Regular exercise – is it about motivation or discipline?

Health and Fitness
Would you like to create a regular exercise habit but struggle to keep at it? The intention is there. The motivation is there. But before you know it something changes and the habit is over, sometimes before it even began. 

So how do you maintain an exercise habit? Is it a matter of finding what motivates you to move? Or is it simply about better discipline? Who better to ask about exercise habits than some personal trainers? They’re on the fitness frontline working with real people every day to help them achieve their goals. 

Here's their advice:

Personal trainer Alita Ashcroft runs a business, has three young children and exercises consistently, often training for events like ironman. She believes you won’t always feel motivated to exercise. 

“For me it’s a habit that is as ingrained in my daily routine as brushing my teeth is. It’s non-negotiable."

"When it’s a habit you don’t wait for motivation because that feeling won’t always be there,” she says. "Everyone is busy. We all have a lot going on – work, family, friends but you really need to work out what’s important to you and make the time for it. Once you decide it’s non-negotiable then making it a daily habit is much easier.”

Personal Trainer Sally Roberts says it’s important to set yourself small goals first. Once these small goals and changes have become a habit, then move onto a new focus.

“Most clients come to a trainer really motivated and excited or totally desperate, which usually means they want to change everything at once. But too much change at once is not sustainable,” she says.

Kylieanne Farrell is a movement coach and she believes working out what you value most in life and understanding WHY you want to change are the keys to creating healthy habits. 

“It has to go deeper than wanting to lose weight, it’s never about the weight

"Working out what you value most in life is when you will be most disciplined, consistent and committed. This is when your goals will turn into a lifestyle."

Andrew Chadwick says we need to change our terminology and how we think about exercise. The movement coach believes the the term ‘exercise’ is associated with strict guidelines and rules about what we must do, how we must do it and what we must wear. 

“We should swap the term ‘exercise’ for ‘move’. It liberates a lot of the rules and probably has more benefit,” he says.

Personally I have days where I wake up feeling like an Olympic athlete ready to somersault my way to the gym while slurping a green juice. And other days I roll heavily out of bed and the thought of moving much at all is a distant memory.

The following ideas help me keep on track:
  • I make plans to meet and train with other people (and I don’t like letting other people down).
  • I sign up to short-term fitness based classes and courses where people are expecting me to turn up. 
  • Group classes also help me to feel motivated when I see how much effort other people are putting in.
  • I try and make sure I’m doing what I enjoy. I’ve recently taken up trail-running and I can’t get enough of it. It doesn’t feel like structured exercise. It feels like fun, I’m moving my body and my overall health benefits.


For other tips and tricks about creating habits and exercise you can read How to adopt healthier behaviour and Are you stuck in an exercise rut?
Kate Mayhew is fitness writer, currently embarking on a new career in the fitness industry. She is studying Certificate III in Fitness through the Personal Training Academy. 

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