How to Make Exercise a Habit
New year, new you means many of us are hitting the gyms, boot camps, crossfits and every other fad exercise craze you can think of in hopes of getting the beach bodies we’ve always wanted. And as an avid gym and exercise enthusiast, I’ve definitely become accustom to seeing the masses come in full force in January, and then seeing class sizes dwindle by March. Since I love to get my exercise on, I wanted to share how I managed to make exercise a habit to see if it could help you in taking your new found enthusiasm for working out into a year round enthusiasm.
Trust me, I know how hard it is to stay motivated and keep doing something that you’re not used to doing. But for years now I’ve made a commitment to take care of myself, and I love how I feel as a result. And as much as I’d like to rant and rave that weight loss is what keeps me motivated to keep exercising, it’s not. Sure exercise helps toward that goal, but losing weight is 80% what you eat and 20% exercise. SAY WHAT? Yeah I know. Trust me, I wish those numbers were reversed too. But the reason I keep exercise in my life is because – while I don’t have an unbelievable weight loss story to share – I have been able to lose inches, convert fat into muscle, and I’ve been able to stave off diabetes and high blood pressure, which run in my family. And the reason why I make sure it’s a part of my daily life is because it helps me de-stress, disconnect, and feel like I’m living a healthy life. Sure, I’ve been known to take a week or two off due to vacations or illness (I took a full month off this holiday – yikes), but once I get back into my regular everyday routine, exercise is front and center. All you have to do is follow me on social media to see for yourself.
So here are a few of the things I used to convince myself to get off the couch and into the exercise habit.
Just Move – No Gym Membership Needed
While now I can’t do without my gym membership, when I started my fitness journey, gyms made me nervous because the equipment was foreign to me and I had thoughts of everyone looking and dressing like Jillian Michaels (so not true by the way). So I started by working out at home with just a step and my TV. And now with YouTube, the internet, and apps, you can do the same. With all these resources, many of them free, you’re bound to find something you like to do, regardless of your fitness level or lack of equipment. I personally love anything dance (Zumba, cardio groves, etc.), yoga, kickboxing, pilates, total body workouts and I’ve even been known to do chair exercises.
Don’t have internet or a smartphone? Walk, dance, hop, skip, jump around your house, your block, your neighborhood, the park, the school track, etc. The point is to just get moving.
And if you do decide to take the gym plunge like I did, don’t worry, it’s filled with people just like you and me. Sure, you’ll also find muscle heads and skinny minnies, but we make up the rest of the membership. Plus there is staff on hand to walk you through and help you get acquainted with all the equipment.
Some gyms even offer exercise classes which have instructors to help take the guessing out of what a good work out looks like. It’s the classes that drew me toward the gym because I realized that I wasn’t as disciplined as I thought and started missing my at home workouts. So I decided to slowly move into the gym world to get motivation from watching and working out with others, which has worked wonders in keeping me motivated. Plus each instructor has their own style and exercise class routines tend to change, which this girl who gets bored easily, greatly appreciates.
Work It Into Your Schedule
If you have time to get lost in Facebook posts, viral videos, or the latest Game of Thrones episode, you have 5, 10, 15 minutes to get moving. So take a moment right now to book that appointment with yourself and get it on your calendar, on a fitness app, or get your friends/family to join you on your journey. Accountability like this plays a big part in making something a habit. Still can’t find time? If you’re a morning person, then feel free to follow a common recommendation given to those struggling to find room for exercise in their day, wake up earlier. If you can make that work, kudos to you! As much as I love exercising, I know I’m not a morning person, so this requirement would be a beating for me and would cause me to stop exercising. If that’s you too, trust me there are ways to carve out time in your regular day. I personally have found ways to work in exercise breaks at my desk, during my lunch hour, and after work – depending on my weekly schedule. Once it’s booked, the only thing that ever keeps me from going to the gym is if I forget to pack my gym clothes or have to go home for whatever reason, before making it to the gym, because I always seem to find something to talk myself out of heading back out. So to take that excuse out, much like I prep my lunch the night before, I prep everything gym related (gym clothes, towel, water bottle, etc.) the night before too, so I’m ready to go. I’m telling you, planning like this, will make it easier to make this a habit.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up – Both Literally and Figuratively
The motto no pain no gain is for the birds. No exercise should hurt while you’re doing it. Sure you may be sore for a couple of days, but if you’re too sore to get back at it then you definitely overdid it. So don’t feel like you have to spend hours in the gym or that you need to push yourself beyond your limits to get the full benefits of exercise. I know after a couple of injuries, I’ve gotten really good at knowing my body’s limits and honoring them through out my workouts, regardless how much my trainer, instructor, or workout partner tries to motivate me to push beyond those limits. And guess what, I still managed to have all the health and mental benefits of exercising without having to go days/weeks without because of injury.
Yes I’ve been sporting this look all week, as I continue to rock skirts and dresses…and yes there have been stares, laughter & questions as a result, but #IJustDontCare It’s too hot to cover up & it’s helping my sore ankle Thanks age, #selfawareness & #selflove for helping me get through 🙂 Happy Friday! A photo posted by Rocio Chavez (@yoursassyself) on
With that said, that push to work harder, burn more calories, etc. is often tied to unrealistic goals, which we willingly set for ourselves, and then beat ourselves up for when we don’t meet them. You know the ones: I’m exercising everyday for 90 minutes so I can lose 20 lbs in a month; so I can fit into that dress; so I can show my face at the wedding/reunion, etc. While anything is possible, may I suggest that you refocus your expectations and focus on smaller goals. Maybe something like: This week I want to be able to: move/walk/run for 5 minutes without stopping; do 3 push-ups off my knees; do 5 jump squats; etc. Removing large, unrealistic goals and encouraging smaller, realistic goals, allows you to have more immediate wins, which you can and should celebrate. Don’t just hit your goal and move on, actually take time to acknowledge the accomplishment and your body for getting you through, then set a new goal for yourself. Once you shift the focus from the end result to smaller milestones along the way, it will be easier to move past whether you lose those 20 lbs or not, and hopefully keep you motivated toward meeting other exercise milestones.
Just a few suggestions to consider in making exercise a habit in your life. But don’t feel like you have to do exactly what I do. You do you, and get moving in whatever way feels most comfortable and natural to you. Remember, you are your only competition. Don’t worry about what others are able to push their bodies to do or not do. Stay focused on what feels right to you and your body, and you too will be one step closer to a healthier life. So get moving…I promise you won’t regret it.
Then, once you’ve made it through the hurdle of making exercise a habit and want to move beyond converting fat to muscle, toward Shedding the Weight, then you may find my recap of Oprah and Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience on this very topic, extremely helpful on your journey. Click here to find out more.
What do you do to exercise now? Do you like working out by yourself or in a group setting?