6 Quick Tips for Starting a New Exercise Routine, And Making it Stick

Here's how to make sure your new healthy habit will last long term

For some, starting a new exercise routine might come as a challenge. And once you do get started, keeping up with it for an extended period of time can sometimes be even more difficult.

But if you’re ready to make a habit out of working out once and for all, use these quick tips to make sure you’ll start out on the right foot and that you’ll keep up with your healthy habit in the long run.

1. Don’t view exercise as a punishment.
"The majority of us look at exercise as punishment, because we do it to try to solve problems we hate like the way we look," says Erin Mellinger, owner of four Fitness Together® locations in Ohio. "We can't go around punishing ourselves three times a week for the rest of our lives and expect results. We have to change our mindset and think about the rewards. You'll have stronger bones and muscles so you can do things for yourself when you are older. You'll have the energy to keep up and play with your grandkids. The potential benefits are endless"

2. Participate in activities and sports that you enjoy.
When was the last time you laughed or even smiled while working out at the gym? It can be such a serious place, and that’s probably part of the reason it’s so hard to motivate ourselves just to get there.

The key to sustaining an exercise routine actually has nothing to do with motivation at all. If your “workouts” consist only of activities that you truly enjoy, then you won’t need any motivation. You’re passion and enthusiasm will keep you engaged far beyond the point that any amount of motivation could.

3. Start small.
This is one of the most important rules to follow when you’re just getting started. If you try to take on too much all at once, you’ll become overwhelmed and exhausted, which will likely lead you to associate exercise with feelings of negativity.

Try starting out with a routine at the gym just two or three days per week and gradually increase your workout frequency every few weeks.

You can also start out even smaller by simply implementing more movement into your day-to-day routine, like with taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking your car further away in parking lots.

4. Set goals.
Having something specific and tangible to work towards, like a race that you want to enter or a certain amount of weight you want to lift, can greatly increase your motivation and it will help to hold you accountable, too.

Most fitness professionals recommend setting a “SMART” goal—one that’s specific, measurable, attainable, record-able and timely. For example, in the case of a weight loss goal, you’ll want to realistically define how much weight you’re aiming to lose and over what period of time, while also making sure to keep track of your progress week by week.

5. Plan ahead.
Pilates teacher and dance instructor Samira Shuruk says that it’s important to foresee future obstacles so that you can plan ahead to overcome them. In terms of sticking to a workout routine, this might mean planning each of your workouts a week in advanced or setting out your workout clothes the night before an early morning exercise session. In other words, set yourself up for success ahead of time and always be prepared.

6. Avoid an “all or nothing” approach.
Just because you missed one workout (it happens to everyone sometimes) doesn’t meant that the rest of your plan has been ruined. Often times we convince ourselves to give up entirely, just because we missed one step or made a small mistake, but that approach is extremely ineffective because no one is perfect. Remember that your routine won’t go entirely according to plan 100 percent of the time, and that what matters more than being perfect is getting right "back on the horse" after you've "fallen."

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