Motivation tip: Make exercise a regular part of your daily routine

Fitness Motivation Tip: Make Exercise Automatic

Research into the science of habit formation shows that one of the most effective ways to make and stick to a new fitness activity is to make it automatic. This means that instead of planning your workouts individually, you create a routine you can follow without thinking about it.

Creating an automatic routine also saves you from the pitfall of having to negotiate with yourself – there’s no decision needed. In order to do this, though you have to be honest with yourself about what your obstacles are. Then use your creativity to come up with work-arounds.

Here are examples of the top reasons we find not to exercise, and some strategies to deal with them.

1. I’m Too Tired to Exercise

Do you hit the snooze button to get that extra 20 minutes of sleep when you planned to work out? Or are you too crashed at the end of the day? Start by asking yourself how much sleep you’re getting. If you’re not getting 7 to 8 hours a night, you need to address this underlying problem first, or it will sabotage your fitness goals. It may also be sabotaging your weight loss goals as well, since a body of research now links lack of sleep with weight gain. So to get yourself to prioritize sleep, try this trick: Make getting enough sleep your first fitness goal. And remind yourself that lack of sleep makes you more prone to illness and injury as well.

2. I Don’t Have Enough Time

We’ve all got this problem, right? The answer is, it doesn’t have to be an hour. It doesn’t even have to be half an hour, experts say. For example, what if you did 20 minutes now, 20 minutes later? We can all spare 20 minutes, after all. Or even ten – recent research from McMaster University found that a ten-minute interval workout including one minute of high-intensity training had the same impact as 45 minutes of moderate exercise. Take a quick walk to clear your head, then settle down to whatever requires your attention. When you need a break, do another 20 minutes of exercise, perhaps some strength training, yoga, or stretches.

3. I’m Too Hungry When I Get Home

If you walk in the door ravenous and have no choice but to fix yourself a meal, there’s a fairly simple solution – the late afternoon snack. And doing so can have a double benefit, helping you build muscle as well. Experts suggest that eating something high in protein and complex carbs (whole wheat bread topped with almond buttter, say) an hour or two before your planned workout jump starts protein synthesis, a process necessary to build muscle fiber.

4. I Have Too Much to Do in the Evenings

Do you find that the minute you walk in the door you’re distracted by all the things left on your to-do list, pushing exercise down the priority list? The solution to this dilemma is the post-work workout. Bring your walking shoes, gym bag, tennis racket, or other equipment to work with you and go straight to your fitness activity of choice. Doing it this way keeps you from getting sidetracked.  And you may actually find the energy boost from exercising makes you more focused when you get home.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.