Every month, I go to gyms and offices and give workshops on habit-formation and goal setting. At one of these sessions, a woman raised her hand and said, “I should work out, but I just can’t seem to do it. What should I do?” The tips I offered in my response helped her make a habit out of going to the gym—and I know they can help you, too.
1. Find a closer gym Jennifer Gay, Ph.D., and her colleagues conducted an experiment and found no matter how motivated people were, the biggest factor in determining whether or not people who just started exercising would still be exercising in 6 months was how convenient it was to get to their gym. Why fight an uphill battle? Pick the one that’s closest to your home or office.
2. Go in the morning People who start an exercise habit in the morning are far more likely to stick to it. There are lots of reasons for this, but the most compelling is known as “decision fatigue.” Researchers have found that decisions “cost something” to make and we are more likely to depend on impulse and habit by the end of the day. So after commuting, working, and commuting again, you’re less likely to go the gym later in the day than in the morning.
3. Get beyond “should” There are lots of things we “should” do. We should floss twice a day. And call our mothers. But feeling like we should do something—what psychologists call “introjected motivation”—is a very poor quality motivator when compared to feeling like we “must” to do something, or “need” to do something. So tell your friends that if you don’t workout twelve times this month, they can shave your head. Too extreme? Consider using an app that ups the ante, like Gym-Pact, which charges you money if you don’t go to the gym!
4. Find a reason (for today) Write down every reason you can think of for going to the gym. Every answer to the question, “Why?” Keep that list by your bed. When your alarm goes off at 6AM, grab the list and pick the reason that sounds most motivating to you for that day.
5. Simply set the alarm After getting to the root of her issue, setting an alarm clock seemed to be the best solution for the woman at my workshop. She wasn’t confident that she could go to the gym (even once), but she was 100% confident that she could set an alarm for 6:00am. So I asked her to set it right there, on her phone, in front of me. She could do anything she wanted after the alarm went off—I just wanted her to set the alarm. The next day she walked into my gym at 6:30am. “I was up,” she said. “Thought I’d come here.” 80% of life is showing up—and most of us can’t do that without an alarm.
The biggest reason people don’t reach their goals is not a lack of desire, discipline, or even falling off the horse. Not getting back on the horse is the biggest reason people fail.
I can promise each and every one of you, on your journey to your health and fitness goals, you will slip. You will miss a few days at the gym. You might even miss a month, or a year. But even a year won’t matter if you’re able to start again tomorrow.
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of blowing off the gym. Think one of these tips will get you there tomorrow? Let us know in the comments!