exercise can be habit-forming

I’ve started and stopped exercising so many times in the past that sometimes I wonder how I managed to change into the person I am now. I struggled and felt guilty. I paid lots and lots of gym dues and never went. But I got tired of being tired. And worked through the pain and resistance of beginning again. Now I do something – actually lots of things – every day. So the Whole Life Challenge awards one point for Workout and one point for Mobilization. The Workout is at least 10 minutes of “active recovery” [intentional movement]. I got that covered. I usually ride my bike to work. Lately, I’ve been riding extra, in order to accompany my son to school I also walk my dog every night. And lift, swim, run, row, … you get the picture. My challenge will be to start a new habit of daily Mobilization. More on that in a moment.

If you aren’t actively moving yet, and you need some strategies, here are mine for Getting It Done – whatever you choose “It” to be:

Find a workout buddy: I go for a run or a bike ride with friends – we set up the details in advance (where, when, how long), and this makes sure I show up (because the other person is going to show up) (this helps a lot when the weather isn’t great and I don’t “Feel” like it).

Do something fun: I pick activities I really enjoy and look forward to – for example, at my gym, I usually train with a trainer who I like, so it’s a fun-hard workout, and I “reward” myself with 10 minutes in the sauna afterwards. I also like being outdoors, so I do a lot outside in nature. I also like climbing, but I live in a flat country. So I go to indoor sport climbing.

Take a class: having a specific time/place/activity picked out on your calendar where you are with others might help you get there. I registered my family for a month of climbing lessons on Monday nights. Without the class, I doubt we’d muster the energy to go to the wall at 8 PM. Knowing the instructor will be waiting for us makes us hustle to be on time.

Make an appointment: I schedule my gym visits at the same time each week (most of the time) and that cuts way down on “skips.” If it’s tuesday @ 11, it must be time to go to the gym – the decision has already been made. this makes it easier, since I don’t have to use up willpower.

Set a Goal: I use upcoming events that I enjoy to keep me motivated over the long term.

Be safe: I rest enough before going back to the gym for more – and try to train in zones that add to my fitness rather than break me down. When I was trying to get in the habit of exercising, I would do way too much on the first day, feel awful the next day, and not go back for several months.

Remember the reason why: I remind myself I always feel better afterwards, and that my health is as important (if not more important) than whatever thing I have to stop in order to keep my appointment with myself to exercise. When I am really resisting it, I tell myself, okay, you can stop after 10 minutes. This is particularly useful when I don’t feel good and think “I need a rest day” – usually, I just need to get moving and I feel better. I don’t think I have ever actually quit after starting. the hardest part sometimes is getting my shoes on.

Always be prepared: I have my gym bag packed and ready to go. There are no excuses when I am rushing out of the house in the morning. I also have a swim bag and a climbing bag – nothing fancy. They just keep my stuff organized so I don’t waste precious time looking for what I need to get out the door.

So, now about this new habit I have to form. Mobilization – daily stretching. I am going to have to answer the “W” questions to succeed at this. The W questions – what, when, where. There are some reminder apps I have used when I want to remember to do something new. You might try Habit Forge or Rootein. I also like Astrid – a to-do App that can schedule repeating tasks. I found though that if I set too many reminders, I ignore them all.

What’s your plan? The body you have today reflects the choices you made yesterday. It’s up to you.

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