Creating a Successful Exercise Habit

You’ve made your resolutions, you’ve checked with your doctor, you’re focused and determined to stick to your goal to start exercising regularly. So, what’s left? Thoughtful planning is an important part of making physical activity a habit in your life—one that will last into the next month, the next year and into the future!

We’ve all had the experience of setting off with good intentions, having a strong start and then fizzling out. Why did you fizzle out? It’s probably because you left your exercise schedule open, didn’t plan it and didn’t make it a priority. Planning well is crucial to staying on track. In addition, planning out your exercise routine for the week will make it easier to stay on track. The tips below will help you plan your physical activity effectively and keep you on track long-term.

Top Tips:

  • Clothes/gear: If you’re exercising first thing in the morning, lay out your workout clothes the night before. If you use a gym, pack your gym bag the night before. Fill up your water bottle. When you arrive home after the gym, unpack the dirty clothes/towels and repack your bag right away with clean clothes – now you’re all set for next time!
  • Realistic scheduling: Be realistic when estimating the total time of your workout. Of course, you will need to estimate time for the activity itself. But beyond that, there are a few other activities related to your workout which take a bit of time. For example, allow 5-10 minutes for changing your clothes. You’ll need time to warm up, cool down and stretch. Allow 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your workout for this. If you’re like me, you may need a few minutes (or 20!) to choose a podcast or some music to listen to during your workout. Also, allow time to freshen up or shower after your workout. Figure out the total time for these activities and plan/calendar appropriately. This way, you won’t feel stressed or like you have to rush through your workout.
  • Planning: Write out a weekly exercise plan ahead of time, either on paper, or on your computer, tablet or phone. Writing it down makes it more likely that you will actually do it. Planning it out in writing also forces you to think about when the best time would be to exercise for each day of the week. Also consider alternate times of the day that you could exercise—just in case something unexpected comes up. Giving some thought to this will set you up for success. Finally, once you decide on a plan, schedule it on your calendar. This will remind you that you are serious about exercising and that it’s a priority for you.
  • Timing: If possible, aim for early in the day. Working out in the morning feels great—it gives you a boost of energy and confidence that lasts for hours. Also, the later it gets in the day, the more likely you might be to skip the workout. As the day wears on, you’ll have lots of time to talk yourself out of it. Also, your energy and willpower tend to decrease as you get into the evening hours. That being said, if evening is the only time you can fit exercise into your schedule, then go for it! Prevent a dip in energy by having a healthy snack a half hour before.
  • Types of activity: Think about the different types of exercise you might be doing throughout the week. If you’re doing strength/resistance exercise, be sure to give your muscles a day of rest in-between workouts for recovery. You could alternate muscle groups by working the upper body on one day and then the lower body the next day. Or, you could alternate aerobic exercise days with strength training days. Also, consider working in some time for flexibility or relaxation activities. Evenings can be a great time for relaxing forms of exercise like gentle yoga or stretching.

Finally, don’t expect perfection. Be flexible and don’t be hard on yourself. There will be some days when things go awry and exercise doesn’t happen despite your well-laid plans. Shake it off, be kind to yourself and simply resume your activities the next day.

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  1. Thank you for the excellent advice and goal setting instructions! These will prove very helpful as I work to get back into shape

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