How to Actually Get in the Habit of Working Out
Call it the New Year's effect, but we're pretty sure it applies year round: You decide you're going to FINALLY devote yourself to hitting the gym on a regular basis, and you're actually really good about it… for the first two weeks. Then, you decide to skip just one workout. And then another. And before you know it, your sneakers (not to mention your monthly gym bill) are just guilty reminders of that commitment you made not too long ago.
We get it (and oh, we've been there)—work gets in the way, you deem sleep more important (valid), or you just really hate working out. Maybe it's all of the above. But even gym-phobes can metamorphose into fitness junkies, promise. Again, we've been there.
So with this all in mind, we asked fitness pros for some motivational tips that go beyond just "believing in yourself" or "you can do it!"—this no-BS advice actually works. Keep reading for their secrets to consistent exercise habits, as well as a few of our own tried-and-true tricks.
You've heard it before, but you can't argue with science—many studies tout the effectiveness of exercising with a buddy, from the simple motivation of being in it together to actually working out harder (it's that whole competition thing).
"If you're not sure that you can commit an hour to yourself, commit it to your friend," suggests Christine Bullock, fitness and lifestyle expert and creator of Evolution 20. "Make a workout playdate." Our tip? After a week of tough workouts, make a wine playdate too.
"Integrate your 'workout' into your daily routine," says Bullock. "Try 20 calf-lifts while you brush your teeth, or get up and take a brisk walk around the office every time you get overwhelmed with emails." As for that Netflix habit? Bullock's genius idea is to approach your favorite show as you would a drinking game—the difference being that you'll do 10 sit-ups instead of taking a shot.
Not necessarily for music, though a bumping playlist might be key for you to power through a workout. "Wear headphones even if you aren't listening to anything so you don't get disturbed," says Lauren Rounds, Equinox trainer in New York City.
Indeed, "rush hour" at the gym (dropped weights, people rushing into fitness studios, errant sweat) can be highly distracting, and focus is key—even meditative. "When you put all of your thought and energy into what your muscles are doing, and finding proper form and alignment, you can deepen the work and push out everything else," adds Shalisa Pouw, Pure Barre senior master trainer. "Finding a workout that is not only physical but also requires mental focus will help you find better results and will make the time fly by." We love these Panasonic earbuds ($6), which are wallet-friendly, sound-canceling, and burpee-proof.
Forget what's trending and forget what workout is currently being deemed "the best" for toning up fast. You're far more likely to stick with something (and thus tone up from it eventually) that you actually love, so own it. Love yoga but hate cardio? Sign up at your local studio and make it your mission to hit that sweaty Vinyasa class a few times a week. You'll be that much more inclined to go back again and again when it's something you really enjoy.
That being said, trying out something new is also a great motivator—even if it's just a new instructor or a different variety of the same kind of workout. Get excited about shopping around. "There are so many fitness options out there right now, so take the time to try out as many as you need and pick the workout that best suits you," advises Pouw.
Because there are SO many mega-efficient ways to get a full-body workout. Take high-intensity interval training (HIIT), for example—by switching between intense aerobic exercises with minimal rest between each, you can burn a crazy amount of calories and fat in minimal time (we're talking 10 minutes). And it revs up your metabolism so much that you'll keep burning calories even after the workout is over. Come on—you've got 10 minutes, right?
The first few weeks are always the hardest—it's just a fact of human behavior. Research shows that it can take anywhere from 21 days to 12 weeks for a new habit to become automatic. The good news is that we've found that those 12 weeks fly by when incorporating the tips above.
What's your favorite trick for getting motivated to work out? How long did it take for exercise to become a habit for you? Sound off in the comments below!