10 Psychological Keys to Maintaining Your Commitment to Exercise

Epiphany: exercise for health, weight loss and to feel great. Has this occurred to you? I’m passionate about helping you succeed and so I thought it important to ‘set the stage’  to increase your chances. Once you read these ten points, I’m sure you’ll agree that some even sound like common sense, but they can easily be overlooked.

Studies show that most people will drop off a program after as little as four days. It takes will power and will power isn’t something that you’re born with; it’s a behavioral skill that can be developed. Making mental preparations for a body transformation is as important as every push up and squat that you do.

Your MIND SET is the key to your success.

So let’s get these things in order and before you jump into your fitness plan.


This goal needs to be meaningful and important to you personally in order for you to stay committed. It doesn’t have to be a lofty goal such as to run a marathon or wear a bikini. It may be as simple as you want to feel comfortable in shorts this summer or feel confident in short sleeves.

It’s easy to let some one else, even a well meaning trainer, set a goal for you, but you must really examine what you want. Often it’s not what you think it is, for example, perhaps you think you want to have nice legs, but it’s that you want your husband to look at your legs like he used to. Really think about what it is you want and set a goal to achieve that very thing.T

Once you’ve figured out what your goal is, then you need to set small and long term goals to mark your journey. If weight loss is your goal and you have many pounds to lose, then you need to lay it out in small manageable goals so as to become overwhelmed. If you have 50 lbs to lose, losing 5 lbs is a lot easier to handle mentally than to lose 50 lbs, so losing 5 lbs ten times is doable. Set the goal of a 5 lb weight loss, achieve, rinse and repeat ten times.


If you say that you want to exercise ‘more’ what does that really mean? If you want to ‘tone up’ what does that mean? Setting specific goals such as ‘I will go to boot camp three times a week’ or ‘I will lose two inches off my thighs’ is specific and measurable. First of all, did you show up for your workout? Secondly, did you bring the energy? Did you do it with gusto? Part of your ongoing success with fitness and fat loss is just showing up!

Think clearly about what your goal is and then make realistic plans with small steps to get there. Maybe it will involve hiring a trainer to ensure proper form for exercises, maybe it’s to set a workout schedule to increase time and intensity. What ever your final goal is, think of it as a stair case and each step along the way gets you closer.


As humans we tend to move away from pain more readily than we move towards pleasure. It’s often not until we’ve really ‘hit bottom’, or had a negative experience that we move in the direction of our goals. Make sure that your goals can be measured and it may sound odd, but attaching a negative consequence to not working towards your goal can be helpful. For example, if you miss your interval training session, then you would have to do all the supper dishes alone. Make a deal, sign a contract, do what you have to in order to punish yourself for not working in the direction of your goal. Being held accountable and then having to do something distasteful may make your workout more palatable even on those low energy days. The penalty for quitting should be something you really don’t want to do. Some examples of negative consequences could be something like donating to a charity or political party you don’t believe in, or taking on an onerous chore around the house that no one likes.

It’s extremely important to your success to be held accountable. Set up a contract with someone and you’ll feel a greater need to live up to your commitment when you know that this person is watching.


When you’re trying to incorporate a new behaviour, set up a cue or prompt to remind you of what this new behaviour is. For example, by bringing your gym bag and putting it in the front seat of the car with you, you’ll be reminded to hit the gym after work. If it’s in the trunk you may forget and just go home and then be distracted by other prompts like mail or a comfy couch and TV. Keep your goal front and center and try to let it permeate all aspects of your day by little reminders.


If you are exercising at home, make a special effort to create an environment conducive to your workout. You may be less motivated to workout when you see laundry that needs to be folded, or toys that need to be put away. There’s always a distraction so keep them to a minimum. I know this isn’t always realistic, but try to carve out a corner of your home that you devote to exercise, add energizing music (even with your ipod) and keep things that will distract from your workout out of sight and mind.

As well, try to be consistent with your workout schedule. You’ll be more likely to succeed if you’ve blocked out a certain time of day on specific days of the week for your training. The you can work other things around this schedule rather than vice versa. Remember that time never magically appears on your day timer. If you value time to train, you will make time.


Simply put: your positive thoughts will benefit your progress, but negative self talk can be the death of your plan. Try to associate positive thoughts with your goal and the steps needed to get to your goal. Of course it may be easy to think positively about being 20 lbs lighter, but if you hate every step of the way to get to that goal, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever make it. Rather, think about how your efforts are benefitting your life such as setting a good example for your children, it gives you more energy for the rest of your day or your clothes are fitting looser. The thoughts you focus on should be personal and connected to your goal in order for you to achieve your goal. I’m not saying that you have to be “Mary Sunshine” all the time, but it is important to minimize negative thinking.


Another way to motivate yourself is to monitor your progress. Keep a training journal or a wall chart. This serves two purposes. First, you can write down your daily progress before you forget and it will also serve as a cue: when you see it, it will be a reminder of your goal.

As well, when you keep track with pen and paper, you’re more accountable and if and when you fail, it may be easier to monitor why. You may be able to nail down a glitch in your schedule or nutritional plan that’s sabotaging your progress. In any case, it serves as a reminder and gets your goal into all aspects of your life.


You need to recognize your efforts and offer yourself positive reinforcement along the way. Weight loss and fitness goals may be slow in coming, so don’t wait until you’ve ‘arrived’ with your main goal. This is why it’s so important to set smaller goals along the way. For example, even if you’ve stuck to your plan for a week and you’ve never done this before, make sure that you give yourself a pat on the back. A more effective strategy than this is to pre-plan your rewards so that when small goals are achieved you’ll know what you’ll be rewarded with. Keep your nutritional plan in mind with rewards as well. It’s easy to sabotage a great training week with a weekend binge. Keep rewards realistic and don’t be too easy on yourself.


Your chances of success are greatly increased when you have social support. Cut out those people in your life that create negative energy by telling you that you won’t succeed. Surround yourself with those that support and encourage you. Having social support helps keep you accountable and who knows? Your efforts may be encouraging someone else to get off the couch as well.

Better yet, get someone with similar goals and train with them. This way you can encourage each other on low energy days and training intensity can be enhanced when you have someone to work with.


Starting an exercise routine is a little like a love affair. At first it’s all roses with lofty goals and promises of success. As each day goes on though, muscles get sore, scheduling is tight, any and all excuses seep into your life and your ‘new love’ (exercise) can take a back seat to the pressing issues of life.

Honestly, the most successful people in life aren’t always the smartest or most talented. They’re the ones that just ‘show up’ day in and day out. They put in the effort and never quit. Keep your eyes on the prize, target lock on and you’ll be sure to meet those goals in no time.