First of all, what are fitness rituals?

Well, the Cambridge Dictionary defines a ritual as “any act done regularly, usually without thinking about it”.

We all have rituals in our lives. Brushing our teeth is a nighttime ritual that most of us have. How can using rituals to keep you on track with fitness?

Rituals turn something hard into something automatic. Most of us don’t even think twice about brewing our morning cup of coffee, or brushing our teeth. These automatic behaviors become ingrained into our lives. We would never leave the house without that first cup of coffee.

We do not think about our daily rituals and habits. We just do them, if we’re not thinking about it, we are not going to have time to talk ourselves out of it. This is the reason it is so important to set rituals in your exercise habits.

Setting Fitness Rituals

Using rituals can put you in the right head space. In Foundations for Exercise Science, the authors discuss how top athletes perform rituals before playing or competing.

Doing the same steps prior to an event is like a physical cue for your body to know what is coming. Some athletes sing a specific song, eat a specific breakfast or wear certain pieces of clothing.  This allows their body and mind to get ready for the event about to take place.

Rituals are small building blocks of habit. Charles Duhigg talks about how we are all creatures of habit. Recognizing our habits allows us to create new ones.

For example, right now your morning routine may look something like this…

  • Stumble to the coffee pot
  • Eat instant cereal
  • Look for keys
  • Barely get out the door on time

What if you changed your ritual starting the night before?

  • You started making overnight oats or protein pancakes, while you watch your favorite show.
  • You put your car keys by your briefcase at the door before going to bed.
  • You set the coffee pot to automatic the night before.

Now how does your morning look now? Pretty empty.

You notice you may have up to an extra hour of free time. Now you set up that fitness ritual. It could be something easy.

  • Sleep in your running clothes.
  • Play “eye of the tiger” every morning so they wake you ready for your lifting session.
  • Pack your gym bag in the front seat. This ritual lets you know that after work it’s gym time.
  • Wake up and drink a pre-workout protein shake instead of coffee
  • Put your running shoes on the front seat of your car
  • Set your alarm before lunch that reminds you to spend 15 minutes walking

Using rituals will not only stop the no time excuses, that we all seem to have, from interfering with our workouts: they will also give us the motivation to get our workout done with enthusiasm.

Set up your own ritual, make it small, and add on from the small starting point

Rituals to spur exercise are only going to work if they become ingrained in your behavior. This is why, starting small, is so important. You may not end up doing the exercise associated with the ritual, at first or, for a long period of time.

Sleeping in your running clothes becomes a great segue into heading out the door for a 5-minute walk. Next thing you know you’re putting in miles every day because you started that little ritual of sleeping in your running shorts.

Think of your own rituals that you do before a workout now.

How can you use these everyday to make sure you’re getting the most from your exercise routine?