How to Create the Fitness Habit
We are entering the weight loss season. This time of year between December and February when gym memberships swell, diet books are purchased, and exercise equipment is ordered.
Unfortunately, by February most of those memberships will turn into 24 hour donations, those diet books will morph into paperweights, and that exercise equipment will transform into coat racks.
The problem that most people have when it comes to diet and fitness is creating consistent fitness habits. It doesn’t matter if you have a Bowflex, an ab smasher, or even just a jump rope. If you use them consistently, you’ll get results.
I recently had the opportunity to be a guest expert on the Simple Fitness Habit site. The approach of the Simple Fitness Habit is to help users develop the fitness habits that create long-term change.
The site is packed full with expert advice, community support, and excellent tips to help you stick to your holiday health plans or your New Year resolutions.
As a guest expert, members submitted a series of questions about their fitness challenges. One of the questions I got was about how create a fitness habit. Below is the advice I offered.
How to Create the Fitness Habit
In working with clients, I have found four strategies that really help create consistent fitness habits.
1. Go Slow
2. Pick exercise that fits your life
3. Make motivation external.
4. Aim for attempt consistency.
1. Go slow –
The traditional way that fitness programs are marketed is the ‘lose weight more quickly’ model. And it makes sense why this is the case. Many people see losing weight or getting in shape as slightly unpleasant, so the more efficient you can be, the better.
The problem is that when it comes to life long health, efficiency isn’t actually helpful or effective.
The key to staying healthy for life is to develop the habits of regular activity and healthy eating. And my experience, as well as most of the research I have read, tells me the key to developing life long habits is to do them consistently for a long period of time.
So, instead of trying to get it done fast, I encourage my clients to take it slow.
One of my clients lost 100lbs, but he did it over the course of 12 – 14 months. Now that he is at his goal weight, he has had a whole year of living an active healthy lifestyle.
He probably could’ve lost the weight in less time, but he would’ve had less practice with mindful eating and regular exercise.
Fitness is what happens as a side effect of the fitness habit not the other way around. And the more time you spend practicing those habits, the longer they will stick.
2.Pick exercise that fits your life
The same client that lost 100lbs did it by biking up a hill near his house three times a week and watching what he ate.
He already owned a bike and liked riding it. So we used that interest to make the habit of exercise easy to form and stick to.
Pick something you’d like to do and do more of it. You don’t have to sign up for Crossfit to develop the fitness habit. 30 minutes of walking three times a week is a great start.
3. Make Motivation External
Internal motivation is iffy and unreliable especially at first. Even though I’m a personal trainer, I find that my own internal motivation or ‘will power’ isn’t enough to keep me 100% consistent.
I use social agreements (making plans to run with a friend) and social pressure (telling a friend I’ll make a stupid video of myself if I don’t lift 3 days this week) to up my motivation.
Without social pressure, I’m active, but not focused. With social pressure, I’ve done Olympic length triathlons and marathons. I could never have made it without other people supporting me along the way.
Of course, it’s important to know what motivates you. If you are highly motivated by social pressure, my suggestions might work. But you might be more motivated by money, in which case making a ‘workout bet’ might be better.
No matter what motivates you, find out what it is, and use it to help form the fitness habit.
4. Shoot for 95% attempt efficiency
The hardest thing about working out is putting on your shoes. Typically if you get started you will keep going. So I encourage clients to put all their effort into attempting instead of completing.
I tell them if you really don’t feel like working out, put on your shoes, go outside, and walk for five mins. If after five mins you want to stop, go back home.
I do this because once we get started we keep going. So don’t worry about finishing every workout. Put all your energy into starting and let the rest take care of itself.
Finally, if you liked the answer above and/or the approach of using habits to help you get into shape I would highly recommend you go check out the Simple Fitness Habit. It’s a great way to support your self in creating a fitness habit this year or the next.
In addition, I’ve been talking to one of their founders Leo Babauta and he’s been telling me about how they are revamping the site and making it better then ever. I’m sure if you sign up you wont regret it.
I NEED YOUR HELP:
I’m starting to put together my first full length E-book which I hope to have out by Jan 2014. But I need your help. I want to know what you care about, what you want to learn about, and what you struggle with.
Do you have questions about mindful living you’d like answered?
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You can let me know in 1 of 3 ways.
1. Fill out this survey
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Not only will the information I gather inform what I include in the book. I’ll also use it to make this blog more relevant and helpful to the challenges you face everyday. Finally, if you do the survey I will send you a link to an embarrassing video of me singing country music.
Thanks so much for being so awesome and for reading my blog. The former is not dependent on the latter and the latter is something I am very honored by.