The key to developing a consistent exercise Habit might be the opposite of what you think
All of my life I have made goal after goal to be good at exercising. I’ve signed up for exercise classes, for personal training, and even for a couple half-marathons. I thought if I set the right goals and pumped myself up, I would finally be good at exercising.
Well, after 32 years I had still not ever stuck to something consistent. And then something changed that helped me develop a consistent exercise habit.
How My Exercise Habit and Routine Started
I was listening to several podcasts about developing habits, and one thing that stuck out to me was that they should be so simple that they are easy to do every day.
In other words, when you are trying to develop a consistent exercise habit, you want to focus on something that you don’t have to muster motivation for every day. Something so easy that it can be accomplished every single day.
Once you develop the habit, you can always gradually increase the difficulty, but if you are trying to start something you’ve never been able to do before, you need to make it easy.
The 2-Minute Transformation in my Exercise Habit Development
It was then that I had an epiphany. I had always made my exercise goals so lofty that I never wanted to achieve them. How did I expect myself to stick to a race training schedule, when I had never been a runner before? Why did I expect myself to get to the gym each night when motherhood often left me exhausted by the end of the day?
My New Exercise Habit: Just 2 Minutes.
My new goal became something so simple it would be really hard NOT to make it a habit: Exercise every single day, for 2 minutes.
This could be anything: jumping up and down, dancing in my kitchen, doing some stretches, etc.
The key was consistent repetition, not difficulty of the workout.
What I found was fascinating. My brain stopped fighting me on my goal. It was very achievable. But what was even more exciting, was that my 2 minutes almost always led to a much longer workout. Once I got dancing, my heart rate would go up, my adrenaline would get pumping, and all of a sudden I was motivated to dance to 3 more songs.
My jumping jacks led to a walk outside with my kids.
My yoga routine felt so energizing in my mornings that I started craving it every morning.
And then my Apple Watch started congratulated me on accomplishing my move goals, and I started feeling victorious.
Give the Right Reason Behind Developing an Exercise Habit
I think another thing that helped me finally develop a consistent exercise habit was my reasons changed. I started working out to feel good, not to get rid of something I didn’t like.
If you exercise because you want to lose weight for example, it can be easy to lose motivation when you don’t, or when the weight loss is slower than you want.
But if your reason is rewarded immediately (to feel good, to accomplish a 2-minute goal), then it’s much easier to get motivation to do it again the next day.