Making Your Workouts Stick: The Power of Specific Plans

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When it comes to incorporating workouts into our busy lives, many of us have tried the age-old strategy of scheduling exercise sessions in our calendars. It makes sense; treating our workout as a non-negotiable appointment with ourselves should, theoretically, ensure we stick to our fitness goals. However, as many have discovered, this method doesn’t work for everyone.

A recent study published in Psychology & Health sheds light on a more effective approach to scheduling workouts, especially for those who are just embarking on their fitness journey.

What the Study Found

Over three months, researchers followed 115 individuals engaged in an online coaching program. The participants were prompted multiple times to create workout plans. The key takeaway was not about how often they planned to exercise but rather the specificity of their plans.

Surprisingly, those who consistently made highly specific plans – detailing what, when, where, and with whom they would work out – were more likely to increase their overall activity levels. The twist? It wasn’t about the frequency of planning but the detailed nature of the plans themselves.

Key Takeaways

  • Specificity is Key: Creating detailed “action plans” is more successful when they outline precisely what’s going to happen, at what time, and with whom. Instead of a generic “workout on Monday,” a more effective plan would be to “work out alone in my basement with my kettlebell on Monday at 8 a.m.” This level of detail helps to make the workout feel tangible, aiding mental preparation and commitment.
  • Familiarity and Routines Matter: For those initiating a workout habit, planning to do the same kind of exercise repeatedly proves more effective than incorporating a variety of activities. Establishing cues and routines, like consistently working out at the same time or in the same place, helps create mental shortcuts, making it easier to stick to the plan. In the battle of varied versus routine, routine wins when it comes to habit formation.
  • Embrace the “Boring”: While a diverse workout plan might seem more appealing initially, simplicity is often the key to forming a sustainable habit. For most individuals, especially those with hectic schedules, keeping things straightforward can reduce stress and increase the likelihood of following through. Remember, the goal is to make exercise a consistent part of your routine before introducing complexity.

In conclusion, the next time you’re adding your workouts to your calendar, think less about the frequency and more about the specificity. The devil is in the details, and a simple, repetitive plan might be the secret sauce to making your workouts stick. So, go ahead, pencil in those specifics, and watch your fitness routine become a lasting part of your lifestyle.


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