When folks hire me to coach them 1:1, they’re not just asking for workouts. They’re looking for support to establish a workout habit that sticks.
They’re not just there to get strong, they’re there to cultivate long-term behavior change.
How To Create Habits To Support Your Postpartum Fitness Goals
On the surface, sticking with a postpartum exercise routine seems so simple.
1. Choose an activity that supports your postpartum fitness goals.
2. Repeat it often.
3. Choose consistency over perfection.
The more you do it, the more likely it is to become a habit. You’ve got to get reps in.
Obviously, simple doesn’t mean easy. And the more complex the behavior, the harder it is to build automaticity.
It’s harder to create a habit around exercise than it is around brushing your teeth. So what can you do to make it more likely you get the reps in?
Atomic Habits And Laws Of Behavior Change
In Atomic Habits, James Clear lays out 4 laws of behavior change:
1. Make it obvious.
2. Make it attractive.
3. Make it easy.
4. Make it satisfying.
We can use these 4 laws to come up with a strategy to support your fitness goals.
- How do you make exercise an obvious part of your day?
- How do you make it more attractive and enticing?
- How do you reduce inertia and make it easier?
- How can you make the overall experience more satisfying?
YOUR answers to these questions are ultimately going to be the most effective ones for you.
You know what makes you tick.
But if you’re looking for inspiration, here’s what I’ve got:
1. Make it obvious.
Make a plan about when and where you’re going to exercise.
Create an implementation statement:
I will exercise at [time] in [location].
Put it in your calendar. Put in on a Post-It on your bathroom mirror, your fridge, anywhere you’ll see it.
James Clear writes, “Many people think they lack motiviation when what they really lack is clarity”.
Truth. Don’t leave exercise up to chance. Something else will inevitabley take priority and it won’t happen.
2. Make it attractive.
Link an action that you want to do with an action that you need to do.
What can you pair with your exercise habit that serves as a great incentive?
Is that when you rock out to your 90s pop? Binge on the latest true crime podcast? Catch up on reality TV?
Pair your workout with something else that feels super fun and you’ll be more likely to look forward to your workout.
3. Make it obvious and make it easier.
Create a dedicated space for your workout. Leave your gear out along the path of your daily routine so that you see it and you don’t need to invest time in setting up.
This doesn’t need to be a formal home gym or a dedicated room.
Maybe you leave your bands and weights lined up by the wall in your living room. Put them somewhere where you’ll see them and use them.
4. Make it easy.
Go in with a plan.
Rather than saying “I’m going to exercise” and then winging it, have a workout in mind.
Purchase a plan, hire a trainer, spend time mapping out a month of workouts so you know EXACTLY what you’re going to do during that time.
5. Make it satisfying.
Do you have a behavior chart for your toddler? A sticker sheet full of gold stars?
There’s a reason why that works. And you can do that for you too.
Here’s how I apply this in my own life:
How I make it obvious:
Here’s my implementation statement: I exercise at 4pm in my home gym.
Now obviously I’m not a zombie that mindlessly wanders over to my barbell and starts picking it up at 4 pm. I don’t even do a structured workout every day.
But I’ve had this same plan for so long (years) that I do THINK about working out every day at 4 pm. And on the days when I have a workout plan, that’s when I put things aside and get my sweat on.
How I make working out attractive:
I actually exercise in complete silence. It’s the only time in my day I don’t have input streaming into my eyes and ears and I relish it.
How I make it easy:
1) I work with an online trainer. And before I did that, I worked from a DIY program. I know exactly what I am going to do at 4pm.
2) I’ve also created a dedicated space in my home to work out in and it’s my little sanctuary.
3) I rarely change my clothes. I’ll workout in whatever I’m wearing just to reduce inertia.
How I make it satisfying:
In addition to strength training, I have a walking habit. I use a pedometer app on my Apple watch. My watch throws confetti for me when I hit 7500 steps. So silly, right? But I love it.
Whatever it takes:)
Believe it or not, postpartum is a great time to build an exercise habit.
Yes, the chaos.
But also, you’re starting from scratch. Your schedule is in upheaval, you’re reorganizing your space, you’re figuring out who you are after a pregnancy.
It’s much harder to build exercise into a routine that is already set in stone.
Right now, you have the opportunity to craft your new normal to include exercise and other self-care habits.
Those habits don’t have to start out as refined or as robust as you want them to be in the future, but plant the seeds now.
What habits are you working on? Can you use any of these tips?
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to follow the link and make a purchase.
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My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me with questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I offer customized, online pregnancy and postpartum personal training to folks locally (Seattle-area, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and beyond.
Proud Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitnesses Specialist.