It’s funny that so many of us are trying to establish regular exercise habits at the beginning of the year when it’s freezing cold. In my native South Carolina our winters are mild, but even still, venturing outside when it’s chilly and grey isn’t appealing. Exercise really has to be a habit in order for us to stick to it during the dregs of winter. So how do you make exercise a habit? How do you add it to your routine in such a way that you can’t bow out?
First of all, set realistic expectations. Don’t go from inactivity to saying you’re going to exercise five days per week. It’s not gonna happen.
“People who intend to exercise a lot, such as four or more times a week, are more likely not to meet those intentions,” Ryan Rhodes, a professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Victoria in British Columbia who studies exercise intention and compliance said to The New York Times.
Next up, be who you are. I’m a morning person so if I don’t get my yoga and meditation done in the morning, it’s not going to happen. The same was true when I was a runner. I had to get it out of the way in the morning. My husband, on the other hand, sleeps late, so for him, fitting in a jog after work is the most realistic. Some people don’t have time in the morning or the afternoon so for them taking a walk at lunch or spending 30 minutes climbing the stairs at their office building may be a better plan. Be honest about who you are as a person so you can find a regular exercise routine that you can stick to so much so that you don’t even think about it.
That brings me to another point: Do what makes you happy. My friend called me the other day trying to convince me to go to a barre class. I said, “No thank you, that’s not really my kind of workout.” And she responded with “It’s not my kind of workout either. I don’t enjoy it but it’s a good workout.”
While you might be able to do something you don’t like for a few weeks, you'll never be able to make it a habit. I’ve stuck with yoga for 7 years because I love it. I crave it. Some people love running and others love cycling. If you spend enough time, you too can find an athletic activity that draws you in. This way you’re much more likely to stick to the program and see results. You won’t be one of those people that resolves to run a marathon and quits within the first month. Make it a habit so you can stick to the program.
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Image: Ed Yourdon