to imagine your goal in more detail and understand it better.
In the beginning, your goal will be your beacon. Use it to motivate yourself to exercise: if you feel that you want to skip training, just remember, why you do all this. Moreover, try to visualize your goal and feel it as if you had achieved it already. Enjoying this feeling of prospective victory? Imagine, how it will be in reality!
3. Divide your goal into achievable steps
In addition to the previous point, try to divide your goal into several achievable steps. For example, if you want to run a marathon without any experience, don’t expect that you’ll achieve it with no casualties. It could be comparable with climbing on Everest, when all you’ve ever conquered before was one modest hill. For example, in the case of running, try to start from a brisk 20-minute walk. And then, gradually change the mode from “beginner” to “insane”, adding more time or varying the speed. The main thing is to give yourself some time to adapt to the changes. And don’t push yourself too hard, otherwise, your nervous system won’t be happy and will try to stop this insanity by making you lazy and lifeless.
To make this method even more effective, set up a micro-goal for every step. Because when you strive to achieve something, you need to see the finish line to stay determined.
4. Create a schedule
One of the best ways of transforming new behavior patterns into habits is to perform that behavior at a set time. Remember, when you were a child learning to brush your teeth twice a day? Yes, sometimes it was a pure disaster because your brain didn’t want to learn this “stupid rule”. But, step by step, guided by your parents, you learned this behavior pattern. Moreover, this pattern became a habit, and now you probably perform this action automatically as a ritual. In fact, this is the power of a schedule: you can build up a routine, repeating the same action at the same set time. Just set up a reminder and conquer your brain! Easy as a pie, but super-effective.
5. Make it joyful
It is very hard to build an exercise routine without enjoying the process itself (at least a little). In the case of exercises, this task seems to be impossible for an average human. But don’t think that there is no exit from this mind labyrinth. Instead, ask yourself, what could make your exercise routine more joyful?
In fact, there is no answer, that could fit all. Everybody’s different. But let us show you some examples, demonstrating how to find your own sweet spot to ease your tension from implementing a new routine.
6. Choose an activity, that works for you
If you aren’t interested in the sports you’ve chosen, it is barely impossible to enjoy it truly. So make sure that you’ve picked the right activity.
(Read this article to find out, how to choose the kind of sport that suits you best).
7. Create your own reward system
Choose something you can make after a successful exercise session. For example, if you love oranges, you can treat yourself with one juicy colorful orange after the training. In this case, you’ll get an explosion of endorphins right after the task. Your brain will be perceiving this firework of happiness as a direct continuation of the previously performed actions (like exercising). Hence, it will connect this happy state with exercising. And will be more open to a new experience.
8. Find confidence
If you don’t feel confident, when exercising, think, what could change this situation. Maybe, you need to buy a new beautiful workout outfit? Or change your running shoes to more comfortable ones? Or, if you feel demoralized, it is time to invite your friend to exercise together? Ask yourself, what enhances your confidence and try to apply it to raise your level of comfort.
9. Focus on how it feels afterwards
Usually, when we start exercising, we feel somewhat unhappy: we can experience tiredness or unwillingness to move. But after some warming-up, things start to change and the body reacts to exercising more positively. Unfortunately, not everybody “survives” until this relieving moment. What to do? Focus on how it feels, but only after you’ve done it. In most cases, you will feel the difference between debilitating “before” and uplifting “after”. In addition to that, your brain will notice “good vibes” from the body and consider exercising as a positive experience. And if the experience is positive, it is worth to be repeated again and again. It works just like chocolate – if you love it, you’ll want it more.
10. Think less, do more
For instance, you’ve decided to run early in the morning 3 times per week. The First day of a “new healthy life” was perfect: you were motivated enough to wake up at 6 A.M., pull on your sweatshirt, and go running. The second day was a little worse because you were exhausted and your shoes didn’t seem as comfortable as they were before. But the third day was awful: you woke up in the morning and accidentally found a thousand and one reasons to stay home. You were thinking about excuses such as the bad weather or your general tiredness. You were asking yourself, is it worth it? In other words, you were thinking too much.
What to do? Just stop thinking about the workout before you actually perform it. This method of coping with a motivation problem can be considered a special skill. More precisely, this is a form of meditation because you need to stop all the intrusive thoughts in your head. It could be hard, but here is a trick for you. Instead of thinking about your next exercise session, focus on current micro-actions you need to perform before. Get your breakfast done, put your clothes on, pour water into your bottle… If you follow this protocol of focusing on micro-actions, you won’t even notice when exactly you’ll have started your workout. Remember, the less you concentrate on negative thoughts, the more you can actually do. Don’t worry if you failed with this mental exercise. That’s normal because it’s tough to harness your mind at first. But believe, this practice is worth it! It can really open the door to the world of self-control.
We hope, that these tips were useful for you. Do you feel more powerful now? If so, don’t waste your time and start building your exercise routine today!
If you have your own methods of building an exercise routine, we would like to hear about your own experience!
Stay tuned. Stay healthy.
- Gardner, Benjamin et al. “Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice.” The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners vol. 62,605 (2012): 664-6. doi:10.3399/bjgp12X659466
- Why behavior change is hard – and why you should keep trying, Harvard Health Publishing
- Wood W, Neal DT. A new look at habits and the habit-goal interface.