The internet is filled with articles about exercising and how to get moving.
They give general tips like “get a workout buddy,” “set goals,” and “make exercise part of your daily routine.” They tell you how great you’ll feel, how good you’ll look. “Do this, do that, then reward yourself with a special treat.”
But you already know how great it would be to get a workout in. You know how amazing it feels to stick to your goals. You’ve read the tips and tricks, yet you don’t feel compelled to use them. You have other priorities. You’re just not in the mood. Too many barriers stand in your way.
So, how can you actually form a habitual routine?
Understanding Self-Determination Theory
Many people fail to sustain prescribed workout routines because they just don’t care enough about that activity. They feel they’re not good at it. They don’t identify with the activity or the culture. Maybe they don’t like being told what they need to do.
Self-determination theory is based on the understanding that we need to feel in charge of our own lives. Growth must be a self-directed process centered on our desire for mastery over challenges and developing a coherent sense of self.
This model suggests that true and lasting motivation arises when we fulfill our need for autonomy, competence, and connection.
If it’s not your decision to do it, you won’t be fully committed. You probably won’t learn to love it, and you’ll probably quit as soon as you can.
To build a routine that you can stick to, you need to find an activity you choose to engage with voluntarily – something that excites your passions and ignites your sense of purpose.
The activity must provide you with the potential for learning and improvement. Something too easy isn’t very motivating, and something too difficult is discouraging.
It needs to be an activity you can continuously get better at. This sense of gaining mastery is what keeps you coming back to work at it again and again.
You have to feel connected with the physical activity and the people involved. If you’re uncomfortable with the culture surrounding it, it won’t be easy to keep going back. Feeling like an outsider is demotivating and only increases the chances that you’ll quit.
Even if it’s something you do alone, it’s something you can identify with – something that you can brag to your friends about, “This is who I am! This is what I do!”
A Healthy Balance of All Three
Each person will gravitate toward different activities based on their interests and strengths. It’s essential to experiment and try new things to know what you want – or don’t want – to do.
Not everyone will know right away what workout choice is best for them. But it’s vital to your health and wellbeing that you discover inviting physical activities that give you that recurring sense of self-authority.