Habit Triggers: Making Fitness a No-Brainer

Don’t overthink it.

That’s my top tip for people struggling to make fitness a priority. Time and time again, I see women frustrated at their lack of follow-through and commitment to exercise. They feel defeated and then start to wallow in defeat and self-criticism. Finding the motivation to work out then seems even further away.

My advice? Quit thinking and feeling. Just do it. 

Fitness doesn’t have to feel so heavy and hard. All you need to do is set it up to make working out a no-brainer for yourself. And I can tell you how!

Ever heard of a habit trigger (sometimes called a habit cue)? Habit triggers are simply events, routines, or other things we can purposely put in place to create a pattern of association for our brain. This probably sounds way more complicated than it really is. Let me give you an example from my world.

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Every morning before I work out, I drink my Energize. It’s just what I do. I started this habit trigger forever ago and now I don’t even have to think about it. I mix up my refreshing drink, drink it down (yum!), and then go right into my workout. My daughters even started doing the same thing when they lived at home—and it’s still their routine now that they’re off on their own.

James Clear’s fantastic book Atomic Habits is a great one to dive into if you want to learn more about how to build new habits (and break bad ones). He talks about how triggers can fall into several different categories:

  • Location—Often we respond to our surroundings without even thinking about it. You may, for example, find yourself pouring a glass of water each time you walk into your kitchen, even if you’re not feeling thirsty. You can leverage this natural location-based response by using a particular location consistently to build a positive habit.
  • People—It’s probably no surprise to hear that the people you surround yourself with can have quite the impact. But often we underestimate just how much this matters. Speaker Jim Rohn shared the often-quoted phrase: “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” While there might not be actual data to back this up, it is critical to be mindful of who you’re allowing into your life—especially when you’re trying to instill new and better habits.
  • Time—Regularly tackling something at the same time can instill a habit for the long haul. Think about brushing your teeth. Chances are you do it at the same approximate time of day and don’t think twice about it.
  • Emotional State—Often our emotions get the best of us and negative habits like Netflix binging, over-snacking, and drinking can ramp up as a result. It’s wise to pay attention to how our emotions (especially the tough ones) might trigger poor habits. But you can use your emotions to build great habits, too! Maybe the next time you feel stress creeping in, find a go-to activity like going for a brisk walk, meditating, or reading a book to help calm you down.
  • Preceding Events—Drinking my Energize right before I exercise is a great example of using an event as a habit trigger. Now I start getting in exercise mode and the right mindset the moment I start drinking my Energize. Another example would be brewing a cup of coffee each morning before you sit down to start working.

Changing habits can truly change your life. All it takes is some intentionality. And setting up triggers can help make your habits really stick.

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So my challenge to you is this: First, identify one healthy habit you want to incorporate into your days. Then think of a trigger you can put into place to make it happen. Shoot me a message and let me know how it goes!

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