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How To Stick To A Workout Routine

Written by: Joel Evan, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


With New Year coming around the corner, everyone is getting excited to begin new habits and routines to launch themselves into action towards their new goals. Anyone that goes to the gym knows that January is always a busy and crowded month. By February though, the crowds have already dissipated and only the committed, regular gym-goers are seen putting in work. Has this ever happened to you? Why is it so hard for us to commit and stick to these workout routines when deep down in our soul we want to make the change? We really want to be a better version of ourselves, but we just can’t seem to get there. The biggest gaps limiting most of my clients from achieving greatness, is they don’t have a system in place to cement their new habits in place. They get “caught up” by allowing the waves of life to push and pull them wherever it wants, instead of being grounded in their values and commitments.

Here are five ways you can make your new habits and workout routines stick for good in the New Year.

1. Make Your Habits Tiny

Most of us come up with these lofty and large goals to start the New Year. Instead of telling yourself, you’re going to go to the gym five times a week for 60 minutes a day, start by just going to the gym three times a week and set no expectation when it comes to time. Any time you’re starting a new habit, you want to make it extremely tiny, so that it is achievable and doable. Your first week of starting a new workout could be just driving to the gym and checking in and then leaving. The second week could look like checking and working out for five minutes and then leaving. It seems ridiculous, but we want to build the neural networks in your brain that make going to the gym or starting a new workout fun and enjoyable. Momentum will start to build because your brain is getting dopamine hits every time you achieve what you say you’re going to do. Eventually, going to the gym five times a week for 60 minutes will be a regular part of your routine, but in the beginning, it’ll be too much change, too quickly. So start slow and tiny.

2. True Behavior Change Is Identity Change

Anytime you start a new habit or routine, you need to really step into that new belief or identity. For example, imagine you’re trying to quit smoking and someone offers you a cigarette. You might answer, “No thanks, I’m trying to quit smoking,” versus “No thanks, I’m not a smoker.” Do you see the subtle difference? The biggest difference is identity. Most of us respond to our new goals as “I’m the type of person who wants this,” instead “I’m the type of person who IS this.” True behavior change is identity change. So, decide who you want to become and work backwards to become that person. Who is the type of person that sticks to a workout routine? A person who is consistent, committed and connected to their values.

3. Get Clarity Around Your Goal

Most of the people I coach come up with these extravagant and lofty goals like “I want to lose 50lbs in three months.” However, none of them has actually sat and thought about why they want to achieve this goal. Because they don’t have any clarity around the goal and their why, they give up the minute they meet any resistance. They weren’t clear on their reasons for wanting to achieve this new goal. Sure, losing weight is great, but understanding and realizing that sticking to a new workout routine means you’re going to have more energy, more confidence, higher self-esteem, and when you have all these things, you go out and crush your goals in life and start living a higher version of yourself. That’s the kind of goal that will make someone push to the next level and stand strong in times when they meet resistance.

4. Get Accountability & Raise the Stakes

Starting a new habit or workout routine can be challenging because our brain loves to be lazy! Our brain is built to keep us alive and make sure we survive. Starting new routines can be painful, stress the body out, and put our brains in a state of fight or flight. Having a friend or a coach can be extremely valuable because they will demand more from you than yourself. Your brain will trick you to return to comfort and safety. Your coach will remind you to connect with your why and push you past that discomfort.

Another great option is to hold yourself accountable by raising the stakes. Research has shown the fear of losing is actually a bigger motivator than the opportunity to win. A simple and effective way to raise the stakes is by making a bet with a friend or mentor. You could also use online services like stickK, where you wager your money as an incentive to stay committed. If you don’t follow through with your goal, then your wager will go to an anti-charity of your choice (an anti-charity is a charity you would rather ‘die’ from than give money to, like an opposing poetical party, sports team, or maybe ex-husband/wife).

5. Celebrate The Journey

People think repetition and frequency is the reason we stick to habits and routines and that’s completely wrong. Emotions are what create long-lasting habits. True success comes from helping ourselves do what we already like to do. The evidence is clear that when starting a new habit or routine if you’re not celebrating yourself while building the new habit, you most likely won’t stick to it. Your brain is reward-seeking. Rewards need to happen before or directly after the habit to trigger dopamine not incentives. For example, if you do squats in the morning and then give yourself a reward of watching movies at night. Watching movies at night will delay the reward-seeking or dopamine triggers at that moment, and have no effect on habit formation. Remember, the celebration is like the habit of fertilizer. There are several ways to celebrate yourself each time you stick with your new routine: use a song to make you feel a certain way, use physical movement to help you feel alive and use that to build a new habit, use sound effects (like the roar of a crowd), or visualizations. Make your new routine attractive, easy, and satisfying and you will no doubt stick with it. Make it unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying and you can guarantee failure.

So often, when we start something new we forget about all the good things around us and only focus on the arduous task. It was the great motivational speaker Jim Rohn who said this about goals: “The real value in setting goals is not in their achievement. The acquisition of the things you want is strictly secondary. The major reason for setting goals is to compel you to become the person it takes to achieve them.” The purpose of a new goal or routine is who you become throughout the process, not the actual achievement. Achievements come and go, but fulfillment is forever.

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Joel Evans, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Joel Evan is a health coach and integrative health practitioner that helps his clients get to the root cause of their issues so that they can start living the best version of themselves. After suffering from his own health issues as a young child such as allergies and an abnormal bone growth, and then watching his children suffer from gut issues and an imbalanced immune system, Joel has made it his mission to develop strategies and protocols that can rebalance the body so that his clients can be more vibrant, more joyful, and more confident so they can go out and crush their goals and impact the world in a bigger way. Joel is also a Neufit electric stim physical therapist and has helped several clients get out of chronic pain, and recover from surgery and neurological disorders. Joel is also the host of "The Hacked Life" podcast where he's had the chance to sit down with some of the leading health experts in the world, such as Dave Asprey, Dr Mindy Pelz, and Dr John Jaquish. His motto: "Live Healthy, Live Happy."



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