Wow. Even that title is intimidating. But this is probably the question I get asked most often.
First, let’s break it down. You only have to “make yourself workout” until it’s a habit. After that, your habit takes over and you just have to keep the train on the tracks. Much easier to do.
So, the focus needs to be on step one.
Habits have three components: the cue, the routine, and the reward. I attack all three.
1. The Cue
My cue for working out is waking up in the morning. I try to have as little time between literally awakening and getting out the door. Extra time just equals extra potential distractions or excuses. I go when I’m tired or don’t feel like it, even if I take the workout at half speed. Again, my focus is the habit, not really the workout.
2. The Routine
For me, this equates to “making level paths for my feet” (Prov 4:26). I make it as easy as possible to succeed and painful to fail. I lay out my workout clothes the night before. I pay for group personal training. I develop friendships and accountability with others in my class, letting them know that I plan to attend 100% of the time. I put my workouts on my calendar and on my daily march form, forcing myself to track my success rate. For a CPA and data nerd, wasting money and having an empty check box hurts.
3. The Reward
This one could be different for each of us, and is likely something very personal. For me, working out is building my personal army. I view it as my defense against joint inflammation, general sickness, and depression. I literally picture each workout as adding more soldiers to fight my battles.
I know I’m going to eventually be at war with each of those, and I want to be as strong as possible. I can vividly recall what it feels like to be taken down by each, and I never want to experience that again. From my reading and personal experiences, I know that brief, intense workouts are extremely effective.
Now, let’s talk about how you can get started.
1. Find your trigger.
You’ll want to identify something you already do that can eventually lead you directly to the behavior you desire. Maybe it’s putting your tennis shoes by the door when you get in from work, so that you immediately head out for a walk. Maybe it’s letting your kids know that 6pm is Wii Fit time so that you can all be active together. To get started, I would encourage you to do this daily – or at least on weekdays. It’s hard for habits to take root without repetition.
2. Plan your reinforcements.
What can you do to make it more likely you’ll succeed and more painful when you fail? Some proven strategies are accountability partners and financial penalties or incentives. I don’t think you can have too many of these. Lots of little “helpers” can be the difference. When I’m working on a new habit, I schedule text reminders to myself at the same time each day. You could also try the Seinfeld calendar chain approach.
3. Focus on your reward.
Why do you want to workout? This is not why the latest magazine or tv guru says you should exercise. It’s about you. Do you want to stop hurting all the time? Do you want to think clearly? Do you want to run a 5K with your family? Do you want to be a good role model to your kids? There is no right or wrong answer as long as it is YOUR answer.
You probably want to lace up your running shoes right now. I know I do.
Enthusiasm is a great thing, but it will wane. Instead of burning that adrenaline on one workout, use it sketch out your plan to make those workouts happen every day. Also, go ahead and set up your accountability systems. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to help!