4 Mental Hacks that Help You Make Exercise a Habit

Exercise is NOT like a box of chocolates.

It’s more like a bottle of Windex and some paper towels…you know it’ll feel good when the window is clean but doing it? Is a chore.

That’s why it’s hard to make exercise a habit. It feels like work, doesn’t it? Like something you’re supposed to do. And it involves a lot of things like scheduling it and getting dressed for it and doing it and sweating and those things don’t always sound fun.

There are lots of reasons we don’t exercise, but the real barrier isn’t lack of time or motivation or whatever else you say to yourself. It’s your mind.

Your mind is always looking for the shortcut and who can blame it? We all want to get there faster, see results right now, get to the finish line. But weight loss just doesn’t work that way. There is no shortcut.

There is no way to drop all the weight TODAY. If there were don’t you think I’d be rich and famous?

And skinny?

With that in mind, how do you make your mind, well, mind you? How do you change that instant-gratification mindset and look at exercise in a different way?

1. Ditch the All or Nothing Thinking

One reason we don’t exercise, or tell ourselves we can’t exercise, is the idea that we have to do a certain amount of exercise at a certain intensity for it to count.

Like, my mind always tells me I have to do an hour of exercise. But, sometimes I can’t do an hour or I don’t want to do an hour and my mind is like, “Well, let’s just skip it cuz what’s the point?”

That kind of thinking is one of the number one reasons we don’t workout.

You need to change that kind of thinking to this:

Everything Counts.

Like this:

  • Taking a walk
  • Going up and down the stairs a few extra times
  • Doing a few squats while waiting for your coffee to brew or your water to boil
  • Standing up and doing some stretching every now and then
  • Doing wall pushups
  • Doing some exercises while you watch TV – Crunches, squats, lunches, stretches

How about trying these Quick Fix Workouts?

2. Lower Your Expectations

Look – Here’s the thing. Exercise is NOT great at helping us lose weight. It’s just not. There are a lot of reasons, but here are just a few of them:

  • Exercising can increase your appetite and you may end up eating more without realizing it
  • We sometimes compensate for exercise – Meaning, resting more during the day which offsets the calories we burn
  • Exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of your total daily energy expenditure. Bummer
  • We don’t burn as many calories exercising as we think we do

I’m not saying “forget exercising – it’s a total waste of time.” What I AM saying is that you need different reasons to exercise than just weight loss because that has zero staying power.

As soon as you sweat through a week of workouts and see zero changes on the scale? You’ll be like – Why am I doing this to myself?

The key here is to dig deeper into why exercise is worth doing besides weight loss. I don’t have to go into all the health benefits – you know it helps with everything from depression and anxiety to preventing certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

All of that is great but it’s a little abstract, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not like you do a workout and get some sort of award that says, “You just prevented a heart attack 7 years from now!”

No, you need some kind of intrinsic motivation…here’s what I mean:

I exercise because I want to avoid gaining weight, but it also gives me energy and makes me feel better about myself. I’m willing to exercise, even though it’s not always fun, for those reasons.

Think about this: How can exercise be valuable in your life? Maybe it’s me-time, or feeling stronger or avoiding some condition that runs in your family. Maybe just avoiding someone in your family! Really think about this – make a list of everything that comes to mind.

What resonates with you?

3. Make Exercise Fit Into Your Current Life

One mistake I see people make is trying to change your schedule to fit around exercise. But when you think about that, you kind of go a little cuckoo.

Say you’re trying to do an hour of exercise in your already busy non-exercisey life. Now you have to take multiple steps to make that happen. You have to carve, not just an hour, but:

  • Prep time before your workout
  • Time to plan your workout
  • The actual workout
  • The post-workout shower and clean up

That’s a lot to add to your schedule if you’re not already doing, right?

So instead of trying to bend your life around that hour, bend exercise around your life. Can you take a brisk walk after lunch? Could you do three 10-minute workouts throughout the day? Maybe you could walk on your treadmill while watching a movie on your iPad.

Maybe a few minutes of yoga in the morning?

Be creative and be generous with yourself. What would really work?

4. Be Where You Are Not Where You Want to Be

This kind of fits in with the one above, but it bears repeating – We all approach exercise as though we should be working out at Level 10 when, really, we’re probably at a Level 2 or 3 because of long breaks, injuries and whatnot.

We also tend to think that we should workout like we did in our 20s. Yeah, I worked out like a madwoman and I didn’t even have to.

Now, if I could workout the way I did back then, I would look much different.

But I can’t and neither can you.

Ask yourself these questions:

Where is my body right now?

What does my body really need besides weight loss?

Is there something I need to take care of – an injury or chronic pain before I start exercising?

What would actually feel good to my body right now?

For example, coming off an injury, I realized that easy cardio and light stretching was what I really needed. My mind yelled at me to start jumping around but my body was like – “Look, I’m almost 50. You’re going to have to STFU.”

Listen to what your body needs and do that.

The bottom line is, making exercise something you actually want to do requires rewiring your brain a little and learning what ‘rules’ you have about exercise (I hate it, it takes too long, I can’t do the amount I’m supposed to) that you may not even be aware of.

Take some time to think about the simplest ways you can move more and do that.

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