You might not know this about me, but I wasn’t always a “workout person.”
Although I played soccer and basketball growing up, as soon as I left for college, I stopped doing any movement of pretty much any kind.
I didn’t go to the gym or work out. I didn’t have any fun active hobbies that I did regularly or play any sports. I barely even walked on a daily basis.
Not only did I gain the typical freshman fifteen (or twenty) as a result, I also had low energy, low self-esteem, and felt just super lost and unconfident about my life in general.
It really took finding fitness to get me out of that rut—but it didn’t happen overnight.
It took years of experimenting before I finally considered myself a “fitness person” and built a workout habit that finally stuck.
Here are my top tips to get there much quicker than I did:
Shorten Your Workouts
Like most people, I used to think I had to spend a good 45 minutes or more in the gym no less than four days a week to reach my health and fitness goals.
I would put in my time on the cardio machines, than do a lackluster, unfocused weights workout that was more geared towards bodybuilders than any strength or athletic goals I had at the time.
But what this really meant is that when I decided I didn’t have the time or energy for a full 45 minute workout, I would end up skipping my workout altogether. This led to a lack of consistency, and as a result, a lack of progress.
It really took discovering HIIT before I was really able to build the habit for a near daily workout. Unlike the more moderate intensity workouts that most people slog through in the gym, HIIT is a much more efficient way to build strength, stamina, and lifelong fitness, which is why we love it so much here at 12 Minute Athlete.
And since HIIT gets rid of the number one excuse that most people skip their workouts—time—it can be a key factor in helping you to build a workout habit for life.
Get Moving with Non-Workout Activities You Enjoy
Developing a lifelong fitness habit is more than simply carving the space to work out on a regular basis. If you want to really build a workout habit that sticks, you’ll also need to find some hobbies activities that not only get you moving, but that you also actually enjoy doing.
The key to these types of activities is that they should feel more like fun than a workout, even though they may be just as difficult as any workout you do in the gym.
For example, if you love being outdoors, you could:
- Make it a habit to take your family or dog for a hike on the weekends
- Take lessons or sign up for classes to learn an activity you’ve always thought sounded fun like surfing, kite boarding, rock climbing, acroyoga, etc.
- Find an outdoor tennis or pickle ball league you can join a few times a week
- Plan your vacations around activities like skiing, surfing, hiking, etc.
If you’re the type that’s excited to learn new skills or loves sports, here are a few ideas:
- Try an adult gymnastics class (my fav!)
- Join an indoor soccer team, a pickup basketball league, an ultimate frisbee league, etc.
- Learn to box or take up martial arts of your choice (as a bonus, this is a great stress-reliever)
The key is to start building more activities into your daily life that get you moving and having fun.
An added benefit is that you’ll soon start to notice that your workouts help get you stronger and improve your conditioning for your sports or activities of choice—making it that much more likely that you’ll stay consistent.
Make it a Habit to Walk More
I’m such a huge fan of walking for so many reasons. Not only does it help you sit less during the day and get keep your metabolism higher, walking helps to:
- Clear your mind (I do some of my best thinking on walks)
- Get some fresh air and Vitamin D
- Boost your energy and mood
Personally, I’ve chosen to live in a place where I can walk to various things around me like grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants, which helps make walking a natural part of my daily life. I also have a dog that’s an endless bundle of energy, which gets me out and walking even when I’m not feeling overly energetic.
If you don’t live in a place where it’s easy to walk, and don’t have a dog or kids to force you to get moving, it’s definitely a little more challenging to get in your daily steps—but it’s certainly not impossible.
One thing that can really help you walk more is to start taking walking breaks during your work and school day. If you can convince others to come with you and take a walking meeting (Steve Jobs style) that’s even better!
Another easy way to add more walking into your day is to take a short walk after most meals. Again, if you can get your family or others to join you, all the better.
Create Goals that Excite You
We talk a lot about goal setting on 12 Minute Athlete, and for good reason: there’s no better way to keep track of and measure your progress than creating measurable, trackable goals.
Goals also help keep you motivated when you don’t really feel like working out—if you know you’re working towards something you care about, you’ll be that much likely to put in the work even when you don’t exactly feel like doing so.
If you’re not sure where to get started with your goal setting, I recommend you start by thinking back to when you were a kid and what sounded like fun or “cool” to be able to do.
This could be something along the lines of:
- Learning to do your first handstand
- Picking up a new sport like surfing or skiing
- Competing in your first obstacle race
Or really, anything at all that interests you.
Goals can be skill, strength, or even adventure-related (we talk all about goal setting in The 12 Minute Athlete book).
The most important thing is that your goals come from you—never set a goal because you should want to go for that goal.
(For example, you’ll never see me training for a marathon just because it’s popular—I hate running.)
Choose something that interests you, then take the steps and put in the hard work to get there. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it!