Maybe it’s been a while since you've been for a run. Maybe it’s been a few years. Or perhaps your gym membership has lapsed and it’s been a few months since your last kickboxing class. It happens to the best of us—we get out of our fitness routine and before we know it, weeks, months, or even years have passed since the last time we worked out with any real regularity.
Or maybe you've never really been into fitness, but you've decided now is the time that you want to take control of your life and health by incorporating healthy movement into your daily routine. Whether you’re coming back from an exercise hiatus or picking up the habit for the first time, what you need to understand is this: so much of it is mental.
If you train your brain to accept your exercise goals, you’ll be that much closer to fulfilling them.
Follow these easy tricks to get yourself in the mindset for healthy habits.
- Change one small thing at a time. It goes without saying that it would be difficult to get back into exercise by going for a 10-mile jog on the first day. It’s not impossible, but it’s pretty much unheard of. Rather than going full-blast the first time you try to exercise again, ease back into the routine with small, weekly changes.For example, the first week, go for a brisk walk three or four days. The next week, up the brisk walk to a walk-jog combo. Continue this slow increase until you’re back into the habit of running a few miles a few times a week. The gradual incorporation of exercise will make it seem less daunting and more achievable.
- Prior preparation will make it harder to back out of an exercise appointment. If you’ve decided you’re going to go for a jog right when you wake up, sleep in your exercise clothes. It will make it so much more difficult to decide to press the snooze button in the morning rather than working out.If you want to hit the gym after work, pack your bag of workout clothes and leave it in your car so that you can go straight to the gym—rather than stopping by your house and getting sucked into the couch and television trap. Doing the prep work ahead of time will make it easier to say yes to exercise, rather than searching for an excuse to skip it.
- Motivate yourself with your favorite upbeat tunes. Make yourself an awesome, exciting playlist of songs you love, and listen to it every time you exercise.
Keep it updated frequently with new and fun tunes so that you’ll be excited to work out and listen to them. And try to keep these songs exclusively for exercise time, so that if you want to hear them, you’ve got to be moving.Another great trick is to put a favourite song towards the end of the playlist and don’t allow yourself to skip ahead. You’ll be inspired to keep your workout going longer so that you can make it to that special track.
- Reward yourself. It’s a mind game as old as time itself—positive reinforcement. You need to make sure you’re applauding your own success and celebrating even the small things with rewards.
Make sure they’re not food-based rewards—it doesn’t make sense to reward your spin class attendance with a heaping plate of nachos.Instead, choose something else that will make you feel as good as your workout. Maybe it’s a manicure, a skinny latte, or a new top. Or it could be as simple as letting yourself spend an extra hour in bed on Sunday perusing your favorite fashion magazines. Just make sure you treat yourself to reward all of your hard work.
- Make yourself a visual reminder. Get yourself a free calendar, and mark off every day that you achieve your goals. It will give you something to be proud of, and it will also offer a big, glaring reminder if you start getting off track with your goal.You’ll be surprised how motivating it can be to see a visual representation of how much you’ve exercised. Eventually, you may find that you don’t even need it anymore, because exercise has once again become an indispensable part of your daily life. But until that point, keep yourself going with little reminders like this and you’ll be amazed at how you actually WANT to achieve your fitness goals.
Don’t let yourself get discouraged—we all lose track of our goals from time to time. Just follow simple tips like these to ease yourself back into a fitness routine, and you’ll be thrilled with the results. Remember to be kind to yourself and go at a pace that you’re comfortable with—and you’ll be healthier and happier before you know it!