Creating the Habit, part 3: How Do You Do It?

I’ve spoken to you about how health and fitness can be measured relative to lifespan, the importance of exercise, and the benefits of making it a regular part of your daily life. Now it’s time to talk about the how. How do you make exercise a priority when you’re busing managing your family, trying to be successful in your career, volunteering in the community, and all sorts of other priorities that seem to take precedence over staying in shape?

The answer is simple, really…make exercise a habit. I’m guessing your response to that last statement goes something like, “Wait a minute…developing a habit (or at least a good habit) isn’t simple.”

Well, you’re right. Developing a new habit may not be easy. But I can promise you this: it is absolutely worth every bit of effort it takes. Not only will your new, healthy habit help you, but it’s very likely it will rub off on those close to you.

Have I reeled you back in? Good.

When it comes to forming an exercise habit, fitness experts and coaches often refer to what is called the “transtheoretical model for change.” This model posits that health behavior change involves progress through six stages of change:

  1. Pre-contemplation  You don’t exercise and you have no plans to start anytime soon.
  2. Contemplation  You’re thinking about starting.
  3. Preparation  You’ve made plans to start exercising in the next 30 days.
  4. Action  You’ve started exercising, but have been at it fewer than six months.
  5. Maintenance  You’ve been exercising for more than six months, and it’s become part of your daily routine.
  6. Termination  You’re completely committed to your exercise routine and have no desire to return to your unhealthy behaviors and you’re sure you will not fall back in to old habits.


Now you know the stages of changing a behavior, the big question is how do you do it?

If you’re in the contemplation, preparation, or even the action stages, you can start creating a new habit by making small and what sometimes may seem insignificant choices over and over again until they become habits.  Here are five proven habits that will help you adhere to a regular workout routine:


  1. Set goals  You’re more likely to be successful at anything if you have goals. In terms of exercise, you’re more likely to be successful if you focus on intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, goals. This means that you’re more likely to continue with an exercise plan when you’re focused on internal goals, like exercise enjoyment or an increase in energy, rather than external goals, such as how you look or validation from others.
  2. Reward yourself  Whatever it is that keeps you motivated, make a habit out of celebrating small triumphs; it can keep your momentum going.
  3. Mix up your activities  Research has shown that variety in an exercise routine can increase adherence to regular physical activity. By making a habit of switching things from one day to the next, you’re more likely to stick with a program over time.
  4. Track your progress  Something as simple as a Fitbit or any other activity tracker can be enough to keep you moving.
  5. Recruit friends and family  Social support can play a major role in predicting your success in an exercise program. In fact, it can be among the most important factors in determining whether or not you stick with physical activity.



Exercising with one to two others will lead you to your fitness goals.

If you’ve read my previous two articles you know where I’m going to point you to start on your journey to better health – small group training classes at Fitness on the Run. Just look at some of the benefits of small group training and how they compare to what it takes to make exercise a daily habit:

  1. Personal attention  With small group class, trainers can focus more attention on you – both in and out of class. Need help setting a goal? A trainer in a small group class is more apt to listen and help.
  2. Moral support  Showing up to work is always easier if you know you have great co-workers. Working out in a small group can be the same way – you’ll get to know your classmates and you’ll likely become part of a community.
  3. Adherence  If you know you’re only one of four people in a class, you’re more likely not let your friends and trainer down by skipping classes.
  4. Variety  In small group training, classes will evolve as you and your classmates evolve.
  5. More fun  The right exercise program done with friends can be fun – even at 5 or 6am!


Whether it’s personal training, our group classes (no more than 8), or our small group classes (no more than 4). We have a thoughtful programs of strength training, cardiovascular work and lots of FUN in between.


Try our $99 Get Fit for Life Special where you’ll receive 3 one-on-one Personal Training Sessions + 4 FREE Small Groups.

Get started here.


  • The latest from Adrien
Adrien founded Fitness on the Run in 2004 out of her home after a successful career in policy and public affairs communications. After spending 15 years developing her own personal definition of wellness and watching thousands struggle with theirs, in January 2019 Adrien founded Alexandria Wellness, the home for the Concierge Wellness Program and Corporate Wellness with Adrien Cotton. Over the course of 15 years, “FOR” was home to more than 2,000 clients, 30 instructors, and hundreds of inspirational success stories. Adrien is now, more-than-ever, passionate about helping women view their fitness as a journey, not a quick fix. Adrien’s recipe for success herself has evolved from a rigid training plan of sweaty and heart pumping workouts to some days getting in her 10,000 steps, consciously breathing, her 7.5 hours of sleep, and her beloved 5-Minute Flow. Adrien believes the most important ingredient is making small changes for big results, even if it’s one new habit formed each month. Still passionate about fitness, Adrien’s clients appreciate her ability to make sessions seriously challenging without a “beat down,” a healthy mix of strength and metabolic (cardio) work and ultimately helping her clients gain real strength in mind and body. She believes we all benefit from being curious about our bodies and that change, or improvement, is within reach despite what your “inner voice” or others may tell you. Adrien is bubbling with excitement to help women learn the importance of a comprehensive approach to wellness, weight loss, and contentedness with yourself, and that every person has the right to feel good about themselves. Most days, you can find her helping clients with their wellness, listening to success stories, and bragging about her twin 13-year-old children and “fittest man in Alexandria” Bill Cotton. Adrien prides herself on her practice of mindfulness, meditation, and putting it all into perspective.

Alexandria Wellness offers achievable answers for anyone who is tired of chasing fitness and health without a clear plan, someone who has struggled and is not satisfied with their fitness and wellness or someone who is open to maximized healthful longevity and fitness along with healthful weight loss. Adrien and her team offer help with food guidance, body acceptance, sleep and stress issues, and insist you have fun along the way.

Schedule your free 30 minute consult here!

Alexandria Wellness
215 North Payne Street
Alexandria, VA 22314



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