On Fitness: Building a habit that sticks
Columnist Kelly Turner provides tips on building a lasting fitness habit.
Special to the Seattle Times
If you can't keep a consistent exercise routine, it is because exercise has not yet become a habit for you.
Habits powerfully impact our everyday lives, and they happen without thinking. Covering your mouth after a sneeze isn't an instinct you were born with but a healthy habit you developed over time. All habits, like exercise, need to be learned. With time and consistency, they can become like second nature.
Exercise causes discomfort — it's just a fact. You must be able to look beyond the discomfort — the muscle burn, the soreness, the time commitment — in order to form a healthy habit that makes it worth it in the end.
Here's the thing: We want instant gratification. This mindset is what leads those desperate for weight loss to resort to pills and fad diets, because exercise "takes too long."
While significant weight loss does take time, there are instant benefits to exercise. Immediately after a workout, your stress levels are reduced, your metabolism is revved and your feel-good endorphins are pumping. Learn to love this instant high, and work to feel it after every workout. Fitness is a journey, but focusing on the immediate benefits will motivate you each and every day.
The first and most important step to forming a lifelong exercise habit is to recognize that fitness is absolutely crucial. Everyone needs to work out. Everyone needs to lessen his or her risk of disease; everyone deserves to feel great, have more energy, keep up with the kids and look awesome in a swimsuit. Fitness is essential to living a long healthy life, no matter your age, weight or current fitness level.
Next, you are going to have to tough it out. It's OK to not want to workout, but don't take that feeling as an excuse not to get moving.
Schedule your workouts like appointments, and stick to them. Pack your gym bag the night before so all you need to do is grab and go. Enlist a workout buddy to keep you accountable and make exercise more fun. If that's still not enough to get you to the gym, hire a personal trainer so you have made a monetary investment in your fitness.
How do you know you've made fitness a habit in your life? Once you do it without question or once you experience some form of longing when you don't follow through.
You won't always have to force yourself to go to the gym, and soon, you will start to feel discontent if you don't.
Building an exercise habit is a gradual process, but eventually it will get easier.
If you put in the effort, your workouts will soon be as second nature as covering your mouth when you sneeze.