Let’s face it. It’s not all that difficult to start an exercise habit. After all, most of us have done it more than once. The challenge is with sticking with the plan. More often than not, our initial enthusiasm wanes, we’re distracted by other things transpiring in our lives, or we’re disappointed when we don’t see results fast enough, and we simply give up.
Nevertheless, we’ve all known those people who find a way to hang in there, and would no sooner miss their morning exercises than they would their morning shower. So, what’s their secret? In most cases it comes down to starting an exercise habit and committing to it.
How I started my exercise habit
A few years ago, I was approaching the 230-pound mark. My knees hurt from all of the excess weight they carried and I was tired all of the time. I blamed my knee problems on my arthritis that was a result of a growth deformity that was corrected by surgery in 2006. My knee problems were my perfect excuse not to exercise. So, I buried my head in work because that’s where I could win.
Between 2006 and 2013, I would exercise. I’d get to the gym and ride my bike while reading a book. I figured I was getting some exercise, and it was a nice escape from my daily routine. The exercise was relaxing, and I loved it. But, I exercised on and off for the next few years; always using my crazy life and two-hour daily commute as an excuse to kick my exercise habit to the curb.
In 2013, I suffered from major back problems that lead me to a chiropractor 2-3 times a week for about a year. I couldn’t walk very far. In fact, I couldn’t even walk around my block. It was too exhausting and painful.
After a year of that madness, I went to my primary care physician to see if he could run some tests on me. He sat down with me, and we talked for a bit. Rarely, do I see a physician who will actually take the time to talk to me. Usually, they spend about 4 minutes telling me what’s wrong with me without asking one single question. Sigh. After a few tests, he looked at me and said, “You’re healthy…your core isn’t. You need to strengthen your core”.
Six months of physical therapy later, I began walking again. It was slow and embarrassing at first. I’d walk around the block and call it quits when I got home. The next week or so, I’d walk around the block twice in one session.
Soon, I was walking a mile, then 2 miles and now I walk 3 miles. In fact, I workout about 2-3 hours a day. Yup…I workout that much and the needle still doesn’t move on the scale. But, no worries! I look great!
My exercise routine starts in the morning. Mostly, because if I do it first, I don’t have an excuse not to go. Plus, I figure that by taking care of me, I can take care of others. I’ll do about 30 minutes on the elliptical and then about an hours worth of strength or yoga, alternating on odd days, five days a week. Sometimes I walk the dogs at lunch. That’s the benefit of working from home I suppose. Then, I finish my day with a 3-mile walk with the hubs.
How to Start an Exercise Habit
So, how do you start an exercise habit? The following tips will help.
1. Pick a day and time that’s easy and convenient to stick to. Some medical and fitness experts feel that it’s best to exercise in the morning. If you work out at a gym, choose one that’s conveniently located between home and work. Exercise, take a shower, and you’re ready to face the day, energized. If you prefer to exercise at night, do it on your way home from work. If you go home first, there’s a good chance you’ll lose motivation.
2. Start out slowly and build from there because in the beginning it’s more important to get into a routine. Some suggestions include taking a brisk walk through the neighborhood or a local park, use the treadmill for 15 minutes, play tag with the kids, swim a few laps in the pool. Come up with a variety of activities that you enjoy doing and keep in mind that, there’s no hard set rule that says you have to buy exercise equipment or go to a gym.
3. Keep going (even when you don’t want to) and develop the habit of “going”. If you stick to the plan and don’t give in to the temptation of not going, within 3 to 4 weeks you’ll have a habit in place that can last for the rest of your life, with periods of reminding yourself why you’re staying the course.
4. Every week, increase your activity levels which can be as simple as increasing the incline on your treadmill, going on a longer walk or adding an extra day to your weekly workout plan.
5. Work up to 30 minutes of cardio a day during the first month of your new exercise plan. Then in the second month, add on yoga and strength training and something else in month #3, like kick boxing or Zumba. Creating a plan that involves several activities like running, walking, cycling, tennis, weight lifting and varied aerobics classes will not only keep exercising from being boring but ensures that you’ll have something do to, even on bad weather days.
7. Commit to keeping up with the routine. That said, if you do fall off track, and the best of us do from time to time, get back on track right away.
The best exercise equipment is a decent pair of shoes. They don’t have to be expensive. I wear Filas and they work fine for me. Besides my shoes here are other things I like:
- Phone or MP3 player – perfect for playing podcasts and music.
- Gym membership – around here gym memberships start at $10 per month, can’t beat that!
- Yoga mat – great for stretching, yoga and crunches.
- Weights – perfect for keeping my muscles toned.
- LifeSpan stretching partner – I LOVE this for helping me stretch.
- Recumbent bike – I like to read on this…old habits die hard.
- Elliptical – I use one every day at the gym
If you’re going to buy exercise equipment get a discount on it. If you follow my blog you know how much I LOVE Ebates. It’s how I get the very best deal on everything I buy. I even get a discount on Amazon! If you’re new to Ebates, you can support this blog by clicking here and getting your $10 gift card. I’ll get a referral equal to half that, so thank you. It helps me run this blog.
Making behavior changes can be difficult, but once you start an exercise habit, it will be easier to maintain. Rewarding yourself for creating and sticking to healthy habits is also a good way to stay motivated. Start by setting a goal, determine a reward and then work towards it. You might consider buying yourself a new pair of fun walking shoes, workout clothes, or treat yourself to a massage for working out every day for a month. These are just a few examples – Do whatever motivates you the most.
What tips do you have to share?