Establishing Habits for a Productive Life

Making Exercise a Daily Habit

It’s very easy to tell ourselves excuses to explain why we can’t get active. In order to transform exercise from a chore into a daily habit, there are steps we can take to work exercising into our daily schedules and hold ourselves accountable.

  1. Write down a measurable goal. When I first started, my goal was to be running 3 miles a day by the end of the month.  I wrote it down on  a post-it note and stuck it to my desk. When I woke up every morning, I made sure I did at least one thing that day to be moving toward that goal. If you don’t write it down, you are more likely to change it half-way through.
  2. And don’t make it unrealistic. Although it’s tempting to be ambitious, set a smaller goal first, and then go from there.  Setting a goal you know you simply won’t have time or energy for will only lead to disappoint and shame rather than feelings of accomplishment.  The association with positive emotions is more likely to propel you forward.
  3. Be specific about the daily routine. Instead of just saying that “I’ll run,” I say, I’ll run three miles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and two miles on Tuesday and Saturday.
  4. Tell people about it. Broadcast your goal. This is one of the many ways you can hold yourself accountable.  If you succeed, you can brag about it.
  5. Set a time of day when you will work out regardless of the conditions. Mine is 7:30 a.m. If you have more free time in the evening, make it then. I just find that morning works particularly well for me because I will squeeze in all my work that I need to do with whatever time I have left in the way, but it’s doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.  But whatever your time is, make sure that the habit is consistent.  If you do it right after you wake up, do that everyday.  If you do it before dinner, do that every day.
  6. Don’t make it torturous.  If you not feeling well, if you’re sore, etc., you don’t have to kill yourself that day. Even if you’re only going for a walk, just make sure you’re still doing something, no matter how small it is.
  7. Recruit a work-out buddy.  Talk to a friend the night before and say, “Let’s meet at ___ time to ____ (run/walk/go to a gym/etc.).”  You then can’t back out because you would be letting someone down.  You are held accountable to someone other than yourself.
  8. Be prepared.  If you are travelling, there is no need to leave your running shoes (or whatever else you may need) behind.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done my morning yoga routine on a hotel floor, or how many times I’ve woken up before everyone else to go for a run.  You can exercise wherever you are.  A new location doesn’t necessarily mean a new routine. I have a friend who carries tennis rackets, golf clubs, and a swim suit in his trunk at all times.
  9. Log your efforts. I right it down on my calendar, you might choose to use an app, a google doc, a diary, etc. I find it incredibly rewarding to look back and see how consistent my efforts have been and if and where I may have improved (I used to be able to run no more than a mile, now I’m running at least 3 daily).
  10. Add variety. I get tired of doing the same thing every day, as do most people.  Right now, I’m alternating my morning exercise hours like this:

Monday – Trail-running/Meditation

Tuesday – Yoga

Wednesday – Gym (Treadmill running/weights)

Thursday – Yoga

Friday – Trail-running/Meditation

Saturday – Hiking

Sunday – Anything goes.

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