Wouldn’t it be nice to be that girl (or guy) who just goes to the gym, casually, consistently, like it’s no big deal? The type of person who doesn’t have to re-convince herself every. single. afternoon. after work to stop in for a workout before heading home?
Maybe you’ve even been this girl before, but sooner or later the routine faded and you’re back here: wanting to be someone who works out on a consistent basis, but struggling to actually make it happen. Chances are, you overlooked a few key things that can change going to the gym from chore to something fairly second nature. Yes, there will still be days where you have to give yourself the Parking-Lot-Pep-Talk, but with the help of these 5 tips, you can make the talks less frequent and make the gym an actual habit for yourself.
I know these things work because they’re things I’ve done without much through through the years and then reverse-engineered and implemented with my own clients and seen major changes in the way they’re able to show up consistently to their workouts. If you’re more of an audible learner, I’ve got the podcast version of this article here. If you’re ready to read through how to make going to the gym an easy habit, let’s dive in.
1. Locate stuff: at home & at the gym
The first and easiest thing you should do to help encourage the gym as a habit is to just find your stuff.
Locate all of your necessary tools and materials, clothing and equipment, to make this thing happen. Do you know how easy it is to bail on a workout because of something lame like not having a ponytail holder or forgetting a water bottle?
(Chance are, you probably do.)
On the same note, let’s talk about how much easier it is to make it to the gym when your bag is packed and you know you have everything you need to have a good workout.
Here’s a brief list of some key items I recommend locating to make the gym easier to go to:
- a good water bottle (I love a nice 1L bottle with a straw vs. screw top)
- decent headphones + good playlists
- functional bag
- clothes that excite you! (i.e. not your old sweats or torn t-shirts)
Part 2 of this tip is to locate stuff at the gym.
This means finding things like:
- the bathroom
- a place to stretch
- free weights/balls/bands that you can move from one area to another
- machines you like to use
- your preferred cardio equipment
- lockers/coat racks
There’s nothing worse than feeling like every time you walk in to the gym is the first time you’re walking in, and there’s no easier way to fix that than getting acquainted with the facility.
Feeling like you don’t know where stuff is is also going to make it harder to convince yourself to get to the gym. If you feel comfortable and familiar with the environment, you’re much more likely to feel like going, thus helping to form a habit rather than force yourself to do this “chore” of working out.
Easy ways to go about finding stuff at the gym are:
- ask for a tour
- give yourself a “self-guided” tour by simply taking a quick walk around
- hop on a treadmill/other cardio machine & do a scavenger hunt before you get going
2. Create a (realistic & specific) schedule
Many of us are good at saying things like, “I’m going to workout 3x/week!” or “I’m doing 2 classes & 1 day on my own this week,” and then we stop there. These are great things to aim towards, but without a thought-out and specific plan of action, they’re much harder to follow through on, thus steering us further from our goal of making the gym a real habit.
Instead of committing to a certain number of days, go ahead and take the extra step and commit to the actual days. Look at your week (or month, if you can make it that far out) and ask yourself which exact days you can make it the gym. It doesn’t matter if these days change week-to-week. The point is that you get in the habit of choosing your workout days ahead of time rather than basing it off how you “feel.”
Habits are not created by feelings. They’re created on purpose — with thought and planning — until they become things that gradually require less and less of both. The other key here besides being specific is, of course, being realistic.
Committing to unrealistic goals sets you up for a greater chance of not reaching those goals, and feeling like we’ve failed ourselves and our goals is not going to help our baby gym habit grow and prosper. It’s important to consider the reality you live in when making your gym schedule. Be weary of very real obstacles like time constraints, energy levels, even your own personality traits, that might make getting to the gym more difficult.
**Being realistic does not mean allowing these things to remain obstacles, it simply means giving them consideration and attention so that you factor them in to your commitments.
3. Create your workout plan
In the same way that creating a specific schedule can help you make the gym an easier habit to stick to, so can creating a specific workout plan. Going in with no plan or — just as bad — planning to wing it, are both driving your old habit of relying on feelings in your workout routine. The entire point of creating this habit is to remove your emotions and feelings — the main culprits for de-railing gym-going-efforts — from the equation.
The more you rely on feeling like working out, the harder it’s going to be to stay consistent in your efforts. This is why it’s best to have a plan in place before every time you step foot in the door. It’s not enough to say, “Monday is leg day.” You need to know what exercises you will do on Monday. The more you can have planned out ahead of time, the better. More plans = less decision-making during poor decision-making time (i.e. after a long day, early in the morning, on an empty stomach, etc.)
So not only should you create a specific schedule of workout days, you should also create a specific schedule of workouts themselves so you leave as few decisions as possible to the last minute.
4. Visualize your workout
I find this incredibly effective and useful for new gym-goers, but even as someone who has been working out for years, I still do this — mostly instinctively at this point — and it’s still a great technique.
Before you even get to the gym, it’s helpful to picture your entire experience from start to finish. Make a mind-movie from arrival to departure to:
- prime your mind for what your body is about to experience
- address any issues/problems before they arise
- feel familiar with your routine, thus maximizing time & mental energy
- feel comfortable with the flow & sequence of events
- get excited and motivated
Again, nearly all of my beginner clients find this super helpful because they feel ready for their workout and confident about what they’re doing, because they can picture themselves doing it.
However, this even helps me by psyching me up and helping me spend less time in my actual workout going through things like set-up procedures and flowing from one exercise to the next.
5. Break the ice
If you only do one thing from this list, make it this one. Talking to people at the gym is the single-best thing you can do to make the gym an easy habit. If the gym feels like a lonely, isolating experience, who would be psyched up to go?
If, however, we can make the gym a place where we feel like we belong, like we know people and people know us, we’re much more apt to feel connected to it and therefore habitually go. Start by simply saying “hi” to the front desk people.
Strike up a conversation with another girl/guy in the locker room. Pretty soon, you will probably start to see the same people at the same times anyway. It’s so easy to talk to people once they look familiar, and the best way to see familiar faces….
is to go to the gym often enough to make people familiar. This is my favorite piece of advice because it holds true for any intimidating or new experience. Just breaking the ice and talking to someone can change so much, and it’s truly such an easy thing to do!