How to Make Working Out a Habit

November 12, 2020

It’s Going to Take More than Willpower


We’re all creatures of habit. On most days, we wake up at the same time to shower, eat, and get ready for work, following the same patterns every day. The holiday season is near, and the fitness, diet, and workout plans you made earlier and tried to stick to are now about to be out of the window. I will say that 2020 has been a little challenging. Living with the uncertainty of a worldwide pandemic, COVID-19 has termed the phrase “new normal.” Those who had good intentions to stick to a workout schedule and diet routine have led to many seeking a plan B or just giving up on it altogether. But let’s face it: it’s not all that tough to start a workout routine. After all, many of us have done it more than once. The trouble, of course, comes to sticking with it. Our initial enthusiasm and energy taper off all too often. We get distracted by things going on in our lives or if we do not see results quickly, we throw in the towel. So why is it so hard to set up new healthy habits? Yet many people manage to make it happen, and would no sooner skip their regular workout than their morning shower? How do you bridge intention and doing? What’s the secret?


Behavioral scientists who study habit formation say that we must try to create healthy habits the right way. Many make bold resolutions to start exercising or lose weight, for example, without taking the steps needed to set ourselves up for success. So, how do we form habits?


There are three main factors to habit formation. There is the context cue, behavioral repetition, and the reward. Context cue can be a prior action, time of day, location, or anything that triggers the habitual behavior. Behavior repetition is the actual habit that one exhibits. Reward is a positive feeling.


How long can it take to develop a habit? It can take 18 to 250 days to form a new habit and an average of 60 days for a beginner. One method to help build a routine is called the 21/90 Rule. What is the 21/90 rule?


The 21/90 rule suggests that you commit to a personal or professional goal for 21 straight days. After three weeks, that goal should have become a habit. Once you’ve established that habit, you continue to do it for another ninety days. Or aim to commit for a MINIMUM of 30 days.


Those who are in the fitness and wellness industry know that a habit must have and follow the SMART Rules as well. Many health experts encourage to set “SMART” goals: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Some examples include:


●     Set a time. Are you more likely to stick with it in the morning or lunchtime or evening, and stick with that time?

●     Send yourself a reminder.

●     Start with small workouts, 5 mins, 10 mins, or 15 mins.

●     Progress later.

●     Make it pleasurable.

●     Layout your gear.

●     Mix it up.

●     Never miss twice.


We’ve heard the saying, “out of sight out of mind” — the same thing can apply to workout bag and wardrobe. Put your gym bag and the yoga mat on your couch or by the door before you relax after a long day. You now have to consciously decide not to exercise by physically moving your workout gear off the sofa or in front of the door. Forget the all or nothing mentally-look at each day as a series of choices because we know the holidays are coming up.


Some psychologists feel that losses are about twice as motivating as gains of equal size. If we can encourage people with sticks rather than carrots, sticking to healthy habits can be more effective. Remember to be Patient and Find a Sustainable Pace.


There is no timeline. Right or wrong will power or lack thereof, the only timeline that matters is the one that works best for you. Good habits will happen when we set ourselves up for success.

The Author

Shera Strange, Certified Personal Trainer

About Shera . . . With over 17 years of experience as a personal trainer and 10 years as a group fitness instructor, I help men and women improve their quality of life by becoming physically and emotionally fit with exercise and motivation. As a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor of various formats, I am motivated to lead, educated, inform, in ways to improve your well-being and encourage a change in a healthier lifestyle. What I am most passionate about and my goal is to establish relationships with the community with a no-excuses format for physical activity that will result in better health outcomes and promote lasting positive change. My purpose is to motivate others to improve their quality of life and live every day to the fullest.

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