How to Transform Your Fitness Routine (And Life!)

Woman meditating on mountain hike

Many of us seek a change in our fitness plan around springtime. Whether we’ve fallen off the wagon, become bored with doing the same thing, or need a change of scenery, it’s natural to change up your routine this time of year. But maybe the change you need is a bit different than what you think. Perhaps the transformation we’re seeking should go far beyond mixing it up or trying something new to strengthen our love affair with fitness. What if we could figure out a way to make this transformation the last one we ever need—a transformation that changes fitness from a must do, to a want to do, so it never feels like a chore again?!

It’s natural to embark on a fitness journey searching for a radical change in weight, shape, size, or habits. We have this grand vision dancing in our heads, but the route to get there can by tough, overwhelming, and perhaps, a bit out of reach. Inevitably, we struggle to keep going. That’s often because the focus is on one big, daunting goal, and the changes are too extreme, conflicting too fiercely with your established habits.

What you like to eat, what you like to do (and not do), how you like to spend your time and other behaviors that affect your health and wellness are hardwired to some extent. Simply deciding you want to eat better, exercise more or take better care of yourself doesn’t magically make the change happen. More importantly, when the benefit or reward of those behavior changes is tied to a future reward, your brain will struggle to prioritize the short term choice. Do I exercise for 30 minutes now (instead of going to happy hour) for the potential 5 lb. weight loss 1-2 weeks from now? Hmmm … who’s going to win that fight? It’s understandable that the healthier choice sometimes loses out. Instead, we need to realize there are short-term gains before those long-term goals. Does exercise ultimately make you more creative, energetic, or happy? Does it help you sleep better or focus longer? It’s time to take note!

Small victories quote

Find the Positive

When healthier behaviors are associated with ridding your body of excess fat, your attitude toward the good behavior can also be clouded. Exercise or eating right can seem like a chore or punishment—a negative instead of a positive. When we inherently see the negative (“well, I have to do this in order to look this way or feel this way”), we naturally want to rebel or associate negative thoughts with the good behavior, making it harder to continue. When you even think about rebelling, it becomes harder to get ‘er done and much easier to fall off the wagon. What if, instead, you found activities you love, that don’t feel like exercise, but still help you be healthy?

I’d like to suggest that part of transforming your life and reaching your wellness goals is realizing that absolutely nothing dramatic has to happen immediately, but rather, small changes over time will lead to your ultimate transformation. To transform your fitness routine (and your life), you need not dive into the latest trend, go on some crazy diet, or buy the latest gadget. It’s actually quite easy. Follow these four steps.

Reassess Your Goals

Ask yourself one simple question: “WHY?” Why do you want to eat better or exercise more? It’s important to find a why that provides an immediate return on your investment versus one that promises you’ll feel successful in the future.

Sure, setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals is a good start. But, if the SMART goal is centered on something that may or may not happen (losing 20 lbs or living longer), or something that is in the future (even if it’s just a few weeks), it gets harder and harder to justify the behaviors needed to make the choice to do it in the moment.

We are not necessarily good at delayed gratification. Our will power, over time, diminishes. Instead of struggling to do the things that will help you get to the goal eventually, find a why that helps you see the benefit immediately to help reinforce the good behavior.

It’s important to find a why that provides an immediate return on your investment versus one that promises you’ll feel successful in the future.

Reward Yourself And Move On

When you see immediate benefits of exercise and better food choices, you will start connecting the dots. When I say reward yourself, I don’t mean indulge in a special food treat or a bubble bath. I simply mean, state out loud how proud you are of your behavior, note the reward you’re feeling from the good choice you made in the moment, and then make a plan to do it again!

It’s like Pavlov’s dogs. You need to start connecting the reward with the new behavior so that you want to do that behavior to get the reward (the feeling!). This is going to require you find exercise and a way of eating that makes you happy. You can’t adopt the attitude of following the herd or simply adopting the latest tabloid suggestion for dropping 5 pounds in a week. You have to find things that work for you! This is especially true with exercise. We need to find a way to think in smaller increments.

Find Exercise You Want To Do

Re-evaluate your chosen workout program. Does taking that class make your heart sing or do you feel like you have to do it? Does running feel good to you or would walking be more enjoyable? Is 45 minutes doable or would shorter workouts fit better with your life?

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what you do–it has to work for you. There’s no proper volume, duration, intensity or type that will magically make exercise a lifelong habit. Yes, there are recommendations for maximal benefit, but honestly, a little is better than nothing at all, and it’s time we all realized this simple fact. The magic potion is finding behaviors that fit so you’ll continue to prioritize the behavior. As you begin to prioritize the new behavior, your attitude toward exercise and healthy eating will change. And, you’ll find more time and opportunities to move and fuel your body properly!

The magic potion is finding behaviors that fit so you’ll continue to prioritize the behavior.

Change Your Relationship With Exercise & Eating Well

Right now you probably see exercise and healthier food choices as a must do. We need to get to a place where these are a want to do, instead! I know that sounds way too simple, but you’d be surprised the effect a mental shift can have. When you must do something, you tend to feel trapped. When you want to do something, you search for opportunities to fit it in. Getting to the place where you want to move more and eat well takes times. The first three steps will help with this ultimate reset.

Transformation begins with changing your mindset. When you decide that moving and fueling your body are gifts that provide immediate return on investment, you’ll look at healthy choices a bit differently. Then, when you begin to notice what you’re receiving in exchange for your time and effort, you’ll begin to reward yourself with more of the same. The secret to transforming your life is stringing together small victories over time; this will ensure you begin to look forward to the experience instead of dreading it! And, when you begin to look forward to exercising and eating well, you’ll look for opportunities to make it happen whenever you can.

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the VP of Fitness Programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, Silver Sneakers, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. An experienced educator, freelance writer, and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.