You are currently viewing I’ve done sports for a year thanks to ‘Atomic Habits’ – Part 1

Part 1 – Turn working out into an identity-based habit

I’m in my thirties. In those thirty-something years I’ve been alive, there was never a single time after school when I worked out or did any sport consistently for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Well, except for one, weekly Zumba (more about that later). So doing sports for a year consistently would’ve been a miracle. Most of the time it went more like this:

  1. Feel a sudden surge of motivation to get fit.
  2. Start a workout program at home.
  3. Stick to the schedule for 1-2 weeks.
  4. Start slacking off.
  5. Never finish and quit for months (or years).
  6. Repeat.

In January 2023 it all changed when I finally managed to adopt a healthier attitude and set up a schedule I could actually stick to. Now, at the beginning of 2024, I can proudly say, that instead of quitting after a couple of weeks as per usual, I managed to do sports for a year regularly. And it’s all thanks to James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

In this two-part post, I’m gonna share with you how I managed to stay consistent with working out with the help of changing my habits and my attitude. If you also struggle with incorporating sports into your daily routine, read on. If I could do it, you can do it too! 🙂

In Part 1 we’re gonna focus on the difficulties of getting into a sporty lifestyle and how building a habit out of doing sports based on identity change can make it stick easier.

Disclosure: I don’t participate in any affiliate programs. I don’t make any money off of the products I recommend in my posts.

Why is it hard to get into a sporty lifestyle as an adult?

Since I left school, I’ve tried many challenges, routines, and whatnot to get fit, but I could never build a lasting habit out of those attempts. I think many of us struggle with the same problem owing to these factors:

1. You’re not talented at sports

I’m not good at any particular sport or exercise. I was very skinny and weak as a child. I don’t have a good sense of balance and I’ve always been afraid of getting injured. Not everyone is built like an athlete, right? I’m pretty sure at least some of you can relate when I say, gym class was always about surviving.

Many people, kids and adults alike, feel the same. When you’re not good at something, it’s easy to lose motivation. When you see others do something as if it were a breeze while you’re gasping for air and being all thumbs it’s pretty discouraging.

basketball, table tennis rackets and balls

2. You’re not motivated by others to get better at sports

When you’re not motivated yourself, the only thing you can rely on is the motivation you get from others. Your parents, your teachers, your peers. But what if you don’t get that extrinsic motivation?

A good gym teacher can lift you up and encourage you to push yourself and enjoy being active even if you don’t excel at sports. A bad one can ruin that for life. Unfortunately, I got the latter. My gym teachers always paid more attention to the kids that were already doing well, while us, unsporty kids were never motivated or were shown how to get better. We were given bad grades and that was it.

With no intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to push you forward, your attempts at building sport into a new habit will more likely than not fail very fast.

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3. You don’t leave time for sports in your daily routine

Needless to say, the things I mentioned above led to me not showing much interest in sports for a while. Then long after school ended, I was left with a lifestyle that didn’t include any exercise. And you know how hard it is to change your good old habits as an adult.

The problem was that although I hated the thought of working out, I still wanted to be fit and healthy. And we know that you can’t do that without putting in the work. There’s no magic spell or magic pills and gadgets that instantly turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger without you breaking a sweat.

When doing sports is not something you instinctively do, allocating time for it is hard. Every time something comes up, the first thing you’ll get rid of to free up some of your time will be the time you spared for sports. That’s because it’s not actually part of your daily routine. It’s just squished in there.

dumbbells and ankle weights

Building an identity-based habit out of working out

Sport as an outcome-based habit

Incorporating sports into our lives will always be hard if we think of it only as a means to an end. As I mentioned in point 3 above, it’s difficult to keep it in your routine if it’s not an organic part of it. If it’s not a habit, it’s just a placeholder. If something else becomes more important, it will easily replace it.

I read so many blogs and articles that claimed if you do X for Y amount of time or repetitions, it will become a habit. Well, naaah. Not for me. I have proof:

I mentioned weekly Zumba in the introduction. I managed to do it for about 2 years and I liked it a lot. (But honestly, it was more like dancing than an actual workout. And once a week is not much, in my opinion). Still, after two years of consistently showing up, the moment I stopped (new job, clashed with Zumba schedule), that was it. I didn’t crave it. I didn’t miss it.

I’d never understood why it had never become a habit until I read Atomic Habits. Then it all made sense suddenly. It’s because it never became an actual part of my identity. I showed up because I had someone to do it with, I paid for it, and I wanted to be fitter. But not because I thought ‘Yeah, that’s me, Eszti, the woman who does Zumba’.

This is what Clear refers to as an outcome-based habit. You focus on what you want to achieve, in this case, getting fit. You do the thing: you start working out, and you hope it will get you to your goal. The problem is that if you don’t change your beliefs, the habit won’t stick in the long run.

pinterest pin: I've done sports for a year thanks to Atomic Habits

Sport as an identity-based habit

So now it’s clear. If you want your new, healthy habit of working out regularly to become a part of your life for good, you’ll need to shift your attitude and beliefs.

According to Clear, you won’t be able to achieve long-term changes in your habits if they don’t become part of your identity. It’s easy to start a new habit when you’re motivated, but you’ll only be able to stick with it long-term if it becomes part of who you are. That is, you need to want to do sports not because you think you have to, but because that’s who you are. For that, you need to set the right goal. As he says:

The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.
The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner.
The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.”

That thought gave me the missing piece to the puzzle. It gave me the right tool to change my attitude. Now the goal was clear.

The goal is not to get fit and healthy, the goal is to become a sporty person who cares about their health.

And, although it’s a small shift on the level of words, it made a huge difference in my life.

Now that the goal was set, another question arose. How do translate this knowledge into practice? How do I become a sporty person? That’s what Part 2 is going to be about. 🙂


There might be many things in your life working against you on your journey to becoming a sporty, athletic person, like lack of motivation and negative life experiences (or other reasons not mentioned in the article). However, with the right attitude and goal, you can create a long-term habit much more easily and become the person you want to be.

It’s kind of ironic that I spent many years failing time and again to achieve my goal of becoming fit and healthy, and only 1 year after letting go of that goal and focusing on the right thing I have actually arrived at a point where I can say: I AM fit and healthy. I am actually a sporty person and I believe it.

And all it took was to read that one book. Huh.

To stay committed it’s also important to find sports you like doing. If you’re into home workouts, here’s a post about Chloe Ting’s workouts you might want to check out.

Have you read Atomic Habits? In what areas of life have you tried to apply it? Did you succeed?

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