How to create a lifelong exercise habit that will get you the body of your dreams
In the new year, many people decide to embark on the journey of changing their lifestyle for the better and begin a consistent exercise regimen. Whether in the form of hiring a trainer, taking a group fitness class, or taking up jogging, a journey like this can take a lot of courage to begin. Moreover, large lifestyle changes can be challenging to maintain for the long haul. Keep reading for four actionable tips, both used by me personally and by my clients, that we have benefited from!
1) Start Small
One of the most important questions I ask prospective clients in my work as a personal trainer is: "How many times per week can you realistically commit to an exercise regimen?" The most common answer is 4-5 x per week. Although this enthusiasm is great, for most people who are coming from an inconsistent or nonexistent exercise regimen, this is recipe can lead to non-adherence, disappointment, and failure. Why? Going from 0 to 100 like this is overwhelming. Beginning with a small change that you gradually increase over time will allow you to incorporate the new habit without becoming overwhelmed. Rather than going all out for two weeks and then burning out and giving up, start slowly and build up to your goal over the course of several months.
2) Prioritize what is most enjoyable over what is most optimal
People often get caught up in believing they need to train a certain way or take a certain supplement because of what they hear from others or read on social media. Should I run or should I walk? Should I train in the morning or nighttime? Should I use barbells or dumbbells?
Ultimately, whatever you will do consistently over time, that you ENJOY, will create greater impact than doing something you don't really like that you heard about through the grapevine. If you enjoy something it will be far easier to do consistently and consistency is by far the most important piece of the pie in creating an impact in achieving your goals.
3) Don't just focus on the physical changes
Physical change takes time. I am the first to admit that I love the benefits of exercise, especially resistance training, that can yield larger, stronger muscles and a leaner physique. However, if I let this desire guide my training, I would have undoubtedly become impatient, discouraged and quit. Almost every single client I've trained are less impressed by visual changes in their body: they're more impressed by their improved mood, decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety, increased sex drive, greater confidence, and enhanced resilience to stress. If you focus on changes beyond how you look, you will have an easier time staying consistent.
4) Make exercise a non-negotiable (but be realistic)
Often times you will not feel like working out. Consider though, that you made a promise to yourself. In order to achieve the healthier, stronger, more attractive body you want, sometimes you must do what is necessary for your goals rather than listening to your short term feelings. Over time, the discipline of the habit will grow and resistance will feel smaller and smaller. (Although it will never go away completely) Consider the reason that you don't feel like working out. Maybe you're really enjoying a TV show, or you're exhausted from work. Consider how important these feelings are, and then consider why you set the goals that you did and how important those are in comparison.
While discipline and accountability to yourself is important, it is also extremely important to listen to your body. If your legs are so sore you can barely sit on the toilet, maybe you shouldn't lift extremely heavy weights, but you can still go for a walk. If you are tired and under- slept, maybe you won't be able to work out the full hour today, but you can most likely still do 30 minutes. Navigating listening to your body, while staying committed to your goals and not making excuses is a challenge that you will constantly have to be aware of and be honest with yourself about.
If you enjoyed this article, or have any strategies that have helped you in your own exercise pursuit I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment down below. If you are interested in in person training (San Diego) or online training click the link below to book your complementary introductory session.