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Tips for making exercise a habit

I wish I had a superpower, one that would give me the power to exercise, but then be able to give other people the benefits. That would be an awesome superpower for a personal trainer.

I wish I had a superpower, one that would give me the power to exercise, but then be able to give other people the benefits. That would be an awesome superpower for a personal trainer. (Well, that and mind-reading; that would be a cool superpower too.)

Sadly, I have no superpowers. Instead, what I have is a keyboard in one hand and a stopwatch in the other.

For over two decades now I have been training groups and individuals, and in those two decades I have met a lot of people, and of those people a lot of them really don’t like exercising.

They don’t get the rush from a workout like I do. They don’t love it, it’s hard for them and it’s work. This, in turn, means they aren’t really that motivated to exercise in the first place.

They do know it is good for them, and that they should be doing it — they just aren’t too sure on how to make it a lasting habit.

If you are one of the many who would like to make exercise a habit, read on.

Make your reasons “why” good. The reasons why you exercise have to be good and resonate all the way down to the depths of your soul. For instance, starting a weight-training program to lose weight is not enough, especially if you have been down this road before.

Instead, pull a Dr. Phil on yourself and dig deeper as to why you want to lose weight in the first place? Maybe it’s because you are tired of being tired, or you are uncomfortable in your own skin. You want a reason that will get you off your rear end and in motion when the chips are down.

Reward yourself. External rewards have shown to work quite well with people to induce interest and participation in activities that the person had no initial interest in beforehand.

This type of behaviour is called extrinsic motivation and can often lead to intrinsic motivation — what the non-exerciser is craving to have from the beginning. It’s that hallelujah moment when exercise becomes fun and they start enjoying it.

Some rewards that you could shower upon yourself for consistently working out are things like a new iPod to listen to while working out, a new workout outfit, a book or a chocolate bar. (Just kidding. I was just checking to see that you were paying attention).

Make the habits small and attainable.
“Nothing is stronger than a habit.” A habit is almost unconscious. It’s so settled into your grey matter that it’s as routine as brushing your teeth. To create something, like exercise as a habit, experts recommend that you start small and be consistent.

A classic example of this is a client I trained a long time ago. He hired me to help get him going so he could continue on his own. The problem was he hated exercising. So, I needed to create a habit, otherwise once he finished his package with me he probably wasn’t going to continue on his own.

With this in mind I started getting him into the habit of going to the gym. Three times a week he would drive there, walk in and then turn around and walk right out again.

I am sure the reception staff thought he was nuts, but we needed to start with a small goal (like driving to the gym, it’s easy and non-threatening), and turn that into a weekly habit. Soon enough he started to stay and workout.

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Never, ever go for more than two days without exercising. Keep in constant and perpetual motion and you will also create that habit we discussed in the last tip.

I tell all of my clients (and practice this myself) to move every 48 hours. It doesn’t matter if it’s sprinting Fred Gingell stairs or strolling around the block, just keep moving and soon enough you will not want to stop.

PJ Wren is a personal trainer and writer in the Delta area who can be reached at