Few of us have an eternal, burning desire to get out there and work consistently at exercise. No matter how intellectually aware we are of the benefits of exercise, it can be very hard to get started and get to the point where you begin to see, feel and value those benefits. Truth is, properly applied physical activity will help anyone feel better, give us more energy, and increase the richness of our lives.
Everyone has experienced lack of motivation. There is always something “more important” that gets in the way. There is an abundance of distraction which can prevent us from taking intentional steps to prioritize exercise and doing work on your own behalf. These distractions can be as significant as driving your child to soccer practice to as insignificant as a new episode of Stranger Things. However, once you make exercising a priority, you will see the benefits begin to multiply and you will build the momentum and motivation to maintain your exercise habits.
The type of exercise you choose to do is your own. Whether you focus your efforts on a traditional gym routine or a lower-stress home routine, the development of motivation, dedication, and consistency is the same. As long as you are taking the time to correct against ailments of daily life, you are moving in the right direction.
This begins with a self inventory of what you need and what will make you successful. You need to ask yourself: Where do I need to change? What activity will give me enjoyment to propel my change? What has made me successful in the past and how can I implement that in my exercise routine? Once you get started, stick to what you know will make you successful. There are many strategies to self care but all of them require some core elements that have to come from you. As you force yourself to follow your self-care, it will eventually become a habit and incorporate itself into your daily life.
These seven simple ideas may help you gradually form better habits in physical activity:
1. Make time: We are all busy so taking the time to exercise is not always possible. But if you intentionally block off 30-60 minutes in your day, you make the time to exercise. Examine your calendar and fit it into your schedule.
2. Set an intention: There are a thousand reasons not to exercise so give yourself a good reason to exercise. Whether your goal is to run a marathon or be around for your grandkids, pick something that will keep you motivated on those days you don’t want to exercise. Intrinsic motivation will outlast any extrinsic motivators.
3. Look beyond the activity to the goal: Understand why you are doing the exercise in the first place. Yoga is a great exercise for relaxation and flexibility. Strength training builds muscle and is linked to longevity. Running is beneficial to your cardiovascular health and can give you a sense of accomplishment.
4. Set behavior change related goals: For example, if the goal is to lose weight, you need to establish small achievable and measurable habits that will get you to this goal. Some possible habits may include riding your bike to work 3 times a week, eliminating junk food for 4 weeks, and/or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
5. Schedule your activities in advance: Just like a dentist appointment or a business meeting, if it’s on the calendar you are more likely to attend and complete the activity. Give your exercise routine equal weight compared with other important elements of your life. After all, nothing in your life is more important than your own well being.
6. Don’t be a victim of your own life: It is easy to get caught up in the narrative that bad things happen to us and there is nothing to be done about it. But the opposite is true. You can make the change and take charge of your life. Look at the good things in your life and remind yourself you are lucky and are allowed to be better. Write yourself notes, use a mantra, and/or read a mission statement to yourself daily.
7. Make and accept no excuses: Develop awareness of your role in the process. You are fully in control of yourself and how to respond to the world. It is your choice to start. It is your choice to pause Netflix and go exercise. It is your choice to drink a glass of water instead of a can of soda.
Always remember, you have not failed until you stop trying!