If you’re like me, exercise often comes in stops and starts. Two weeks on, followed by a week off and a little bit of self-loathing, followed by yet another “this time I’ll stick with it” start (on a Monday, nonetheless, after getting excited about it but still doing nothing the entire weekend, because–hello–you’re supposed to start all healthy habit changes on Mondays.)

Well, here it is Monday again, and here I am–you guessed it–starting up with my workouts again. It took me longer than necessary to get my nutrition spot-on, to the point that it is now second nature, and no longer difficult to “stick to.” But now I’m working on the exercise portion of healthy living. Don’t get me wrong, I love moving my body, and it feels so much more free and easy to do so now that I’m fueled by nature’s power foods. I love playing, dancing and hiking. But it’s the early morning workouts, with an actual workout program, that are difficult for me to stick to. Until recently…

I started applying the same principles to working out that I used to convert myself to healthy eating. Duh! Why didn’t I think of this two years ago? Or ten? Well, never mind that. I am where I am. And you are where you are. So let’s take ourselves to the next level, by getting through a few emotional road blocks. Here are the top five things I’ve tweaked inside my brain, in order to stick to my workout plan and enjoy doing so. I needed a reminder of those things today, too.

1. Do you wake up every single morning with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other? 

Something like this: ‘Time to get up and work out!’… ‘But my pillow is so comfy!’… ‘Come on, you’ll feel so good when you’re done… ‘But I went to bed late and I really need the extra 30 minutes!’…

Whether you choose to exercise in the morning or evening, this internal exchange happens to all of us, even to Olympic athletes and fitness addicts.You’ve got to nip it in the bud. Don’t let that devil get a word in edgewise for at least 30 days (that’s the number of days it takes to really form a habit, plus a few more for good measure, because you’re really going to need that good measure. Trust me.)  When your alarm goes off, open your mouth and talk to yourself out loud! Keep your deep emotional reasons for wanting to work out written down on your bedside table and read them aloud before deciding whether to sleep in. I don’t care what your roommate or significant other thinks. Let them think you’re crazy. Be selfish, and listen to your own voice motivate you.

2. Find a friend to join you 

Make a commitment not just to yourself, but to your friend, that you will show up on time and get the job done together! Brainstorm fun ways to be active together and set a plan in motion. I workout in my basement at a time not within the accepted standards of morality and decency. So it’s really difficult for me to find a workout buddy. I had to get creative. I invited friends from all over the country to join me. We are following the same workout program, and we check in every day on a private Facebook group I created just for us. Think outside the box to discover a solution that works for you.

3. Buy new tunes 

It doesn’t matter if you’re jumping on the trampoline, walking the neighborhood, or pumping iron at the gym. Spend some time searching for music that motivates you to move! It makes such a huge difference. If you get bored easily like I do, refresh your play list every week. I used to gulp every time I clicked to buy a $0.99 song, knowing I’d be sick of it in a few weeks. But I had to change my mindset. One dollar is well worth something that is going to keep me excited and keep me moving toward my goal. Even if I had to buy 5 super cool and exciting new songs each and every week, that’s a really cheap motivator if it makes the difference between whether or not I work out.

4. Schedule it

Your workouts are at least as important as your doctor appointments, play dates and business appointments! PEN them into your schedule, wherever they fit best. If someone calls and wants to make plans overtop of your workout, tell them you already have a previous engagement and suggest a different time. Seriously. You need to schedule them as an important appointment.

5. Ignore Your Trainer’s Advice: DON’T Schedule a Rest Day

Most workout programs suggest you take at least 1-2 days off each week. It’s true, rest days are important. But most people find that life gets in the way of at least one scheduled workout per week. Emergencies, having to work late, etc. It just happens. So schedule 7 full days of activity. And, if in the rare occasion life doesn’t make you take a break? Then give yourself one at the end of the week. If you only schedule 5 exercise days, you’ll only do 2-3 of them. If you schedule 7, you’ll do at least 4-5. Momentum is so powerful. If you schedule 2 rest days, your momentum is broken. If “life happens” on 2 additional days, you’ve now gone 4 days without working out. Well, guess what? You still have momentum going on in your life. Except it’s going the other way. After 3 or 4 days, it already feels normal and good to continue on in your sedentary ways. Schedule 7 days, so you can forgive yourself if “life happens” on one of them.

 I want to know 2 things:

1. Which tip above you will implement this week. 

2. Share with me and everyone else reading this your BEST TIP for keeping yourself accountable in working out. How do you force yourself out of bed in the morning? Or how do you make sure your workout happens every day even though life is ridiculously crazy?