Ever have that sudden, sporadic surge of motivation & will-power to exercise? You head to the gym (or outside in these times) in your rarely worn workout clothing and find your motivation slowly fading the further you get into the activity. By the time that workout is finished, any residing motivation has now completely disappeared. You don’t exercise again for weeks.
Consistency is a tricky one. The issue at hand is simply that you haven’t established the necessary pattens of behaviour that allow consistency. You haven’t formed the habit of exercise.
Like any other behaviour consistent exercise comes down to the forming of habits. The problem is that many of us aren’t willing to put in the time & effort necessary to allow the successful formation of that habit.
In this piece, I’ll outline how to establish the 3 key fundamental aspects to building a habit of consistent physical activity.
Outline Your Why & Establish Goals
The foundational elements to achieving almost anything. To achieve the outcome we’re after we need a clear understanding of why we actually desire that outcome.
Take the time to write down precisely why you want to be more active. Is it to reduce weight to allow you to feel more confident in your appearance? Perhaps it’s to improve your health & reduce your risk of illness & disease. Whatever it may be, actually putting your reasoning out into the real world - by writing it down - is a crucial step to it actually manifesting.
Next, establish your goals. What specifically do you want to achieve? An example of goals during these times could be to go on daily walks, or to do a form of resistance training 3 times per week.
By outlining goals we are provided with a clear sense of direction. They allow us to specifically refine what we’re hoping to achieve, before taking actionable steps to actually achieving it.
Additionally, by setting goals we’re able to monitor our progress over time. Few things in life are more motivational than the realisation that we are moving towards an objective we've set for ourselves. In the process, we experience a rush of dopamine - 'the happy hormone'. This incentive-reward system provides us with huge motivation to pursue our goals even further.
Finally, outlining goals creates a sense of accountability. By outlining targets to achieve, we begin to take on greater responsibility for ourselves and our progress towards the aim. This can be a big source of motivation.
Make it Easy for Yourself
When you first start out in the process of forming a new habit, particularly one as uncomfortable as exercise can be, you’re instinctively going to be hesitant. You’ll likely begin mentally searching for excuses and reasons why you can’t perform the behaviour on that day.
To avoid these mental roadblocks that we set for ourselves, it’s key to make achieving the behaviour as easy as possible. To do this, we need to establish some structure. There’s a few simple things we can do to do this.
For instance, if you intend to workout first thing in the morning, lay out all of the things you need for it the evening before. This might just involve laying out the clothes that you’re going to wear.
If time is an issue, one solution could be to prep your meals the day before or at the start of the week. By doing that, you free up more time within your day to commit to exercise, without having to worry about whether you’ll have time to carry out other tasks.
Finding simple ways to reduce the psychological resistance to exercise is a guaranteed way of lessening your reluctance of doing it.
Take it One Step at a Time
The problem that a lot of people make is that they set the bar too high for themselves from the off. If you aren’t used to consistent physical activity, then you need to be realistic with your aims. Deciding that you’re going to workout every day of the week, as a beginner, is not only ill-advised, but the likelihood is it won’t happen and you’ll quickly find yourself feeling even less motivated than before.
When starting out, it's advisable to establish the frameworks. Begin by adjusting your lifestyle in some way to accommodate exercise. That could mean waking up an hour earlier than usual, or sacrificing the hour you spend watching Netflix before bed. Practice making this change without exercise first.
Once you’re in a position to begin introducing exercise into your lifestyle, take it slow. Gradually and progressively building up the frequency and intensity of your exercise is the right approach. Perhaps just commit to walking daily at first. Then, add a couple of workouts per week on top of the walks. The idea is to adapt your lifestyle to the point whereby the activity no longer feels like something out of the norm and isn't a shock to the system. Over time, you can continue to increase your levels of activity.
By doing this you avoid burning yourself out too quickly, leading to demotivation. We can often set lofty, unrealistic aims for ourselves, but you have to realize that consistency is a behaviour established over a number of years. Don’t get caught up in what you have or haven't achieved today or this week. Instead, be conscious of the fact that you’re working towards something that is far more significant than the present moment.
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