This week’s Body Love Tip may seem very simple (and obvious), but it most definitely isn’t easy for many people – which is why I’m sharing with you how to:
Make fitness a habit
I know that this isn’t easy because it used to be my biggest struggle!
I used to HATE exercise, and it was never a goal of mine to make it a habit! But I knew I “should” do it, because it would help me to “fix” my physical “imperfections”, so my goal was always just to get through an exercise program without dying of boredom.
I rarely succeeded.
Year after year, I would donate to gyms: paying monthly memberships to facilities that I rarely attended beyond my first month. And I know I’m not unique – I’ve heard countless similar stories from other women (and have seen the statistics on gym memberships vs. actual gym-goers)!
But over the past 10 years, I’ve managed to change my relationship with exercise, as I changed my relationship with my body. I no longer see it as a chore or a bore. Instead, it’s an integral part of my self-care every day that I actually look forward to, and that I truly miss when I don’t incorporate it into my schedule (which is now a rare occasion).
So how did I go from total non-exerciser/gym-donor to a fitness enthusiast who’s currently training for a marathon?
Simple. I learned to transform my mindset around exercise. Which is what I’m happy to share with you!
Here are 4 key things to do to make fitness a fun & consistent habit:
1) Consider it more than physical.
The problem is that too many people see exercise as something we do purely for a physical result – and this is where our lack of commitment comes in: like with so many other programs, especially in the “weight loss” arena, we’re programmed to want immediate results, to see change right away. And since fitness for most people can take a while to build (we literally need to break down our body in order to build a stronger version of it!), we can give up easily if we don’t see the immediate physical change we’re looking for.
But there is a benefit that we CAN get immediately from exercise: a boost in mental and emotional health. In fact, I personally don’t even see exercise for its physical benefit anymore. Sure, I enjoy seeing my physical body get stronger and leaner month after month, year after year (from consistency) – but I know that it’s had even more of an impact on my emotional and mental health. So that’s what actually keeps me consistently engaged in it!
When we’re doing any activity that gets us moving and breathing, we’re releasing endorphins: the absolute best natural feel-good chemicals. They’re already inside us, available to us anytime we need them – we just need to activate them! Exercise is the absolute best way to do this.
The problem is that whenever we feel down, lazy, and “not in the mood” for exercise, this is when we need it even more. Here’s a strategy that I use for those days, that may help you too: when you don’t feel like exercising, commit to doing just 5-10 minutes. You can give yourself permission to quit after that – but chances are, you’ll start to feel better emotionally right away, and want to keep going.
2) Choose something you love to do.
There is no “perfect” exercise for everybody. But there is a perfect activity for you right now (which may even change 6 months from now!) – based on your current level of fitness and your personal needs. And when you find something that you LOVE, you will reap the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of exercise even more!
Personally, running has become my activity of choice. I find it relaxing, meditative, and I even get some of my best, most creative ideas when I’m out running solo. It’s also helped me immensely with my breathing, which used to be extremely restricted and wasn’t helpful at all for managing stress. And I love swimming for the same reasons! I didn’t discover my love of running and swimming until I was well into adulthood, but once I found them, I found I was not only happier and more positive as a result, but I actually looked forward to doing them regularly!
I believe the reason many people don’t look forward to exercise is that they haven’t chosen the activity that’s right for them.
When everyone is so unique in their genetic makeup, as well as their personal needs and desires – why would it make sense that everyone would benefit from one outlet: the gym? Don’t get me wrong, gyms are fantastic for some people (the approx. 20% of members who actually attend them on a regular basis), but I don’t believe they’re the right outlet for everyone.
There’s literally something for everyone: every fitness level, every personality, every body type. The key is to find the activity that’s right for YOU so that you’ll want to do it several times a week. You want something that will keep you interested – not just something that you know you can do, or that you know you’re good at.
You also need to find the right motivation for you.
Do you like a challenge? Friendly competition? The feeling of accomplishment for completing something? For myself, to keep interested in an activity, I need to feel constantly challenged. Though I love running, simply loving it isn’t always enough motivation for me to get out and run on a consistent schedule. So I register and train for races (as do many runners!) – because there’s always a challenge with them, as I work on increasing distance (this will be my first ever marathon) and speed.
What do you LOVE to do? What MOTIVATES you to do it? These are critical questions to keep you consistently interested and engaged in your fitness.
3) Ask for support to prioritize it.
This is a big one for us MOMS. I’ve learned that there will NEVER be enough time in a day to do everything that we want to do. For many people, exercise is one of those activities that there is never enough time for.
Between work, family and social commitments – where is there time left for exercise? Answer: Wherever you make the time.
That’s why, to simply say “prioritize it”, wouldn’t be enough. If you have family/children commitments, it can be extremely difficult to prioritize your fitness without help. So we need to ASK for it. Whether it’s childcare, help with other household responsibilities, or simply encouragement to get our butts out the door – we will be much more likely to get our fitness on when we have support.
There was a time, when I was a single parent to my baby girl – a time when I absolutely needed the emotional benefits of exercise more than ever – when it would have been physically and logistically impossible to have any form of exercise in my life without help. So I asked for support from family and close friends, and I got it. And it helped to keep me sane.
There’s ALWAYS a way to make room for fitness in your life – sometimes it means being very creative, and giving other things up in favour of it. But it will most definitely involve asking for support – especially if you want to stick with it over the long-term. And it will always be worth it.
4) Plan it – in writing.
Once you prioritize it, you actually have to plan it, because 9 times out of 10, it we don’t write it down, we can easily overlook or forget about it. I sought expert advice on marathon training so that I could plan my workouts accordingly – and I literally put them into my daily planner.
When we write things out by hand, we’re not just integrating it into our schedules, we’re also integrating it into our minds.
Using an electronic calendar just doesn’t have this same effect. Plus, it’s way too easy to close a pop-up reminder without reading it (because they’re terribly interruptive)! For me, planning my week in advance on paper, with all appointments, meetings and commitments – and adding my workouts as part of it, is critically important to actually integrating fitness into my life. I also look at my written calendar every day so I don’t forget.
The key is to make it a non-negotiable appointment with yourself (or your trainer, or you dance class, or running group – whatever it is that you choose!) – and not just a “nice-to-do-if-there’s-time” item.
These four things have been my no-fail approach to fitness and I’ve enjoyed experiencing progress (and giving up perfection!) along the way, working out because it makes me feel better (not because I’m trying to fix anything!), and continuing to find new ways of challenging myself and having more and more fun with it all the time.
With these 4 tips in your back pocket, I have no doubt that fitness can become a regular – and fun – part of your life too!
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