If you’ve had a desire to exercise but just can’t seem to “get it together” you are not alone. Organization is one of the greatest obstacles to creating a regular exercise habit. The following tips have helped me and many others create a lasting, fulfilling exercise program.
Tip 1: Develop Your Why
Unless you have a compelling reason to exercise it is not likely to happen. Your “why” usually has to do with how it will benefit YOU. Are you seeking weight loss? Increased energy? Stress release?
Begin by asking the question, how important is this to me? Do I really want to begin exercising? Is it a “should” or do you really see the benefit to you? Sometimes we don't get started because we really don't connect with the benefit of exercise. Answering the following questions might help you to get started on developing your why.
Why am I reading this article?
Do I believe exercise is important and why?
What benefit will I gain by exercising?
Your benefit is yours alone. The benefit for you will probably be different than the benefit for me; but, in order to help you come up with some ideas, I have a listed some of my “whys” for my regular walk:
My body gets stiff and achy when I don’t get moving in the morning.
I will feel as if I accomplished something and I like feeling productive.
I might be able to see and connect with my neighbors.
I know I will increase the strength of my heart muscle and other muscles.
It will make me stronger for other life related tasks.
I love to see the sun rise and I enjoy the quietness of the morning.
I will burn calories and increase my metabolic rate.
The dog loves going for a walk.
You get the picture. Develop your “why” and the plan will follow.
Tip 2: Decide Your When
You’ve heard the saying, “People who fail to plan, plan to fail”. If I don’t make a plan in my schedule for exercise, it is not going to happen. The “I’ll start Monday” rarely works either. One of the best ways that I have found to schedule my exercise program is to create a time flow chart. We all have busy schedules and getting a birds-eye view helps to see when we can fit exercise into our schedule. One way of doing this is to use a calendar, Excel spreadsheet, or a template from your local office supply store that has the days of the week and hour slots for each day. List your regular commitments and then see what time slots are left over. You might even be able to pinpoint time wasting habits that you can replace with an exercise session.
Usually a person has 3 options when it comes to exercise. They can choose to exercise before work, during a lunch break, or after work. Generally there are very few options when it comes to fitting exercise into a busy schedule. Most people decide to wake up a little earlier and others decide to work-out after work. Regardless of when you choose to implement a program, it's important to schedule these times on your calendar. Our wellness should be a priority for us and for those we love.
Tip 3: Do What You Enjoy
If exercise is not fun, you are not likely going to stick with the program. If running hurts your knees and makes you feel like you are about to die, most likely you will not be motivated to get out of bed on a cold morning. However, if you enjoy gardening and incorporate it into your plan then you will probably look forward to exercise. Think now of something you really enjoy doing that involves movement. I enjoy a clean house so often I incorporate house work into my exercise routine. Also, I love my dog and he has become one of my best exercise partners. It's a lot of fun walking with him and see how happy it makes him.
In the gym I see a lot of consistency in the Zumba class because people love to dance. Some ideas for making exercise fun might be to attend a class, exercise with a friend, and sign up for a challenge such as a 5k or Triathlon, explore a trail. Find what works for you.
Tip 4: Devise a Routine
Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Now that we have established why, when and what, we can now create some habits that will make it easier to stick to our exercise plans. Before bed, look at tomorrow’s exercise plan and layout or pack your exercise clothes and don’t forget your shoes. Nothing kills the motivation to exercise like trying to find clothes to wear when you are half asleep, or packing your clothes when you have to get to work on time. If you are a morning coffee drinker, have your coffee ready to go with a timer or the push of a button. If you use an Mp3 player, charge it and have it ready. If you are walking the dog, have the “pooper-scooper” ready to go. The object here is to make it as automatic as possible.
Tip 5: Document a Strategy for Success
“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.” Norman Vincent Peale
Be assured of one thing, you will have challenges to overcome in establishing exercise as a regular habit. Anticipating obstacles and adopting a strategy for overcoming each one will be a key to your success.
One effective way to do this is to make a list of the obstacles in the past that has gotten you off of your exercise program. Then, list what you will do to overcome the intrusion. Here are a few examples of obstacles and the strategies I will plan in advance to overcome them:
Schedule Change – I will go back to my time flow chart and reestablish exercise times
Long Stressful Day and I just don’t feel like exercising- put on my clothes and begin exercising anyway. I will give myself permission to stop after 5 minutes if I still don’t feel like exercising (starting is the biggest part of the battle and I can't ever remember stopping after 5 minutes).
Injury- Modify my workout to work the area not injured and seek help as quickly as possible so that I can return to exercise
Bad Weather- Decide in advance my exercise strategy such as mall walking or inside exercise video.
I Am not Sure What to Do- Find a trainer or a person who is willing to teach you. Get a book. Purchase a video. Google!
I recently read about a study about a group of individuals who were unlikely to recover from a painful hip replacement surgery because of their age and other factors. The ones who set goals, anticipated obstacles and devised a plan in advance were the ones who recovered from the surgery two to three times quicker.
If you’ve read this far than these tips are something you feel will benefit you. So grab a pen or your computer and write down the activities you enjoy, develop your why, decide when you will do it, and document a strategy for success. Once you begin making exercise a regular part of your life, the energy and feel-good hormones created by moving and exercising will take over and make the process easier.