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4 Habit-Forming Gym Rituals to Keep You Coming Back

woman resting on Planet Fitness weight machine
The fewer decisions you put between yourself and your workout routine, the more likely you are to make positive, habit-forming choices.

by Lindsay Tigar

Even if you actually enjoy logging miles on the treadmill or trying out a new heart-pumping workout, habit-forming rituals at the gym can sometimes be difficult to maintain. Blame it on working late or the temptation of a new binge-worthy television series, but falling off the fitness bandwagon can be all too easy.

Thankfully, there are some effective, simple ways to improve your habit-forming skills, just by creating minor modifications in your lifestyle. Here are four ideas to get you going:

1. Make Fewer Decisions

You've heard what those early birds claim as their secret to rising before dawn: eliminating distractions. If you're the first to arrive at the office, you won't be met by a slew of colleagues bombarding you with questions and you'll likely be more productive. This idea also applies to the gym.

The fewer decisions you put between yourself and your workout routine, the more likely you are to make positive, habit-forming choices. This might mean carving out time on your calendar, laying your clothes out the night before or enlisting a workout buddy to hold you accountable. Whatever the path, make it clear so you aren't tempted to wander.

2. Make Your Goals Big

According to a recent study conducted by University of Virginia that investigated motivation, researchers found that lofty goals were actually important factors for helping folks stay on track. What does that mean, exactly? Well, when you focus on a long-term, big 'ol dream, the emotional connection you form with the goal helps you maintain your focus. As far as habit-forming practices at the gym, this might not translate into instant success or overnight change — but it will push you to get up and complete your workout even when you're not in the mood.

3. Make It About Action, Not Fantasy

Sure, we all could close our eyes and envision our ideal selves. But the more time you spend in your head envisioning what you want, the less time you spend taking action.

Think about the process, not the outcome, when you catch yourself fantasizing. In other words: instead of only seeing yourself crushing that road race, think about all of the sweat and hard work it took to get to the starting line (and the community of supportive gym peers you met along the way).

4. Make the Beginning Matter

Regardless if you're attempting to learn a new language, understand the back end of a website or improve your public speaking confidence, those first few weeks are often the hardest. Not only do you spend time doubting yourself, but frustration is at an all-time high, providing many opportunities for you to wave your white flag of defeat and quit.

Work to eliminate any setbacks that could throw you off your journey in the initial stages. This means when you first start working out, you probably shouldn't try to sprint for three days in a row or take four really difficult classes. Instead, start slow — like the tortoise — so you can steadily win your own race!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.