Want to make exercise habits stick?
Most of the time when you want to create a habit- an energy-flipping, health happening, metabolism-boosting, feel-good habit … you focus on starting things.
I’m hear to tell you that much of the time the reason you’re not successful is that you don’t stop doing something else.
If you want to start exercising in the morning, or like me you want to start exercising earlier in the morning, you have to stop doing whatever is there now.
Maybe for you it’s sleep. For me it’s work. I love to work first thing and I get way more done from 4-8am than I ever do 8-4pm.
But, as luck would have it, earlier in the morning is also the best hormone balancing time for intense exercise.
Then there’s the window of energy that exists for a while that isn’t quite the same when you (or at least I) leave exercise til later. I get a second wind of productivity after a workout. (It’s proven actually that your creativity and problem solving skills go up after a midday workout).
Still, pulling away from work is hard. I like to achieve things, get things done. I’m not great at leaving things undone to take a break. There I said it. But that’s life right? The “list” is never really done, you just have to get more efficient at spending x time on something for a period of time and either declaring it done or moving on to a next meeting.
I have to “stop.” Literally I need a hard stop daily. At 7am (and I just had a large gulp, because as I type it’s 11 minutes til and I don’t want to pause if I’m not done!) I need to just say, that’s it. Take an hour. Go for the run, do the interval, shower and meet me back here with a smoothie.
Another thing to stop doing is using words that discourage you. They’re used all the time. I’d bet you said any one of these once yesterday and maybe certain ones of them more. You may not have said them all but just read through them and pay attention to your feelings or first impression when you do.
- Fat burning
- Calorie burning/torching
- Can’t have
- Have to
- Ought to
Most of them come with baggage. There’s unspoken guilt or shame or negativity around them. Work and workout, and fat during and calorie torching all sound hard! Your brain (even if you think, I love to work hard), doesn’t like hard work. It associates anything hard with pain. Pain of doing, pain of not doing, struggle… all come with baggage. And remember you pay extra for baggage.
Shift Your Focus to Make Exercise Habits Stick
Don’t let yourself have a “perfect” goal. It’s easy to get so obsessed with doing it all, and doing it all well. It’s so unrealistic. Focus on enjoying it, completing it not perfecting it, on doing it in a way you want to repeat it.
You don’t have to get it perfect the first time.
In fact, I tell women in my programs, I don’t want you to get it all right now. I just want you to get through the first workout the first time. Then you can improve the next time when you’re more familiar with it.
Make your goal to want to do it again next time. If you make it so hard so you can get results that you’re miserable, you don’t enjoy it, it’s not immediately gratifying, you reduce the chance you’re going to adopt this as something that is an automatic thing you do. You make the odds that this will be simply something that is a part of your identify very slim. (and that’s not the part of you that you probably wanted slim)
- Tell yourself you don’t have to get it all perfect right now.
- You don’t want to get it perfect right away.
- You just want to finish it.
- You just want to feel accomplished.
- You want to feel successful.
- You want to be successful following through.
- You want to look forward to doing that again.
- Don’t think about every workout for the rest of your life. Think just about having a single active session that you enjoy today.
Look at your relationship with the word “Habits.”
Is that word positive or negative? If it’s not much fun, ditch it! Most of the time in your history there’s talk of habits about smoking, drinking, exercise and it’s like a test or assessment. None of us love a test. Not really. You may have been a 4.2 student but still you probably didn’t love taking tests.
So never mind habits. Let’s ditch habits.
Really. Let’s make whatever you want to describe the person you are, automatic.
You automate everything in your house now right? You click a button, use an app and order groceries, or change the channel, record a show, turn off the lights, lock the doors.
In business you do the same. You pay your bills, send emails, respond to customers, and answer with a voice mail. I type in TY and automatically the text to someone goes out “Thank you! You Still Got It, Girl!
Sorry, not sorry if you’ve gotten that and thought I went to the labor-intensive trouble to type all that in. The sentiment was the same!
You do it because those things are important and you need to do them but since you do them repeatedly it’s better to automate than waste time deciding.
Decision Fatigue is Real
In fact reducing decision fatigue is a large part of why you may love a diet, or an exercise plan. And OKAY let’s agree “love a diet” is an oxymoron – you get what I mean. We’re tempted to take the just-tell-me-what-I-need-to-do-and-I’ll-do-it-route.
Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. My students and clients love smoothies. So do I and so do our bodies. There’s no “what’s for breakfast, what do I want, what sounds good, what do I have time for?” It’s just 2 minutes to blend and clean up and enjoy.
That’s one automated habit. Know who tends to be more weight and body composition optimized? Those who do high protein shakes for their first meal.
If you’re intermittent fasting by skipping a traditional breakfast time and eating within a shorter window, a high protein smoothie is an ideal way to break the fast because it is easier to digest.
Studies show on a lower calorie, or lower “fuel” diet – fewer carbs or fewer fats – a high protein shake as a meal once and twice a day leads to greater success.
Greater success than one shake, and greater success than three shakes.
The problem with a heavily marketed “two shakes a day and a reasonable meal” packaged meal shake is the other ingredients in it that you did not want. It was also void of vegetables, fiber, and this is not what you want. You want to put as many micronutrient-rich foods in your system as you can when it is time to eat.
Protein has a satiety factor that together with fiber kills cravings and keeps you full for hours.
Protein is harder to burn for fuel than carbohydrates so your body may be more likely to burn stored fat.
Mistakes women who want to lose weight make:
- Eating lots of small meals a day (stop!)
- Snacking between meals (stop!)
- Assuming that every opportunity to have protein adds up to getting enough protein
- Not eating at all after exercise
- Eating fruit after exercise or shakes with fructose in (stop!)
- Eating drinks with soy, eggs, dairy (whey) without testing first and without rotating or timing those appropriately
What is it about dairy if you’re not lactose intolerant?
It causes inflammation. If you’re not losing weight, you’re fluffy, puffy, bloated that’s a sign of inflammation. Your body won’t optimize for energy or weight with inflammation. You don’t lose weight and get healthy. You get healthy and then lose weight (or gain lean muscle for those of you who don’t need weight loss).
This post threw in the kitchen sink. Here’s why. YOU are integrated. If you don’t feel good, you don’t have a positive relationship with the words you use and the way you talk to yourself, it’s hard for anyone to make exercise habits stick. If you failed in the past – the problem is how you look at that, NOT that you stopped! You collected data.
Your best next step is to decide what you need most. Look at these options and then just concentrate on one for this week:
- Changing the language around healthy habits
- Learning more about nutrition changes that will make you feel better
- Find exercise you actually LIKE before you start
- Change from all or nothing to just the 20 minutes you can enjoy
You Already Know How to Make Habits Stick
Think of all the things you have already done in your life and made stick. Did you go to college? Then you studied, went to class, stuck it out through some hard classes.
Did you have kids? Then you did all those nights of feedings, and sick kids, and teaching all the things. Do you have a job? Then you do things every day that require follow through and someone counts on you.
You stick to things in so many areas of your life. Why would exercise be any different? You’ve got this!
READY for more help right away? Click here for my 28 Day Kickstart. I do these live courses 4 times a year so while it’s open for enrollment you can jump right in and get live coaching with me. (If you’re seeing this at a time we’re not open, it’s OKAY! You can get on the list to be first notified when the doors open again!)