It takes no great exercise of the will to brush my teeth every day. Or get dressed. Or set the trash out Thursday morning. Or pick my kids up from school. That’s because these are habits—routines I’ve established to accomplish things that are important, whether I enjoy them or not.
Believe it or not, exercise can become one of those habits. Here are some quick-hit tips I’ve learned over the years that can establish your workouts as part of the natural fabric of your weekly schedule.
Find something you enjoy (or at least don’t hate). If you can’t stand the treadmill, don’t use it! There are tons of exercise options out there—don’t settle for something you despise. (Click here for tips on finding exercise that suits you.)
Schedule it. Seriously. Mark it on your calendar. Treat it like an appointment. Tell people you’re busy then. After a few weeks of carving out that time, it will become a no-brainer part of your schedule.
Dress for success. When I don’t feel like exercising on a scheduled workout day, I often lure myself into doing so by simply putting on my workout clothes. This works especially well if I change into an outfit that isn’t warm enough for the temperature unless I exercise. Tricky!
Alternate easy and hard workouts. If you go hard all the time, you’ll likely start dreading workouts. Build in some easy days. Casual Friday, perhaps? Or Mellow Monday?
Make it a competition—or a cooperation, depending on your personality. Challenging a friend to see who can reach a certain fitness goal first or meeting up with a friend or family member for workouts can provide the motivation and accountability you need to be consistent.
Have a Plan B. Once in a while, despite your best efforts, your workout plans just ain’t gonna happen. On those days, I sneak in 5 or 10 minutes of simple bodyweight exercises or maybe a short, brisk walk. Some movement is better than none!
Once you’ve established your habit, don’t let it slide. Fact: Working out when you’re in shape is easier than when you’re not. After I had each of my children, it was hard, painful work to get fit again. If I feel like slacking, I reminisce about those bad ol’ days. Just the thought of them is enough to kick me into gear.
Kellee Katagi is one of those strange souls who actually enjoys working out for the sake of working out. She’s spent most of her 20-plus-year writing and editing career covering fitness, nutrition and travel, as well as outdoor sports ranging from skiing to spelunking to street luge (yes, that’s a thing).