Stretching Your Mind to Exercise Your Body: Tips and Tricks to Help Exercise Stick

Written by Darius B. Dawson

Schedule exercise time beforehand 
Activities are more likely to get done when they are planned in advance. Thinking about
wanting to exercise today is very different from planning to exercise today at 3pm. Each day we wake up with a sense of what we have to do. Our work schedule, family events, and personal needs are scheduled in advance. Exercise should be no different. Think of exercise as another task you have to accomplish for that day. Schedule it in advance just like your job is scheduled. Be specific with what you will do with your planned exercise time, whether it’s a quick 15-minute jog or a detailed muscle group workout. Also, start by scheduling small increments of time, and then build as you go. Even if it’s a quick workout, 10 minutes of exercise is better than no exercise.

Exercise doesn’t have to be longer than 10 minutes
The belief is that long durations of exercise are better than short durations of exercise. However, that is not entirely true. Effective exercise is better than ineffective exercise. Research has proven that a person can have an effective period of exercise in just 7 minutes. An hour at the gym does not equate to better outcomes. If you only feel like you have 10 minutes each day to exercise, fill those 10 minutes with a series of effective exercises. Many smart phone apps have short workouts that target various muscle groups. Find an online video of a short workout that you can do at home, because working out does not require a gym membership!

Exercise doesn’t require a gym membership
Exercise can happen anywhere. You can exercise at home, outside, and at work. Working out at the gym does offer some benefits, like being around like-minded health-conscious individuals and having access to a variety of workout equipment and resources. However, you shouldn’t limit your exercise to the availability of a gym. When starting an exercise routine, begin by doing it outside of a gym. Doing this saves money and time. Use the free resources you have at your disposal. Once you have gotten into a workout schedule, then you can begin exploring gym memberships.

Take your gym clothes with you EVERYWHERE
I keep a pair of gym clothes with me in my car in case I have an unexpected window of time to exercise. When this happens, I’ll change into my gym clothes and take a short run before heading home. If you have your gym clothes accessible, you are setting yourself up for an exercise win! There have been times where I’ve been about to head home and I have the urge to exercise. It makes it very difficult to then drive home, change into clothes, and follow through with exercise. Having your gym clothes with you really emphasizes the idea of exercising anywhere and at any time.

Focus on your emotions after you exercise rather than during and before
Once you’ve exercised, focus on the sense of accomplishment you experience immediately after. Not only did you participate in a healthy activity for your mind and body, but you also combated all the barriers that interfere with exercise. Take a moment after every workout to notice what your body and mind are experiencing. Taking time to do this will reinforce any thoughts you have that exercise is beneficial, which will increase your likelihood of exercising in the future.

Darius is currently a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Psychology at UT Austin. He has an passion for health psychology and psychological conditions associated with medical illness. Darius creates a collaborative relationship to obtain clients’ optimum goals through self-discovery, open conversation, and skill building.