Have you ever struggled staying consistent with an exercise routine? If so, you’re in the majority as working out tends to be an “on-again, off-again” habit for a lot of people. Everyone knows they should be exercising, but why do so many people find it difficult sticking with their routines?
The majority of times people give the following excuses….
“I just don’t have the time with my busy schedule.”
“I don’t know what to do when I go to the gym or if I’m even doing the right exercises.”
“I never see results with exercise so I figure what’s the point?”
“I find exercise to be boring and honestly just don’t like working out.”
“I feel embarrassed or intimidated going into health clubs.”
So how do you get over that hump?
Exercise is a habit plain and simple. If you want to get good at it, and expect to enjoy it, you’re going to have to build a foundation. By following the “three phases of fitness” you’ll be able to do exactly that.
Phase One: Establishing An Exercise Habit Through Accountability
This is where most people stumble coming right out of the gate and up quitting after a short while. If you’re new to exercise don’t waste your time with simply joining a gym and trying to go about building your new habit all alone. This is the time when a coach or mentor can be worth every penny of your investment.
As a personal trainer and coach I’ve long said the biggest benefit I can provide someone is giving them accountability. When you’re just starting out you’re going to be changing old habits, which can be hard to break, while simultaneously building the new. Will-power and discipline is way over-rated in this respect.
You’re not likely to keep showing up at the gym just because you know you should. Having a set appointment and someone waiting on you will significantly increase your likelihood of showing up. And just like Woody Allen said, “showing up is half the battle.”
When you make an investment in that time you’ll be all the more likely not to blow it off. The bottom line is you’ll be much more likely to succeed with building exercise as a habit if you get some help with it in the beginning.
This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to hire a personal trainer. The key is not going about things all on your own. If you’ve got a friend or family member that knows what they’re doing and already has a regular routine, maybe you could partner up with them. Small group personal training is another option. Once again, the most important part of phase one is making sure you have accountability from someone other than yourself.
Phase Two: Beginning To Maintain The Habit Of Exercise On Your Own
The natural progression with any successful habit should lead you to a point where you have a better grasp of how to do some things on your own. This is where I feel that personal trainers who give their clients a bunch of circus show exercises are doing them a real disservice.
As a fitness professional I believe I should be teaching and empowering my clients so exercise can be a life long habit they could maintain on their own. Instructing the fundamentals and basic movements so they’d know what to do at the gym, home, or on the road is just good business. After all, your goal should not be to keep clients indefinitely or dependent on your forever.
As you enter into phase two you may elect to start working out some on your own or in group class of some sort. You’ve laid a foundation for working out at set times during the week at this point and should be sticking with that. Perhaps you decide to keep working with a coach or a trainer just to maintain accountability and keep learning, but your frequency with personal training sessions could be less.
When you first started out you may have had no idea what an upright row or front squat was, but you’ve learned how to do the exercises properly and equally important how to see results. You progressed from being a true novice to someone who has a clue with what their doing.
Don’t think for a second this won’t significantly increase your likelihood of sticking with it. Knowing what you’re doing and seeing results makes you way more likely to keep going. By continuing to make sure you’ve got support and accountability as you progress with the habit of exercise you’ll move closer to phase three.
Phase Three: Exercise As A Life Long Habit
This is where you exercise on a regular basis at set times as part of your daily routine. It’s not boring, tedious work but rather something you enjoy doing. You like feeling strong and healthy along with the results you see in the mirror.
Although you may choose to workout with a personal trainer, a workout partner, or in a group class, you could put yourself through a workout no problem. You exercise when you’re traveling and don’t worry about whether or not the hotel gym will be well equipped. You’ve learned that the human body is the best piece of exercise equipment ever invented and can workout anywhere, anytime.
You may not know hundreds of different exercises but you know how to do the basic movements and can perform them proficiently. It’s because you’ve practiced them over and over until you got good at them.
Contrary to what you might be thinking this doesn’t take years to accomplish. By following the progressions and sticking with it you can accomplish more in six months than most people do in a lifetime. The secret is learning to walk before you try and run.
I think one of my mentors, Dan John, hit the nail on the head when he said the secret to success with exercise is “little and often over the long-haul.”
Be smart about it and build a habit with exercise just like you would anything else. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect to be perfect…you won’t be. Just keep showing up and commit to sticking with it even when you slip up from time to time.
When you need some instruction, encouragement, motivation, and accountability go work with a coach or mentor. It’s the best place to start and you can always go back when you need them as you progress along your life-long journey with fitness.
Most importantly believe in yourself and your ability to make a change. You can do anything if you put your mind to it and it’s a big enough priority in your life. I hope that my insight can help you avoid the pitfalls and see you on your way to success.