4 Things You Need to Make Exercise a Habit
Confidence boost aside, it could lead to better workouts.
How it helps: There's a phenomenon called "enclothed cognition," the mental shift that happens when we wear clothing we associate with a specific type of person or profession. People who donned lab coats then completed attention-related tests performed better than people wearing everyday clothes, found a study conducted at Northwestern University, and the researchers have said their findings may extend to fitness. Meaning, if you dress like that inspiring trainer you follow on Instagram, you might work out like her too.
It's what you'll use to get out of an I-really-don't-want-to-work-out state of mind, and it needs to be internal.
How it helps: "When you're focused on an external outcome, whether that's looking a certain way or, like some of the athletes I work with, having an undefeated season, it makes you anxious, increases muscle tension, and negatively affects your mood," says Leah Lagos, PsyD, a sports psychologist in New York. No one wants to work out when they feel that way. So turn it inward, which will make it motivating rather than draining. Lagos works with her clients to focus on how they want to feel when they achieve their goal rather than the goal itself. It could also be a simpler, everyday motivation that drives you. "I know that I'm nicer and more agreeable to the people in my life when I work out," says Rupa Mehta, a fitness instructor and author of The Nalini Method: 7 Workouts for 7 Moods.
Locker rooms with too-few showers, ho-hum classes, so many people that you have to wait in line for a treadmill—all valid complaints that might keep you from going at all.
How it helps: Figuring out your biggest exercise pet peeve (one that's bothersome enough that it would keep you from going), then finding a gym that solves the problem eliminates your own potential excuses. Tired of bringing your sneakers every time? Go for a gym that lets members rent permanent lockers (some will even wash your dirty workout clothes for you). If you tend to lose your gusto for the hot new class after a month, then look for a gym that changes their class offerings frequently. Whatever your biggest concern is, there's bound to be a gym that addresses it. Remember, though, that you might need to weigh cost versus convenience, says Mehta. "If a gym you're considering is really pricey, but it's just down the street and proximity matters for you and you know you'll go often if it's that close, it may be worth it."
It'll keep exercise from feeling like a monotonous slog.
How it helps: Long-term goals will help get you to the gym, but smaller wins throughout the workout will make you feel like each session matters. "When I work with competitive athletes, we set a daily target," says Jenny Susser, PhD, a clinical sports psychologist in Huntington, New York. "Something that's challenging but doable." We're not talking about tacking an extra 20 minutes onto your cardio routine or ditching the 5-pound dumbbells for 15s—more like running .2 mph faster than you did last week, holding planks for 35 seconds instead of 30 or doing 10 reps of your go-to resistance moves per set instead of 8.