Developing Quality Exercise Habits
If you really think about it, we structure the majority of our lives by habitually repeating the same daily activities day in and day out– kind of like the 1993 hit classic starring Bill Murray, “Groundhog Day”. Routines are the result of natural human behavior; they enable our survival.
Now, I’m sure you all lead varying and satisfying lifestyles but I’m willing to bet everyone reading this can find at least one area needing improvement. Maybe you want to dust off that state-of-the-art elliptical machine sitting in the corner of your ‘workout room’ or you simply want to trim your waistline a bit but you’re experiencing commitment issues. We all know what the word ‘habit’ means but many of us don’t know how to go about developing new and productive ones.
Before we dig in, let’s look at the top 6 excuses for not exercising, according to WebMD:
- “I don’t have the time.” – No surprise here, an easy go-to excuse for many
- “I’m too tired.” – If you were in better shape this might not be a problem
- “I don’t get a break from the kids.” – C’mon, not even 20 minutes per day?
- “Exercise is boring.” – Be creative and avoid staring at blank walls while doing jumping jacks
- “I just don’t like to move.” – Maybe you can get the kids to play this game while you do your workout?
- “I always end up quitting.” – I’ll outline some strategies to prevent this
At the start of each and every New Year, millions of Americans put themselves in a position to fail by setting flimsy and NOT well-thought-out goals. The reason: they start out with a yearlong goal right off the bat! I firmly believe one should first recognize their short-term objectives and then consider their long-term aspirations. Testing the water with your toe can sometimes prove better than diving in headfirst. This will keep you honest, realistic and motivated – trust me, you’ll see progress sooner than you think.
Finding an easy way to start a ‘good’ habit is pretty straightforward. First, choose a realistic, simple activity (future habit) you can accomplish each and every day (e.g. exercising for 30 minutes). Don’t get too specific like attempting to do Yoga every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, rotating in spinning and weight lifting on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Second, set out to complete your activity for 7 days straight with no further expectations beyond the first week. Third, once you complete the 7-day trial period, take some time to reflect because it’s time to set a new goal.
So, you made it a week, you’re feeling good about yourself, and now you’re ready to up the ante, change gears and aim for a solid month. That’s 23 more days (7 down) of committing to your new practices. While keeping it relatively simple, consider adding a twist to help you remain motivated by making your goal public and writing it down. Sometimes implanting expectations in others can help us stay on course. After all, no one likes to fail in front of their family and friends, especially after hyping up their endeavors. You can do it!
OK! 1 month down and you’re starting to see some nice results, you feel great, and you want to push yourself even further. Maybe 7 days a week is a bit much and you want to aim for 5 while increasing the intensity and duration as a whole – no problem as long as you stick with it. Because you met the 30-day challenge, you should now think about really punching the accelerator and strive for another 3 months. 4 total months from your original start date (1/3 year for you math gurus out there). Before jumping into this next stretch, consider leveraging some collateral. Here’s an idea, give $100+ to a trusted individual (e.g. significant other, close family member, best friend etc.) and tell them they can keep the money if you don’t stay true to your goal. If you don’t want to give your money away, maybe hide it in a dresser drawer or other location and promise yourself you won’t take it out until you’ve met the challenge. Stay confident, maintain your integrity, and push yourself to be great.
Did you make it? Good, now go grab the money you trusted away and celebrate your success! Once you’re done celebrating, you’ll need to recalibrate your goals. Here are some questions you can ask to start the process:
- Am I enjoying myself?
- Do I need to increase the intensity?
- Should I devote more time to my routine?
- Am I seeing the results I want?
- What could I do to make this experience more rewarding?
Also, I recommend developing a list of pros and cons to really break things down and put them into perspective.
Since you subjected yourself to public scrutiny and surrendered a hostage loan, it’s time to hammer out the next gap through shear, independently driven motivation. Mark your calendar for 9 months out (3/4 year). Do whatever it takes to make it to this point!
When you finally arrive at the 9-month destination marker, take a long, reflective look back at your journey. Maybe others, inspired by you, noticed the outcome of your work ethic and began their own journey to improving their lifestyles. You probably feel like you’re on cloud 9 and never want to come down. Well, you don’t have to. Make it to your 1-year mark and start fresh again. It doesn’t get easier it just gets better!
Mark is a 23 year old who enjoys being outdoors kayaking, hiking and running. Thanks Mark for an inspiring guest post.