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Steps towards exercising

How to Make Exercise a Habit in 2 Minutes

Deciding to start exercising again after many starts and stops can be difficult.

Many of us have gotten the motivation to start working out probably after watching a motivational video or reading an inspiring story.

You get this huge burst of motivation then you tell yourself, “This time, this time around I will stick to it, I will achieve my body goals.”

At first, you start strong, you wake up first thing the next morning, you, go out for a 30-minute jog or go for a 2-hour session in the gym, it feels hard but also refreshing because you’re finally doing it!

But the next day, you’re just not feeling it, you don’t have the same energy as yesterday, but you still decide to go.

This time you jog for 15 minutes and feel exhausted.

Fast-forward a week and you’re back to doing nothing.

This is the inevitable fate of 90% of people who start exercising.

In this article, I will go through why we always end up quitting and how to incorporate the 2-minute rule to make the habit of exercising finally stick!

Let’s get into it.

The Traditional Approach Toward Exercise

This is the standard approach most of us take towards beginning to exercise that has led us to quit time and time again.

I know people want to exercise for various reasons but in this section, I’m focusing more on exercising to improve your physique.

You dive in with the ultimate goal of finally achieving your dream body, there’s a huge gap between your current body and your goal body, so you decide you need to start exercising and without much thought, you go straight into it.

This approach towards exercise is fueled by motivation and emotions− motivation is limited and does not last very long, our emotions change all the time.

It is very difficult; might I say nearly impossible to build a habit depending on these two factors.

We need a guide, a routine to follow that allows us to stick to a plan, reduce the amount of mental friction required to execute that plan regularly, enable us to make decisions quicker, and hold us accountable when we don’t.

I suggest the 2-minute rule.

What is the 2-minute rule?

Before I started my diet, I read a book titled “Atomic Habits by James Clear” that changed how I perceived change − change in habits, personal identity reasons why we do the things we do, and so on.

I stumbled upon this rule called the 2-minute rule. The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start.

It suggests that when we want to build a new habit, we must start it in short iterations.

Due to this new habit not being a part of our current identity, starting it at large durations or doing too much too soon, which requires a huge amount of our limited willpower will eventually lead us to quit.

The overall goal of the 2-minute rule is to build the habit of showing up and continuing, stopping just when that habit starts feeling like a hassle.

This rule applies to starting any new habit, but in this article, I’m covering its benefits in building the habit of exercising.

The first step towards making exercise a habit is to make the process of showing up easy and begin with as little as possible so it’s easy to show up the next day.

Repeat this process over and over and before you know it, this seemingly difficult task that could just never stick in your previous attempts starts becoming more of a habit.

Benefits of the 2-minute rule for exercise

Using this rule comes with various benefits that outweigh the common approach towards building the habit of exercise, some of which include.

  1. It makes the process easy The standard approach would be to start exercising anyhow without any plan, this usually leads to doing too much too soon, which seems sustainable at first due to an increase in motivation but becomes extremely difficult later on. The 2-minute rule makes it easy at the beginning and ongoing, making it a suitable habit that our mind can slowly ease into.
  2. It makes you show up – You won’t make exercise a habit if you don’t even show up in the first place. This rule, if followed correctly will allow you to show up over and over again, slowly making exercise a part of your identity. The goal isn’t to run a marathon but to put on your running shoes and take the first steps.
  3. Creates room for progress and improvement – Starting small allows you to slowly progress and get better at the exercise while building the habit within you. For example, if you haven’t jogged in a long time and you want to start again, on the first day, jog for only 2-5 minutes and stop. After about a month, you’d most likely start aiming toward 10 minutes.
  4. It gives you a structure – Reducing the amount of mental effort we put towards doing an activity makes it easier to do. This rule gives you a guide to follow each time you want to exercise, allowing you to go in with a plan and a goal instead of just doing whatever you feel like that day. You start becoming proactive instead of reactive.
  5. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment – When you perform exercises on autopilot, doing however durations you feel like for a particular day, you’re left feeling unaccomplished because you haven’t created a threshold for what you consider a successful exercise session. The 2-minute rule helps give that feeling of accomplishment for all the actions leading to your main goal.

Why is it Difficult to Make the Habit of Exercising Stick?

Before getting into the habit of exercising, we first need to understand what habit means itself and how it is incorporated.

Habit is an acquired behavior pattern that we perform subconsciously, to put it simply, they are behaviors, actions, or tasks that we’ve performed so many times that we now do them on autopilot.

The kind of person you are now, is a result of all the repeated patterns from your past, for example, if you consider yourself an honest person, it is because you have a track record of being honest for a substantial amount of time.

For a habit to stick, the particular action has to be performed over and over again, for some time before it can then be performed on autopilot.

Habits are difficult to stick to because it takes time for them to align with your identity.

Creating the habit of exercising goes with the same principle.

Most of us did not grow up exercising regularly, we haven’t performed enough exercises consecutively to make it an established habit.

People greatly underestimate how long it takes to make exercising stick, we start and stop after some weeks and wonder why it didn’t stick.

You have to exercise over and over again to create a track record in your mind before you can start to believe that you’re the type of person who performs exercises, this is when exercising starts becoming a part of your identity.

It is difficult to make the habit of exercising stick because we aren’t willing to do it long enough, this is usually caused by using the wrong approach, which includes – doing way too much too soon, starting without creating a metric to ensure we show up for our exercise sessions, having a metric to measure progress and improvements.

How to use the 2-Minute Rule for Exercise

The major principle of the 2-minute rule is to ensure that we make it as easy as possible to begin. It is simply an aid to help us engage in the process of taking the first steps toward initiating an exercise.

To explain the process of using this rule, I will use an example of how I used it to start jogging when I endeavored to lose weight.

A Little Backstory

I have never liked jogging, it just seemed like such a boring and exhausting method of burning calories, but when I started my diet, I wanted to integrate some LISS (Low-intensity steady-state cardio).

For this, I chose walking and jogging, there are various alternatives, but this was the easily available option for me.

I have tried to jog in the past, but I could just never really stick to it for more than 2 weeks, of course, because I used the traditional method.

How I Started Using The 2-Minute Rule

On my first day, I jogged for 2 minutes, and although I wanted to do more, I decided to end it there, I repeated this 3 times that week, and then the next week I bumped it up to 5 minutes, 3 times that week and it didn’t feel like a hassle, the next week I still ran 5 minutes but added a 15-minute walk.

Fast forward 2 months I was able to jog for 30 minutes, at 2 sets of 15 minutes in between walks, without getting that feeling to quit.

The key takeaway here isn’t the duration increase of my jogs, but the fact that I was able to stay consistent and show up for more than 2 months! Which is a drastic increase from my previous attempts.

What is also important here is fighting the urge to want to start much, you must abstain from this temptation.

The goal for your first sessions is only to build the habit of showing up.

My example above can be integrated into any exercise routine, let’s take a look at some examples.

Very Easy Easy Moderate Hard
Step outside your house. Walk for 5-minutes. Walk for 30 minutes on weekends. Walk for 2 hours daily.
Put on your running shoes. Jog for 2 minutes. Jog for 10 minutes twice a week. Jog for 40 minutes daily.
Drive to the gym. Work out for 5 minutes. Work out for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Work out for 2 hours 5 times a week.
Lay your yoga mat. Stretch for 2 minutes. Do a 30-minute yoga session 3 times a week. Do a 90-minute yoga session daily.

As you can see, the 2-minute rule can apply even before the main exercise, it begins at the first action that propels you towards initiating the exercise.

We are most likely to go through with action when we’ve taken that first initial step. So next time you don’t feel like going for a run before you decide to quit for the day, try putting on your shoes first.

What to watch out for when using the 2-minute rule

  • Missing one day isn’t the end of the world – Do not beat yourself up for missing a routine, a common problem we often run into when getting into a habit is thinking we have to be perfect, this “Go hard or go home” mentality is what usually leads us to stop trying completely. Missing one session is fine, but do not make it a habit to miss two in a row.
  • Just because you advanced does not mean you can’t go back – A problem you might encounter when using this rule is when you start to improve. You’re making progress, you’ve gone from 10-minute sessions to 1 hour and now you feel like you can’t go below it, and so the days you don’t feel like going for an hour, you skip the session entirely. However, it is completely fine to go below, some days are going to be slower than others, what’s important is that you show up, even for 2 minutes!
  • Slow down when it gets uncomfortable – if you get to a point where it starts feeling like a hassle, reduce the duration as this tends to lead to quitting. It sucks to go back when you’re progressing, but you’ll be thankful in the long run that you slowed down to stay consistent.


The idea of the 2-minute rule is to make it as easy as possible to begin a habit.

Before the habit of exercising can stick, you have to exercise over and over again to create a mental log that proves to your mind that you’re the type of person who exercises, this habit then becomes a part of your identity.

The 2-minute rule for exercise is a ritual that ensures that you show up for your sessions consistently.

It has various benefits over the traditional approach, including making the process easy, creating room for progress, and giving you a proper structure.

This rule isn’t perfect like anything else, you have to acquire the desire first for a change and the desire to achieve your fitness goals before using this rule to aid in success.

There will be times when you won’t want to exercise when you don’t even want to do the 2 minutes, this is when your desire for change has to outweigh the desire for instant gratification.

And if that fails, do not beat yourself up, it happens to the best of us, just make sure not to miss more than twice in a row!

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