How to Form Workout Habits and Stick to Them

Gyms across the country are finally reopening. While this is happy news for many of us, heading back to the gym may come as a bit of a shock to the system to those for whom exercise has taken a back seat during the pandemic. According to UCL’s recent Covid-19 Social Study, 40% of people reported exercising less in the latest lockdown than in the first, while 19% said they were watching more television, gaming and streaming than in the first lockdown. If you’re well and truly out of your once-impeccable gym habit and are looking for ways to pick it back up again, we’ve got your back. We spoke to Workshop’s founder Lee Mullins on how to make new habits stick and how to kick lockdown lethargy into touch, once and for all.

What’s the secret to forming a habit?

Identifying the cue that leads to whatever unhealthy routine you have is the most important thing. Once you do this you can replace the unhealthy routine with a healthier one. For some the goal may be to improve sleep quality so that you have more energy and less cravings for poorer quality foods, but scrolling through Instagram as soon as you get into bed might prevent you from reaching that goal. That could be because blue light exposure from looking at phone screens can negatively impact our bodies melatonin production, leading to a poorer night’s sleep. So, in that case, the cue of getting bed doesn’t change, but changing your environment by placing the phone in a different room and reading a book instead of scrolling through your phone not only removes the blue light exposure but sets you up to fall asleep quicker and easier.

How do I go about setting a habit that I can stick to?

The best advice I can give is to start with an incredibly small habit that requires very little motivation, is easy to implement and starts to get you moving in a healthier direction. This is obviously a very individualised thing as everyone is starting at different points, but the goal could be to increase your average daily steps from 2,000 a day to 3,000 a day, or instead of trying to stretch for 20 minutes a day, start by stretching for 5 minutes a day. Make it easy enough that you can complete the habit with very little motivation required. That will then spur you on to do more naturally.

How can I incorporate working out into my other daily habits?

Schedule your workouts for first thing in the day. Personally, moving my workouts to first thing in the morning not only improves my energy throughout the day, but it has also been shown in research to lead to better food choices throughout the day, as well as better quality sleep at night. We know that performing a workout requires a level of willpower, but willpower is like a muscle, it fatigues as the day goes on. To combat this, aim to exercise first thing in the morning when willpower is at its strongest.

How can I make my exercise goals seem attainable?

Make the goals small and they will automatically feel more easily attainable, plus, small goals consistently performed over time lead to big changes. I would also recommend writing them down or checking them off on something like a calendar. This visual completion can be extremely rewarding and satisfying.

If I’m feeling sluggish, how can I make exercise seem more appealing?

When it comes to the form of exercise, always choose something you enjoy over choosing what might be the hardest or what is spouted as the most effective. You performing exercise consistently always trumps something that may be the hardest workout to perform, as it’s much more likely that you will stick to it. Getting in shape and staying in shape all comes down to consistently being active. If you really struggle, try exercising with someone. Whether it’s a friend or a trainer this has repeatedly been shown to lead to better compliance.