5 Simple Steps to Making Exercise a Habit in 2017

I thought it would be fitting to have an article to help you with your new years resolutions. I’m not a fan of making new years resolutions as I pointed out in my previous article here. The simple reason is because they generally don’t work.

Only about of 8% of the population actually stick to there new years resolutions. This is because you’ll try and take on too much too soon, not see the results you expect and then give up. Depressing but true. Just look at what happened to you last year or the year before. I wrote about this in more detail here.

Using the 5 tips I’ve outlined you’ll have as much higher chance of success in 2017 and if you can make exercise a habit this year then it will truly be a life changing year for you.

1. Focus on Skills

First off, I get it. We all want to be leaner. I know, I do too. But fat loss as the only reason to exercise is a terrible habit to strive for. Fat loss is an outcome. It is something that will happen as a result of your daily behaviours – think – improved diet, more movement, better sleep and reduced stress. Then fat loss happens. But if all of the above are chores that you dread the chances of succeeding diminish dramatically.

This is why I alway get my clients to focus on skills not outcomes. I’ve some clients focusing on screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-14-45-43handstands, some focusing on strict chin ups and others focusing on being able to do pushups. Almost all female client I work with has an initial goal of losing x amount of lbs. They never come in saying I want to hit 3 strict chin up or nail a 10 second handstand. But this is the direction that their goals go in after some coaching.

I want to get them away from obsessing about the scales and about their weight. Once they focus on a skill and begin to enjoy showing up and practicing that skill the fat loss follows. Having a skill based goal makes the whole process more enjoyable, rewarding and keeps them training consistently. All the keys necessary for exercising long term.

2. Have a strong ‘why’.

For any habit to stick it has to have a strong reason for sticking to it. Tony Robbins says people change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. This is so true. If you want to exercise more but have no real pain if you don’t chances are without proper accountability you’ll slip back into your old habits.

Now if you start getting pains in your chest and the doctors says if you don’t start exercising for 30 minutes 5 days a week otherwise in 6 months you might die. Chances are you’ll be much more inclined to stick to that habit!

Fortunately you don’t need a near death experience to build an exercise habit. You can use what Mark Manson calls ‘The Self-Awareness Onion’.  You can use this method to peel back ‘the why’ behind ‘why’ you want to exercise. Simply keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you get to the route cause.

Here’s an example;

“Why do you want to make exercise a habit? I want to fit into my jeans again.”

“Why do you want to fit into your jeans? Because that will make me feel good about myself.”

“Why will that make you feel good? Because I’m not happy about my body and felt much more secure when I could fit in them jeans.”

3. Make it small

Instead of committing to 4X60 minute sessions a week. Focus on nailing 2X20 minute sessions every week. If you hit more, awesome, but remember anything more than 2×20 minute sessions is a success. This also makes it easier to overcome that initial resistance when you don’t feel like going to the gym. Why? Because it’s only 20 minutes.

Remember, the 20 minute workout you did is always better than that 60 minute session you planned on doing but couldn’t find the time.

4. Make it Frequent and use triggers

The next step needed to make exercise a habit is frequency. The more consistently you do something the more automatic it becomes. This When it comes to mobility I recommend clients do 2-5  minutes of stretching daily instead of 1-2 long sessions a week.

The chances of them skipping stretching that last longer than 20 minutes is much higher than a 2 minute session. Making it more frequent and also using a trigger can make it more concrete a habit. So you could say that you’ll stretch your hip flexors every day for 60 seconds each side after you brush you teeth in the morning.

Pretty sure it's a Dan Gable quote but Dan John led me to it.

Pretty sure it’s a Dan Gable quote but Dan John led me to it.

When it comes to triggers think about how often you want to do the activity. If it’s a daily habit you want to adopt than adding it before or after a daily routine will work best. I would recommend making movement a daily habit. Two to five minutes of movement a day will change your life. Check out Max Shanks’ 5 minute flow for daily mobility routines.

5. Join a community

Crossfit and F45 have shown the power of a group with a lot of people coming back week after week because the sense of community they get there. I also see this with the small group training I run. When one of the clients hit a new progression the others are both happy for them but also curious and competitive to get there too.

It’s much easier going through discomfort when your supported in a group. It also makes it much more enjoyable when you know your session will have a fun social aspect also as opposed to dreading going to the gym alone and suffering throughout it.

It also provides accountability as your peers and coach will be checking in with you so you know that some one is watching if you do decide to skip a few days.

Closing thoughts

If exercise is something you’ve struggled to make consistent in the past then please look at

  • Strive to learn a skill
  • Have a strong why
  • Make it small
  • Make it frequent and use triggers
  • Join a community

Taking a bit more time to ensure you have all of the above covered will give you a much higher probability of 2017 being the year that exercise becomes part of your routine like brushing your teeth. If you feel you need more guidance hit me up here and we can arrange a coaching call.

Happy New Year,


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About The Author


I am a wellness coach from Ireland currently based in Melbourne Australia. I love teaching and learning about physical autonomy and sustainable lifestyle habits.

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