The Sticky Fitness Habit

One of my differing ideologies from much of the fitness field is my focus on mindset. I don’t mean 100% intensity, slamming weights, and yelling. Though that has a place in training sometimes.

I mean getting a person to stick to a workout, ANY workout, without burning out, getting bored, or stagnating on progress. The answer is not underneath all the half-naked inspirational quotes on Facebook and Instagram, nor an infinite supply of “motivation to achieve your goals!!” Two exclamation points were necessary.

The grandest lie told by the media is that fitness is torturous and that only the elite of the elite can obtain it with hours of exercise and running, bulletproofed diets, absolute mother-trucking dedication and a lack of tastebuds. Maybe if you want to win The Arnold Classic, that makes sense. For the rest of us who want to simply be lean, sexy, strong, and fit enough to hike, carry, climb, and run for life, these extreme messages are just wrong –  even dangerous.

The Lies of Fitness Media

These messages teach us that progress is impossible unless you dedicate your life to it. That only the elite can have it. That you need to puke and feel awful and that you only have 8 weeks to get it done (I’m looking at your, The Biggest Loser). What a bunch of bull crap.

The truth is that some changes may be necessary to manage your fitness. But depending on your goals, you likely don’t need to sacrifice your entire life, nor spend more than 30 minutes working out at a time.

I hope you’re seeing why portraying fitness as  torture is incorrect now. The trick isn’t to grit your teeth and hate your life for a six-pack. Instead, it’s learning that the process is actually pretty fun. So let’s talk about real fitness for life, how you can make a habit that transforms your entire life.

Creating a Sticky Fitness Habit

To thrive in fitness, you need to make it a habit. What the news and media doesn’t tell you is that it can be be enjoyable and downright simple.

Here is a list of things that PREVENT trainees from creating the habit:

1. It seems impossible

Celebrity trainers have the luxury of a client with hours of time to dedicate to bodybuilding. Many do not. We have spouses, friends, kids, and jobs that aren’t literally about looking good. These programs are made for the athletic, non-arthritic, time lucrative and genetically gifted.

2. Overly complicated plans

You make the guide too confusing and convince people that it’s the only way to “lose 15 pounds in 10 days”? They end up not doing it. Most people on these plans quickly lose heart and will never see the results they expect. This breaks my heart, and makes me kinda angry. Damn, shoddy marketing.

3. Too Many Pointless Exercises

You have the treadmill, a “Gazelle”, about 50 different machines, some sort of torture rack… it’s no wonder people get intimidated and give up their pursuit. You don’t need 10 variants of a bicep curl if you want to lean up. It’s a lesson in spending good time doing the wrong things, and making people feel exhausted for almost no progress.

4. Time Intensive

Hour-long workouts 5 times a week? You’re doing cardio in a 1.5 hour class!? If you enjoy these massively long sessions, and you see progress, that’s ok. But for most, looking for the strong & lean feeling, these concepts are a bane.  This is especially true if you have any sort of job or responsibility. Time is a limited resource, and trying to tack on 1.5 hours of work out after work is not an ideal way to make any habit stick.


So knowing what makes a fitness habit difficult to stick, what does work?

1. Believe you can progress

Soreness and a little sweat is expected, but you can make progress without feeling like dying. Feeling like dying every workout is a good indicator you’re doing it wrong. Fitness is not a never ending sprint, it’s a sprint, a break, and a sprint. The less negative pain, the better the program is adhered to.

2. Simple Plans

You have maybe 8 primary exercises that do everything for you. Do 1 or 2 on a workout day, you’ve achieved success. Less thinking = more doing. The most successful plans always emphasize simplicity.

3. Efficient, Effective Exercise Options

Take the 20% that gets you 90% of results (yes, 90%). Stick to the big movement patterns, and use free weights + bodyweight training. That’s it!  This is the same principle followed by popular foundational weightlifting programs like Starting Strength and Stronglifts 5×5. With such simplicity, functional and beautiful bodies can be crafted.

4. Time Permissive

How about 20 minutes every other day, 3 days a week? Or even, 2 minutes a day? When you have a focus on effective, compound movements, you work a lot of muscles in less time. You get exercise bang-for-the-buck. This is also why I love bodyweight strength training.

If you want to work out more, you can. Remember, you don’t have to for your results.

This is all about building the fitness habit for lifetime success. When you can feel the path of progress,  as I aim to teach you, you can understand what changes you can make to better suit you.


Finding Your Fitness Habit

So what training system do I recommend to create the fitness habit?

If you have access to a barbell and a power rack, and you don’t feel that people watching you will affect your performance, or you feel comfortable asking people when they’re done with a certain piece of equipment, then you can start with Starting Strength or Stronglifts 5×5 – my recommended plans for trainees.

And of course, I’m currently assembling my own GainTrain workout, a bodyweight-only strength training system, which I think is awesome for busy people with other responsibilities. You can’t make time excuses when you can train while making dinner, or watching TV.

You’ll also need a diet plan, since the second Commandment of Fitness is diet. I’ve typed up a summary on the Paleo Diet and my Dear Diet, both recommended, so choose one and thrive.

May you live long, and do pistol squats everywhere.

Become Stronger, Live Longer

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By Aaron Roam

Aaron Roam is a fitness advocate from Berkeley, California.

One reply on “The Sticky Fitness Habit”

I totally relate with your time intensive point, as I had that play out in my own fitness routine. I like to keep my burn going steady – but as my strength and stamina improve, that takes longer and longer to do. When you find yourself spending 2 hours on a bike hunting for new and interesting places to go EVERY DAY, that adds up FAST!

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