How to make exercise become a habit
I used to teach a 5:30 a.m. spin class and I had a pretty solid group of people who would show up every week. I admired their consistency. They were committed. Of course, there were times when they had to push themselves to get there but the bottom line is they showed up. I heard them say things like: "I feel great when I start my day off with an accomplishment." "I walk in groggy and I leave full of energy." "It makes me feel good." "It's fun." I think the main reason why they showed up every week is that they liked it. Is this similar to how you feel about exercise?
If it is - well then I say keep doing what you are doing! Plan - Show up - Repeat. But what if this has not been your experience. Maybe you are great at making the "plan" but somehow the "show up" and "repeat" part seems to fall by the wayside. I have 2 suggestions that may help you to make exercise part of your lifestyle.
Suggestion #1 Start small - If you are a bit of a perfectionist like me, you may have the tendency to do everything, all at once and perfectly. I can use one word to describe the outcome of perfectionism --- dissatisfaction. Perfectionism tends to set up an all or nothing framework. If you have experience with perfectionism, you know that when you are not doing the "all" to your satisfaction, you tend to resort to the "nothing." This, as we all know, is not an optimum pattern of behavior.
I have recently come across the term "minimum baseline." The minimum baseline is picking something very small and easy that you know you can be successful with - a no-brainer - so to speak. So with regard to exercise, instead of planning to work out every day for an hour - you would plan to walk for 10 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Once you achieve the first small goal you can add on if you want to. I want to stress that no goal would be too small here and there is no time limit. The purpose of minimum baseline is to create trust in yourself. You are going for the "I did it!" feeling and not the "ugh, I could have done better" feeling. Rather than feeling dissatisfaction you will feel accomplished. This is huge.
Suggestion #2 Seek feeling good - not results - It is simple, if something makes you feel good, you will be more willing to create the time for it. Remember this - you are the boss of you! You should be deciding the intensity and the amount of time for your exercise. Maybe your "jam" will be to take a walk in the park? Maybe gentle yoga? Letting go of results allows more freedom in your choice. Perhaps you can look at exercise as part of a self-care plan. Start to get into the habit of asking - what would I like to do today? How do I feel? What does my body need?
I subscribe to a digital magazine called Yoga International. (Personal note - they used to publish this magazine right on the premises of The Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, PA. This is where I learned to meditate 20+ years ago. I love this place and I am thrilled to announce that I will be starting my 500-hour yoga training there this summer.)
Anyway, this is a picture of what I see when I log into my app.
When I click move, I see this......
As you can see, it asks "How do you want to feel?" I REALLY love this! It helps me to think about how I am feeling AND how I want to feel! If I feel if I want something rigorous and challenging - I choose that. If I want deep breathing combined with gentle movement - I choose that. I find that if I take some time to think about how I feel and what my body needs - my decision with regard to the kind of exercise is always right. I recently published a video blog, Yoga to Boost Energy. I find the exercises in this video make me feel better and they do not take much time at all. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
My last unofficial tip is to be kinder and gentler with yourself. Remember there are no exercise police out there monitoring what you do. Your purpose is to have exercise be part of your lifestyle and to make you feel better. You do not have to prove yourself to anyone.
I will end with this ......... happy moving everyone!
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