We all know exercise is good for us. We know it’s something we should be doing consistently, and we know that it’s objectively good for our health. Countless studies tell us that exercise is great for boosting mood, losing weight, and improving brain function, as well as helping to prevent diseases and supporting our bone and muscle health.
But there are very few of us who have figured out how to exercise consistently and enjoy it, and so it’s all-too-familiar to many of us to say, “I’ll start Monday.”
We’re waiting for a Monday morning to roll around when miraculously, we’ll pop out of bed at 4 AM, wide awake and thrilled to eat a breakfast of only kale, and hit the gym for two hours.
But Monday comes, and it’s just like every other Monday: hear the alarm, groggily press the snooze, rush to get ready for the day, and feel guilty that nothing has changed.
Here’s the truth: you’re not going to wake up one day with the discipline of working out every day. If that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.
In reality, our feelings are fickle and self-discipline is hard. In the short term, the easier choice often feels better than the alternatives.
If you’re ready to start taking control of your health, you CAN do it. Here’s how.
Start really, really small.
Most of us will never run a marathon or be ultra-fit athletes. But we need to get rid of the all-or-nothing mindset.
A one-mile walk is better than no walk at all.
A ten-minute YouTube workout is better than nothing when going to the gym doesn’t feel like an option.
Fifteen pushups are better than no pushups.
A quick jog while dinner is in the oven is better than sitting in the kitchen mindlessly scrolling through Facebook.
Will twenty squats change your life? No. But if you want to start building healthy habits, you need to start exercising the self-discipline muscle by consistently making small, healthy choices that will build on each other.
Change is totally possible, but it requires starting.
So start small, and start now.
Don’t break the chain.
There’s a story that’s been going around for a while about Jerry Seinfeld giving advice to a young comic — telling him to write every day, and on a calendar, mark a red X for that day. After a few days, it turns into a chain. The goal? Don’t break the chain.
While the credibility of this story is questionable, there’s truth to it: progress isn’t based on motivation, it’s based on consistency.
Momentum comes when you start proving to yourself that you can and you will make decisions that you’re proud of. When you keep making the choice to exercise, you become the kind of person who exercises.
So pick a small choice — like a ten-minute workout or a one-mile walk — and commit to doing it every. single. day.
And then? Don’t break the chain.
Automate your choices.
You probably won’t feel like going for a run as soon as you wake up unless you’ve trained yourself to. Most of the time, you can’t feel your way into action; you just have to act. So make the action a little easier.
Simple steps like laying out workout clothes before you go to bed and filling a water bottle and putting it in the fridge take away the mental effort of deciding to exercise. The decision’s been made for you.
All you have to do is show up.
There will always be an excuse to do something that feels easier than putting in the work to build a healthy lifestyle — but every time we pick the easy choice, we forego the better one.
The only person that can help you build good habits is you. So own it. Make a small, healthy choice, and then make it again the next day. Make it harder for yourself not to follow through.
No one is going to develop self-discipline for you. It’s up to you to make the small, consistent choices to incorporate good habits into your life.
You CAN do it.
It’s on you to make that happen.