Sticking to your exercise routine
It's that time of the year again when we plan our new year's resolutions and almost everyone swears to finally stick to their workout routines. Well, this year, add a little knowledge and new suggestions, to help you stick to those pesky workout goals especially getting back into shape!
First, let's talk about the habit loop. The habit loop consists of three components: trigger, behavior, and consequence or reward. The trigger is usually an external spark that causes a reaction in your brain and body. We hope the trigger will automatically lead into the action (or behavior) of exercise which is the second step in the habit loop. After a nice workout the consequence or reward is usually a flood of feel good chemicals in your brain (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, adrenaline, etc) and a verbal reinforcement of, "I did it! I feel great!". This my friends, is a positive habit loop with a positive outcome but most importantly it begins with a positive outlook and focus.
The negative loop looks like this, the trigger will fire off but instead of being excited about exercising you feel unfocused, tired, and unmotivated which then probably will not result in exercise instead you end up inaction and decide to do it, "later". You have successfully failed to complete the loop yet now you created a new loop that doesn't include exercise but instead is reinforcing another behavior, procrastination. In summary, the aim of any habit loop is start with a positive mindset and outlook to stay focused on the end result of feeling accomplished and getting a jolt of feel good chemicals in your brain.
Understanding the habit loop is important but how about making this habit loop easier to accomplish? I suggest you input the following three suggestions to ease you into any new exercise routine especially after a long hiatus on the couch: make it painless, make it easy to integrate, make it fun
Make it painless: This means that the workout literally must be pain free for you at the end of the workout. If you feel so much pain that you can't move, you probably won't attempt it again especially not tomorrow! Imagine if you went to do your workout each and every day and it was painless (or at least minimal pain) that instead you actually felt happy afterward? Wouldn't that be nice? Choose an activity that is easy, painless and fun so you can increase the likely of starting and completing your goal this week!
Make it easy to integrate into your daily routine: Find a spot in your schedule that seems obvious and the most practical for you and your lifestyle. For example, I love working out in the late afternoon/early evening hours but this isn't practical for my lifestyle. So, instead, I choose a time that seems easier for me to feel all those things I want to feel: satisfied, accomplished, happy. Rather than suffering to try to make an afternoon workout happen I get up earlier than my usual time and do a yoga series then voilà, I've completed my workout early! Can you find a time that makes more sense for your lifestyle this season? This month? this week?
Make it fun: by getting a workout buddy! The likelihood of you sticking to any new habit really depends on your support group. I recommend you either get one or two buddies to alternate in the week, make friends at the class you attend, or create your own workout club, this will guarantee that you show up since you're the leader of your tribe.
Don't make it difficult on yourself, make it easy and attainable. There's nothing wrong with starting slow and building up intensity or tweaking your daily/weekly/monthly goals so they work for YOU!
I'm proud of the work you're doing so far. Stick to it, I know you can do it.
Remember, the key to confidence is practice. So, go one now, get practicing!
Behavior Analyst and Personal Life Coach. Changing behavior one step at a time. Keeping things simple because it's easier that way.