How to Finally Stick to an Exercise Habit [3 Simple tips]

So you want to start working out?

Or maybe you already exercise but want to be more consistent.

Changing behavior, as you may have found out if you’ve tried to start exercising before is really tough. This is true today more than ever in our world of body shaming, social media, and low self-worth.

I’ve used the three strategies below to help hundreds of clients and myself personally to make exercise a keystone habit in my life.

1. Instead of working out 3 days a week, become the TYPE of person who works out.

Long-lasting, real change is only going to happen when we focus on WHO we are first. Then the WHAT, the habits, and results, will follow.

Do you believe you’re the type of person who exercises and eats well? Is that part of WHO you are?

If the answer is “YES!” great. If it’s “No” don’t stress.

If exercising consistently and eating well are not a part of your identity, you are going to set out to prove yourself wrong. With every morning workout, every squat, every egg with veggies breakfast, and every evening walk after dinner, you will PROVE to yourself you’re the type of person who communicates well with your body through food and movement.

This isn’t “think yourself thin”. This is research based and at the core of who we are.

Check out my tasteful drawing below. At the core of any habit is what we believe about ourselves. Then, outside of that is our actions and behaviors. Then, results.

Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on WHAT they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on WHO we wish to become.

You are a healthy, high- performer. An individual who is living an influential life. A person who overcomes challenges and obstacles.

We can’t be defined by our goals whether we hit them or not. Hitting our goals and being successful won’t make us more loveable. You are already loved. Losing 10 more pounds won’t make you more worth because you are already worthy.

When we believe that that is at our core identity, then we will structure our days and engage in activities that reflect our identity, and then…over time, the results (goals) will follow,

2. Start crazy small

I worked with a client online who got into a bad rut where he stopped exercising. The workouts simply seemed too daunting to tackle at the end of a long work day. So I suggested something crazy: just do 10 squats. That’s it.

I told him, more important than doing a full workout is doing the habit of working out. Habits are like a muscle which need to be exercised consistently.

For my client, he found that once he did the 10 squats, he naturally wanted to do a little more. Within a few weeks, he was back into the groove of working out.

Think of it another way: what’s the tiny action which sets in motion your success. For many of our clients, it’s simply getting in the car with their gym clothes on.

They will be sitting at home debating whether or not to cancel their session for the day trying to justify things in their head. Right up until the last moment.

Then, a pivotal moment comes. Will they get into their car or stay in the kitchen?

I always tell people when they show up for sessions at Village, “You’ve done the hardest part already. You’ve shown UP!”

Figure out what the habit is for you. Maybe it’s putting on your running clothes, laying out your pan for breakfast the next day, or starting up the car. Set that habit or action as your goal instead of the bigger task of exercising three days a week.

3. Set your intentions

Simply saying or knowing what you want to do isn’t enough to get you there. You need to first write out when you’ll do the desired action and exactly what you will do.

This week, I will exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].

For example, I will exercise on 6am at Village Fitness on Wednesday and Friday would be mine.

For you it could be, I will make a healthy breakfast right after I get up of either eggs and veggies or full-fat yogurt and nuts Monday through Friday.

You may even want to try what James Clear calls habit stacking. Attach the habit you want to implement on the back of a habit you already do.

Say you love drinking coffee every morning like me. After I drink my first cup of morning coffee, I will do 10 burpees. After I have my second cup of coffee, I will turn on the pan and add oil for my eggs.


One of the most powerful methods of making a habit stick is through a community. If you can find a group of people who are already doing your desired habit, you’ll be much more likely to make it a reality.

A few months back, I slipped out of the habit of strength training each week. I would always find a reason to keep working or head home when it was time to work out. So I enlisted the help of two of my friends. I told them I wanted to start lifting together twice a week at Village (6am Wednesdays and Fridays). They were both onboard and we’ve been 90% consistent for the last 4 months!

We as humans will naturally do the things we see done around us. If you get into a group where exercise and eating well are the norm, you’ll be more likely to do this as well.

This is the exact reason why we do small group training at Village. We want to create a community of people where caring well for their bodies is the norm.

Each month, we take on a new group of 10 clients in our small group training program. The next cohort stats February 4th. Click above or below to enter your info and learn more.

Communicate well with your body,

Dr. Matt

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