We all know that regular exercise helps with aging, fighting depression, and warding off cognitive decline. Knowing the proven benefits of exercise isn’t the problem.
It’s in the execution of exercise where most of us get tripped up.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur managing multiple businesses or a stay-at-home mom raising multiple kids, the never-ending to-do list called “life” usually leaves little time for yourself.
Knowing that exercise and a proper diet are crucial to healthy living, how do you avoid tossing fitness aside when life gets too busy for you to keep up?
The key to sticking with fitness is to harness with power of habits.
In order to harness that power, you must first adopt a mindset that prioritizes your health.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but when life gets crazy, you need to slow down and consider the oxygen mask analogy. If you ignore the safety spiel on flights, let me remind you:
You should put your oxygen mask on before assisting others.
For our purposes, that means taking care of yourself and your fitness before you go out and change the world. After all, you can give your best only when you’re at your best physically.
This mindset might seem selfish, but when you harness the power of habits, you can stick to your exercise and diet regimen without sacrificing in other areas of your life.
Let’s look at why habits work, then examine how to apply them to fitness.
In his book Habit Stacking, S.J. Scott discusses a concept called “cognitive load” that essentially says we humans have a finite limit on our short-term memories.
Therefore, we must rely on long-term memories and habits to do pretty much anything.
Scott says 40% of the daily actions we perform aren’t actually decisions, but habits.
Consider brushing your teeth. It’s not a chore to complete this task because it’s an automatic behavior with no emotional attachment. You brush your teeth without thinking about it.
Your brain, always eager to save effort, will turn a routine into a habit if it’s practiced enough.
Making diet and exercise part of your daily routine not only creates new habits, thereby reducing your brain’s cognitive load, but also removes decision making from the equation.
Much like brushing your teeth, fitness can become something you do without thinking twice.
What a powerful notion if you’re struggling to make time for workouts or resist bad foods!
If 40% of our life is automated, we should strive to make fitness part of that 40% by adding it to our daily routine. The easiest way to start that process is to wake up an hour earlier.
I know – waking up early sucks.
I’m definitely not a morning person (if such a thing exists), yet I started working out in the morning in 2003, years before I got serious with fitness.
I did it long enough that my brain created a new habit and I stopped dreading those wake-up calls. Early workouts are now part of my daily routine just like brushing my teeth.
In fact, missing a workout throws off my day like if I forgot to brush my teeth.
If you need more convincing, here are two huge benefits of early morning workouts:
1. No Room for Excuses
It’s not laziness or a lack of motivation that derails fitness plans – it’s life getting in the way.
We’ve all been there when the happy hour drink becomes 10 or your best friend arrives in town unexpectedly and wants to hang out. When life happens, your fitness tends to suffer.
Not to mention, your willpower to work out diminishes as your day drags along.
By the time you clock out, you might not have the motivation left to hit the gym.
You can’t always control how stressful your work day will be, or how your evenings will be spent, but you can always wake up an hour earlier to work out in the morning.
2. Source of Motivation and Energy
When I made the switch, I found early workouts gave me motivation the rest of the day.
If I accomplished nothing else the rest of the day, I told myself, at least I worked out.
Working out early also helped me roll into work charged up and firing on all cylinders. If you’re used to dragging into work on your third cup of coffee, there’s a better way to start your day!
I know early workouts can change your life the same way they changed mine.
A commitment to fitness begins by developing strong habits.
Early wake-up calls are terrible at first, but morning workouts get easier every time you wake up because your brain is working hard to automate that habit.
Commit to starting this new habit tomorrow morning.
I promise, the day after won’t be any harder.
Before long, you’ll be harnessing the power of habits to keep your commitment to fitness.