Whether you’re used to lifting weights at the gym, running outside on the road, or don’t normally exercise at all, getting into the routine of exercising at home can be challenging.
- It’s a brand new habit that you need to build.
- There are new skills that you need to develop.
- There are new obstacles and distractions in your way.
- There are new rewards and incentives at stake.
You can use them to build just about ANY new habit.
The goal of this guide specifically is that I help you to build the habit of exercising at home so that you can do it consistently over a long period of time in an effective, rewarding, and satisfying manner.
If you’d like to learn more about building habits, I highly recommend James Clear’s Atomic Habits book.
1) Do Something Every Day:
💡 Building a habit is not about effort, it’s about repetition.
As the famous saying goes, “We are what we repeatedly do.“
When trying to build a new habit, it’s useful to practice that habit more often so that it becomes reinforced and ingrained quicker.
It’s also easier to remember to do something that you do often than it is to remember to do something that you only do once in a while.
At Sleekgeek, we like to focus on daily repetition.
We know that not always practical to do some habits on a daily basis, but very often you can still find ways to practice and build the habit in some way every single day.
Let’s say you only want to exercise at home 3 days per week.
On your “off” days you could:
- Do active recovery (stretching, yoga, walking, light cardio, etc).
- Do active fun (dancing, playing physically with your kids, walking your dog, doing a sport, etc).
- Review or tweak your upcoming workouts.
- Remind yourself of your “why” and watch motivational videos to “stoke the fire” of your motivation for wanting to build this habit.
- Learn how to better perform the exercises in your workout routine.
Even if these things only took 5-10 minutes to do, they help to reinforce your new identity of becoming “the kind of person” who exercises regularly.
Every day is an opportunity to “vote” (with your actions) for what kind of person you are.
2) Make it Easy:
💡 The first thing you should ALWAYS do when trying to build a new habit is to make it easy to do.
Your priority should be building the HABIT of doing. So make it easy to do.
This is because even an average or sub-optimal exercise routine that you DO is better than the perfect exercise routine that you DON’T do.
Over time, as exercising at home becomes more ingrained and automatic you can scale up the difficulty to be more challenging.
First, make building the habit easy so that you can actually do it consistently and repeatedly enough for it to become a habit.
Ask yourself: “On a scale of 0-10, how confident do I feel that I could do this habit every day for the next month?”
Your answer should be a 9/10 or 10/10, otherwise it’s too difficult and you’ll likely fail when life gets “messy”.
3) Use the Two-Minute Rule:
💡 The simplest way to make a new habit easy is to use the Two-Minute Rule to master the art of “showing up”.
When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.
So rather than aiming to exercise for 30 minutes every day, set the requirement that you exercise for 2 minutes every day.
- On good days, you can do your 2 minutes and then do more if you want to (you almost always will).
- On bad days, you can do your 2 minutes and then stop. It might feel like crap, but the key is that you’ve kept your momentum going and continued to build the habit of exercising every day. Tomorrow it will be 1% easier and more automatic.
As you build the habit and get better at doing it consistently, you can raise the bar to 5 minutes or 10 minutes, etc, so that it’s more challenging (but still easily do-able).
4) Reduce Friction:
💡 This is all about working smarter, not harder.
The more friction between you and your habit, the harder it will be to do.
The less friction between you and your habit, the easier it will be to do.
The easiest way to see how much friction there is between you and your habit is to count the number of steps or actions you need to take in order to do your habit. You can also look at the number of things that might get in the way of you doing your habit successfully.
The good news is that exercising at home already reduces some of the friction of needing a gym membership, needing to drive to the gym, needing to swipe in and put your stuff in your locker, etc, etc.
At home, you can just get started right away, even in your PJs if you want to.
However, apart from you getting in your own way, maybe there are some other frictions at home:
- Maybe your workout equipment is packed away in the cupboard?
- Maybe you feel tired and lazy from being in bed all day?
- Maybe you have kids or pets that can get in the way?
- Maybe you have TV and social media to distract you?
- Maybe you don’t have a clear routine and the day just slips away from you?
Whatever your friction points are, find a way to remove or lessen them so that you can get your workout done.
Put your workout equipment in a convenient place, do something that energises you before you need to do your workout, find something to entertain or distract your kids / pets for that time, unplug your TV and put your phone on aeroplane mode, structure your day so that there’s a clear time for you to exercise, etc.
5) Help “Future You”:
💡 Do something that your future self will thank you for.
Has anyone ever done an unexpected favour for you that saved you so much time and effort?
Their small gesture just made your life so much better in that moment, right? Well, designing your environment for the future uses the same concept.
Borrow some time and energy now to make it easier for yourself in the future.
- Lay out your workout clothes the night before.
- Plan your workout routine ahead of time.
- Organise your workout equipment so that it’s ready to be used straight away.
- Block out time in your diary to exercise so that you don’t have to search for the time.
- Make it easy to get started.
- Have a back-up plan in case something goes wrong.
Opposite Tip: When it comes to bad habits, do the opposite. See if you can design your environment so that it’s more inconvenient to do. For example, you can unplug your television after each use so that next time you have to go and plug it in again before you can watch. Or you could log out of social media each time you are done so that you have to manually log back in next time.
6) Don’t Be “All-Or-Nothing”:
💡 It’s not the single daily action that transforms your life, it’s the lifetime of consistent and repetitive daily actions that do.
Don’t be “all-or-nothing” about your habits because “something” is a lot better than “nothing”.
- When you have an “always something” mindset, it means that no matter what happens, you’re always trying to do the best you can. You recognise that making progress and being consistent is better than trying to be perfect or giving up because you can’t be perfect.
- In contrast, when you have an “all-or-nothing” mindset, you think to yourself: “I don’t have enough time or energy for my perfect workout, so there’s no point in doing it.”
The perfectionist all-or-nothing mindset is the equivalent of getting 1 flat tire and then slashing the other 3 rather than changing your tire and moving on. Or overspending one month and then going deliberately spending all of your savings rather than just adjusting your budget for the next month.
All-or-nothing behaviour is toddler tantrum behaviour because you can’t have things exactly how or when you want them.
Building long-lasting healthy habits will require a more adult “always something” approach.
💡 Automation is all about work once, benefit forever.
Onetime actions that require a bit of time, effort, or money up front but then continue to provide value over time.
Some examples include:
- Putting a water filter on your tap for cleaner drinking water.
- Removing your television from your bedroom to get more / better sleep.
- Turning off notifications on your phone to stay more focused.
- Setting up scheduled transfers into your savings account that goes off at the beginning of each month before you can spend it on non-essential things.
- Creating a daily “start bedtime routine” reminder or alarm to go off in the evening to remind you to start unwinding before bed.
- Buy pre-cut veggies or order a healthy meal delivery service to make eating healthily easier.
This is all about putting technology, innovation, or third-party products and services to work for you and your goals.
When it comes to building the habit of exercising a home, this might look like:
- Planning your workouts in advance and then scheduling the time in your calendar at the start of each week or month. You want to protect that time so that you don’t have to manually seek out available time each day.
- Setting a reminder or alarm on your phone to go off when it’s time to exercise, or asking a friend / coach to check in on you at the agreed time.
- Moving your furniture around a bit so that you have a convenient and permanent “home gym space” to exercise at with everything ready to be used. You don’t want to have to move things around, unroll your yoga mat, go fetch your bands and dumbbells, etc, each time you want to do a workout.
- Investing in home exercise equipment like resistance bands, dumbbells, barbells, pull-up bars, TRX suspension systems, skipping ropes, and so on so that you have more convenient and effective equipment to use.
- Signing up with a coach or buying an at-home workout plan that tells you exactly what you need to do each workout. Or tune in to a live workout class online.
The more you can automate your habit the better.
The less time and energy you spend in getting started or doing the habit, the more you can invest in doing the habit better or in other areas of life.
8) Use a Habit Tracker:
💡 The Sleekgeek Habit Tracker is a simple way to measure how consistent you’re being with your habit.
Each day you check off “yes” or “no” as to whether you did or did not do your habit.
Some of our clients, however, prefer to use an offline visual tracker as it’s more noticeable and easy to remember about, as well as a lot more satisfying to check off each day.
So they use the Sleekgeek Habit Tracker instead.
Some of the benefits of tracking your habits:
- It’s visible, noticeable, and prompts you to take action every day. Be sure to print out your Sleekgeek Healthy Habit Tracker and put it somewhere that you’ll see it often (mirror, fridge, desk, etc).
- It’s motivating and encouraging. Progress can take time, so it helps you have a way to immediately see that you’re moving forward towards your goals. As you fill up your Sleekgeek Healthy Habit Tracker with ticks or crosses, you’ll get a clear view of whether you’re doing things that move you forward or not.
- It holds you accountable. We tend to be really good at remembering the times that we were “good” and really bad at remembering the times that we were “bad”. The Sleekgeek Healthy Habit Tracker gives you a Bird’s-Eye View of your current habits so that you can see what’s actually going on.
- It’s satisfying. Checking off your habit each day in the Sleekgeek Healthy Habit Tracker feels rewarding and satisfying. You can even take things up a notch by building winning streaks and challenging yourself to tick off as many days in a row as you become more and more consistent.
9) Never Miss Twice:
💡 Consistency is the DNA of habits.
Even the most successful people have a bad day from time to time, but what sets them apart is that they get back on track quickly.
While the “amateur” might have one bad day and then “fall off the wagon” for weeks or months at a time, the “professional” gets back on track the very next day.
- If you have one unhealthy meal, make sure that the next one is a healthy one.
- If you have one late night, make sure that you get into bed early or on time the next night.
- If you miss a workout, make sure that you get one in at the very next opportunity.
Things happen. Life is messy. Sometimes we can’t help but miss out on doing our good habits once in a while. But don’t make THAT the new habit.
Never miss twice.
10) Use Implementation Intentions:
💡 Implementation intentions are a plan you make beforehand about how you intend to implement your habit.
You’ve probably heard of S.M.A.R.T goals before and they work in a somewhat similar manner.
When you make a clear and specific plan for when and where you will do something, you’re much more likely to successfully follow through.
There are two ways that you can design Implementation Intentions:
Method 1: When [EVENT] happens, I will do [HABIT].
- When [MY ALARM GOES OFF], I will [GET OUT OF BED].
- Or, when [MY AUTOMATED REMINDER POPS UP], I will [START EXERCISING].
Method 2: I will [HABIT] at [TIME] in / from / at [LOCATION].
- I will [GO PICK UP MY KIDS] at [2PM] from [SCHOOL].
- Or, I will [GO WORKOUT] at [5PM] in [MY LOUNGE].
The more specific you can be with your implementation intentions, the better. When it comes to exercising, it can help to specify exactly how long you plan to exercise for (or what your accepted minimum is).
Other than being clear and intentional about your habits, another advantage is that it helps you to prioritise. You’ll need to protect that time as if it was an important appointment (which it is) or you’ll have to priorities it over doing anything else when your trigger event happens.
11) Use Habit Stacking:
💡 Piggyback new habits that you want to build on top of existing habits that you already do.
Remembering to do new habits can be difficult, especially in the beginning. So look for an existing habit that you already do frequently to stack your new habit on top of.
- After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
- After [I POUR MY MORNING CUP OF COFFEE], I will [MEDITATE FOR 2 MINUTES].
- After [I SIT DOWN FOR DINNER], I will [SAY ONE THING THAT I’M GRATEFUL FOR].
- After [I GET INTO BED AT NIGHT], I will [GIVE MY PARTNER A KISS].
- After [I CLOSE MY CAR DOOR], I will [PUT ON MY SEATBELT].
So in the context of working out at home, you might do:
- After [I POUR MY MORNING CUP OF COFFEE], I will [PUT ON MY EXERCISE CLOTHES].
- After [I CHECK FACEBOOK], I will [DO 10 SQUATS].
- After [I FEED MY DOGS IN THE AFTERNOON], I will [DO A WORKOUT].
- After [I GET OUT OF THE SHOWER IN THE EVENING], I will [STRETCH AND DO SOME MOBILITY WORK].
While the existing habit and new habit don’t have to be related, it can help if they are somewhat similar in nature.
After a while, you can take advantage of the momentum being created by stacking a third habit on top of the existing habit stack.
12) Design Your Environment:
💡 The environment around is either working for you or against you.
- If you walk into the kitchen and the first thing that you see is a big jar of cookies on the kitchen counter, you’re more likely to eat a lot of cookies.
- If you walk into the kitchen and the first thing that you see is a big bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter, you’re more likely to eat a lot of fruit.
- If you grow up in a household where your parents smoke a lot, you’re more likely to become a smoker too.
- If you grow up in a household where no one smokes, you’re more likely not to become a smoker.
This has nothing to do with genetics, talent, willpower, or motivation.
It’s the environment and how it affects you.
If you want to increase the chance of you doing your habit, make it a big part of your environment.
- If you want to remember to do your home workout, put your workout equipment somewhere visible and obvious like in the middle of your living room.
- If you want to remember to stay motivated and focused on your “WHY”, put up post-it notes and reminders in visible places.
- If you want to remember to take your multivitamins each morning, put them on the counter next to where you make your morning coffee.
- If you want to remember to drink more water, keep a water bottle on your desk or next to your couch.
The more cues, triggers, reminders, and nudges that you can sprinkle throughout your environment, the more likely you are to do your habit.
Design your environment to set yourself up for success.
13) Join the Club:
💡 You become more like those who you surround yourself with.
If you want to increase the chance of you doing your habit, spend more time (physically or virtually) with people who are already doing the habit.
A new habit seems more achievable when you see others doing it every day.
- If you are surrounded by people who exercise a lot, you’re more likely to believe that working out is a common and normal thing to do.
- If you are surrounded by people who complain a lot, you’re more likely to believe that complaining is a common and normal thing to do.
- If you surround yourself by people who eat lots of vegetables, you’re more likely to believe that eating lots of vegetables is a common and normal thing to do.
It’s natural for us humans to want to get along with others. We want to be accepted and part of the tribe, so we conform to what others around us are doing.
- When a new habit aligns with your tribe, the process of change becomes attractive and compelling.
- When a new habit goes against your tribe, the process of change becomes unattractive and unlikely.
This is part of why the Sleekgeek Facebook Community works so well because you can immerse yourself in a tribe where people similar to you are doing healthy habits all day long.
14) Create a Motivation Ritual:
💡 Use a trigger or ritual to get you “in the zone” even when you don’t feel like it.
Just like an athlete doing a pre-game routine to help them focus and perform at their best, we can use motivation rituals to help us do our habits too.
- A cup of coffee might help you feel more alert and energised, even before the caffeine has had a chance to be absorbed into your system.
- A certain song might turn you on and get you feeling sexy.
- Repeating a phrase or quote to yourself might help you feel be brave and sure of your commitments.
- Putting your headphones on might help you stay focused and concentrate on your work.
- Taking 3 deep breathes might help you feel calmer.
- A specific image or photo might make you feel more loved and happy.
- Watching a video or listening to a speech might stoke your motivation.
These triggers and rituals, if done often enough, give you a shortcut to feeling a certain way.
When it comes to exercising at home, you might:
- Watch a motivational video before your workout.
- Drink a cup of coffee for the pre-workout energy boost.
- Get dressed in your best looking workout clothes so that you feel good and confident.
- Put your gym playlist on containing your favourite songs that give you energy.
- Perform the same familiar warm-up routine that you do before every workout.
- Visualise what your life might look like in 12 months time after a year of successfully exercising almost every day.
Even if you don’t feel in the mood to workout at all, there’s a good chance that after doing even just 1 of those things you’ll automatically feel more motivated and ready to workout.
15) Use Temptation Bundling:
💡 Pair a habit that you want to do with the habit that you need to do.
To do this, you make an agreement with yourself that you can only do something that you want to do after you’ve done the habit that you need to do.
So the want becomes an incentive or reward for the need.
Here’s what it looks like from an incentive perspective:
- After [HABIT I NEED TO DO], I can [HABIT I WANT TO DO].
Here’s a more punishing perspective:
- If I don’t [HABIT I NEED TO DO], I can’t [HABIT I WANT TO DO].
Or a more conditional perspective:
- Any time I want to [HABIT I WANT TO DO], I first have to [HABIT I NEED TO DO].
- After [I SAY 1 THING I’M GRATEFUL FOR] (need), I can [HAVE MY MORNING COFFEE] (want).
- If I don’t [EAT VEGETABLES WITH MY LUNCH] (need), I can’t [READ THE NEWS] (want).
- Any time I want to [CHECK FACEBOOK] (want), I first have to [DO 10 PUSH-UPS] (need).
These need and want habits don’t always have to instantly follow each other.
It can simply be that doing the habit you need to do simply unlocks the possibility that you can now do the habit that you want to do sometime that day.
For exercising at home, this might look like:
- After [EXERCISING] (need), I can [WATCH NETFLIX] (want).
So if you want to be able to relax on the couch and watch Netflix in the evening, you better make sure that your workout gets done sometime during the day. No workout, no Netflix.
16) Use Immediate Positive Reinforcement:
The benefits of doing your habit, especially if it’s small and easy to do in the beginning, can be hard to see.
💡 Using immediate positive reinforcement, you can provide reward and benefit in the short-term until your habit starts to pay off in the long-term.
Some habits come with positive reinforcement built-in. For example, toothpaste doesn’t have to have a minty fresh flavour to be effective – but it makes brushing your teeth feel more rewarding.
While other habits need a bit of extra help, especially in the beginning.
- Every time you workout, add a checkmark on your Sleekgeek Habit Tracker.
- Every time you workout, post in the Sleekgeek Community to get congratulations and encouragement.
- Every time you workout, put R10 aside towards a new piece of workout equipment or clothing.
- Every time you workout, play your favourite feel-good song.
- Every time you workout, give yourself acknowledgement and a pat on the back.
The whole point of this is not to reward yourself for every little thing you do or don’t do, but to pick 1 or 2 key life-changing habits that you want to build or break.
Rewards should always make you better and stronger, they should never compete with your goals and set you back on your progress.
17) Reduce Competing Habits:
💡 In order to say “yes” to your new habit, you need to say “no” to something else.
Every habit we do always has other habits that are competing for our attention.
- The habit of working out might have to compete with the habit of watching Netflix on the couch.
- The habit of being grateful might have to compete with the habit of being negative.
- The habit of being focused on work might have to compete with the habit of being distracted by social media.
- The habit of eating vegetables might have to compete with the habit of eating too many carbohydrates.
If you’re struggling to do your habit consistently, identify what the most common competing habits, behaviours, feelings, moods, or people are and work to reduce or eliminate them.
Similarly, if you’re trying to say “no” to a bad habit or reduce a bad habit, then you might need to deliberately say “yes” to something else in order to fill that gap.
- Saying “no” to emotional eating might mean saying “yes” to expanding your emotional or stress management toolbox.
- Saying “no” to snoozing in the morning might mean saying “yes” going to sleep earlier at night.
- Saying “no” to snacking after dinner might mean saying “yes” to brushing your teeth after you finish eating.
While it’s important to build new habits, remember to work from the other end to reduce bad habits too.
18) Use a Commitment Device:
💡 A commitment device is a way to lock yourself into following a plan of action that you might not want to do but you know is good for you.
This is a lot like the previously mentioned strategies of 5) Help “Future You”, 7) Automate, 12) Design Your Environment, and 15) Use Temptation Bundling.
They ‘re all about taking actions or making decisions now that encourage you to do your habit in the future. Except for commitment devices tend to be more forceful and are harder to get around.
- If you don’t buy junk food at the shops, you won’t have any in your house to eat when you’re low on willpower and craving something.
- If you voluntarily ask to be added to casino and online gambling website blacklists, you won’t be able to gamble in the future.
- If you go shopping with only a certain amount of cash and no bank or credit card, you won’t be able to spend more than you intend to.
- If you automatically schedule your computer to turn off at 9pm, it will interrupt you from working late into the night.
- If you choose to share a pizza with your friend / partner, you won’t be able to overeat by eating an entire pizza by yourself.
I don’t really have an example of how this might be used in helping you to build the habit of working out at home, but if you have any ideas please let me know.
I’ve decided to include this strategy in this guide anyways in case you want to use it elsewhere for another habit.
19) Get an Accountability Partner or Coach:
💡 Even the top athletes, business owners, celebrities, and politicians need extra help – you do too.
Many people see asking for help as shameful or weak. They want to be strong enough to do it all on their own.
But the most successful people out there all get a LOT of help. That’s part of why they’re so successful.
You’ve got limited amount of time, energy, motivation, and willpower.
So outsource some of that to a friend or coach:
- We offer nutrition coaching in the Sleekgeek Coaching Program.
- We offer stress, sleep, and self-care coaching in the Sleekgeek Resilience Academy.
- You can join a Team or Buddy Up in the Sleekgeek 8-Week Challenge.
- You can make a post in the Sleekgeek Facebook Group asking if anyone would like to be your accountability partner for your habit.
- Or simply reach out to a friend or family member and ask them to check-in with you from time to time to see how you’re doing.
Coaches and accountability partners work best when there’s something at stake. Either put money on the table by paying a coach, or make a deal with your accountability partner that if you don’t stick to your word then you owe them or a charity a certain amount of money or time.
20) Know Your Why:
💡 One of the most important things that you can do to help yourself build healthy habits is to figure out exactly why you are wanting to change.
At first, they give us answers like:
- “I want to lose 10kgs.”
- “I want to run 5km without being out of breath.”
- “I want to look good on the beach.”
- “I want to fit into smaller size clothes.”
Those are all great ways to get started! Imagining yourself thinner, fitter, better looking, and more comfortable in your clothes can easily give you a big boost in motivation… In the short term.
But what about when life gets “messy”?
You know, when work is stressing you out, you’re sleep-deprived, finances are tight, emotions are all over the place, and willpower is at an all-time-low?
It’s times like that where “wanting it” is just not enough.
So we use the “5 Whys?” system, originally pioneered by the Toyota Motor Corporation to drill down into the core of why you really want to do something.
Here’s an example of the “5 Whys?” exercise in action from a coaching client: She said that she wanted to lose weight, so we asked her “Why?” 5 times:
- WHY #1) Why do you want to lose weight?
“Because I want to fit into a smaller size of pants.”
- WHY #2) Why is that important to you?
“Because when I’m wearing smaller pants, I think I’ll look better.”
- WHY #3) And why is that important?
“Because when I look good, I feel good about myself.”
- WHY #4) And why will that make a difference?
“Because when I feel good about myself, I’m more assertive and confident.”
- WHY #5) And why will that matter?
“Because when I’m more assertive and confident, I’m in control and better able to get what I want out of life.”
WOW! As you can see, that’s a LOT of insight for a few little questions.
For this client, wanting a smaller size of pants really meant being in charge of her life and living it to the fullest.
That is what’s really at stake!
For that client above, if she quits on her goals, she doesn’t just lose out on the smaller pants size…
She loses out on being more confident, more assertive, more in control, and better able to get what she wants out of life!
When you have a much deeper and more significant reason behind why you are doing something, it’s so much easier to push through when times get tough.
If you can find a way to remind yourself of your 5th “Why?” every single day, then it will help you stay motivated on the bad days and get even better results on the good days.
Set a reminder on your phone, stick a post-it note on your mirror, put a picture that signifies your end-goal on your fridge. Do whatever you have to do to keep this top-of-mind.
All those people wanting to be thinner, fitter, better looking, and more comfortable in their clothes ACTUALLY wanted to:
- Be thinner, so that they could feel more respect and loved.
- Be fitter, so that they could live long enough and be well enough to play with their grandchildren.
- Be better looking so that they could have a better relationship with their husband.
- Be more comfortable in their clothes so that they could have a successful and fulfilling career.
Why do you want to build the habit of exercising at home?
What will it mean in 1, 5, 10, or 20 years time?
P.S. Want some help with Home Workouts?
Check out the free Sleekgeek Beginner Home Workouts here.
If you’re more intermediate or advanced, there guidelines on how to scale up the workouts to a level that challenges even us here at Sleekgeek!