Over my 20+ career in fitness and wellness, I’ve watched hundreds of people transform from first-time exercisers, inconsistent gym-goers or even exercise haters into bonafide gym-rats. In watching this process, I relate back to my own journey starting off 27 years ago as an exercise hater when I hired my own personal trainer. There began my transformative journey from nonathletic couch potato to future gym owner, as the three years I spent with my coach forever changed my exercise mindset and paradigm. It was because of this paradigm shift that I chose, in my quest for a career change, to become a personal trainer myself as I wanted to inspire others to also be gym rats, just like had happened to me.
I therefore have seen first-hand what it takes to develop into a true gym rat. Habits.We are a product of our habit not our feelings, a concept I was first introduced to after reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, then reinforced by reading Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People also.Habits are something that are made, broken, and re-made repeatedly.The key to becoming a true gym rat is to create the habit and habituate to sticking with it.
The tips I introduce, the so called 7 habits all boils down to one thing: doing something repeatedly until it becomes rote and part of who you are. Need help in that department? Here’s my top 7 tips:
Habit 1: Don’t find time, rather make time for exercise. Regular gym goers plan their workout into their weeks, and their days. They wake up with that ever-important appointment, even if it’s only with themselves, programmed into their calendars and their psyches.
Habit 2: Bite off only what you can chew. A common mistake I see is going all in too quickly, like working out too much to start, then expecting more of yourself than your body can realistically achieve,or your time allows for.
Habit 3: NO Excuses. Always find a way to do something, even if you must modify the exercise to keep the habit going. Find a way to move regardless of what is happening with your body, with very little exception.
Habit 4: Act as if until you are, and this ties into habit #2 of not starting off too hard to begin with. View exercise as an acquired taste, and as along-term game rather than a sprint. Fitness isn’t what happens in a week or a month. It’s consistency over time, and what happens over months and years. So,start off gentle and build it up slowly over time, just going through the motions if necessary. Much like acquiring any habit, it must be practiced. The longer you do it, the more it becomes part of who you are.
Habit 5: Connect with a group. In the first decade of my fitness journey, I was only interested in working out either with a trainer or solo. However, fitness trends change over the years, not only in the marketplace but also as one evolves over time with their own personal fitness journey. In my own I eventually pivoted into group fitness and once I tied into working out with a group, I was hooked. I still enjoy working out solo, but nothing beats the camaraderie of sweating with my crew. In my experience, people connected to a group tend to stick to fitness programs longer than not.
Habit 6: Educate yourself. Having some knowledge about what exercises do and how they are benefiting you helps to overcome the resistance your mind may put up when thinking about the momentous task of working out.
Habit 7: Workout at consistent times and at a convenient gym. Try to make working out as easy as possible for yourself by joining a gym within a few miles of your house and going to the gym at consistent times each week. A habit/ritual I used to have with myself was to pack my gym clothes with me when I went to work, vowing not to return home until those gym clothes were made dirty.
Bottom Line: To be a gym rat, practice the habits of a gym rat. Act as if until you are, and eventually you will be!