5 Ways to Get in the Indoor Cycling Habit

5 Ways to Get in the Indoor Cycling Habit

If you’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with indoor cycling and you want to turn it into a consistent habit, it’s a mistake to think that enthusiasm and promises alone will get you there. But there are scientifically proven ways to motivate yourself to stick with it, and many are easier to execute than you might think. What follows are five ways to get in the indoor cycling habit and stay there.

Remind yourself of the potential gains.

I’m not referring to the long-term health benefits for your heart, lungs, and mind; those are each important but may seem abstract in the moment. Instead, focus on short-term gains—for example, that indoor cycling can be an energy-boosting, rather than an energy-depleting, experience. That indoor cycling can give you a psychological “high” after the workout and make you feel and be much more focused and productive. Research from the University of Ottawa in Canada found that anticipating positive feelings associated with physical activity helps people stick with regular workouts. So focus on the more immediate glory! 

Create a three-part habit loop.

Every habit is governed by a neurological loop that consists of three elements, according to researchers: a cue, a routine (or behavior), and a reward. If you want to create a new habit—such as doing an indoor cycling class first thing in the morning—you should start by giving yourself a cue such as laying out your workout clothes and packing your gym bag with your cycle shoes the night before. Seeing your stuff when you wake up will cue you to attend the class (the second element in the loop). Next, reward yourself after the class with a delicious smoothie or a luxurious soak in the tub—and you’ll reinforce the habit you’re trying to adopt.

Bargain with yourself.

If you really don’t feel like doing an indoor cycling workout on a particular day but know it would be good for you, force yourself to do it for 10 minutes then give yourself the option of stopping if you want to. More often than not, you’ll feel better 10 minutes into it and want to keep going. Another way to do this: Pay yourself a certain amount of money for each class you attend (or each solo workout you do). Research in the journal Econometrica found that financial incentives really can help people develop healthy habits, such as going to the gym more frequently.

Expect it to be a good experience.

Chalk one up for looking at the upside! Research from Kent State University found that health-related messages that highlight the benefits of engaging in a particular behavior (“I’ll sweat out all my frustrations!” or “Regular indoor cycling workouts will help me slim down and get stronger”) are more effective than messages that focus on the detriments of not engaging in that behavior (“I’ll feel more stressed if I don’t go” or “If I don’t regularly do indoor cycling, I will gain weight”).

Keep tabs on how you’re doing.

If you’re trying to make a new behavior into a habit, the more often you monitor your progress, the greater your chances are of achieving what you’ve set out to do, according to a 2015 meta-analysis of research on monitoring goal progress in Psychological Bulletin. The key to succeeding is to focus on exactly what you do (say, participate in indoor cycling 3 to 4 times per week) rather than the related outcome (get fitter). Want to crank up the effects even more? Go public by informing others of your action-oriented progress.

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