True confession time. I’ve been a yo-yo exerciser for most of my adult life. Does this sound familiar? You decide to start a new exercise regime only to eventually stop until you start up again. It’s the same as yo-yo dieting right? The ALL OR NOTHING mentality. You either work out hard, or you don’t at all. Looking back I realized that whenever I stopped working out for more than two days in a row that’s when I got into trouble. I FELL OUT OF THE HABIT. If I went three days in a row without moving my bod that’s when my workout hiatus officially kicked off.
As a health coach I’m a bit obsessed with studying human behavior and more specifically our habits. What makes us start a healthy (or unhealthy) habit, and what makes us stop?
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle
One of my favorite Ted Talks on habit is from Stanford professor, Dr. BJ Fogg:
I used this basic method when my boy and I decided to commit to working out together. More on this here. Our plan was to commit to the Tiny Habit working out just 20 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week. It worked for the most part. My son has since gone on to play lacrosse and golf and he is now in the habit of including exercise and moving into his daily routine. I on the other hand lasted nine months until I repeatedly injured my back and ended up in physical therapy. That was my excuse. I could have CHANGED MY HABIT to walking, but that was an entirely new habit and that’s where I got derailed.
I decided I needed more of a FRAMEWORK to make exercise a LIFELONG HABIT.
This BRILLIANT ARTICLE from James Clear really helped me with this framework. He shows how having a system in place is more important than having a goal….in the long run. Here’s his example of the difference between GOALS and SYSTEMS:
“If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.”
We need SYSTEMS to create a lifelong habit, not a goal. It’s our systems that support our habits. So, keeping in mind the teachings of Dr. BJ Fogg and James Clear here are my…
TIPS TO TURN EXERCISE INTO A LIFELONG HABIT:
MAKE A DECLARATION TO YOURSELF “I am a chic who works out.” When we do this we change the way we see ourselves. It sounds simple but give it a try. It’s more powerful than you think. How you see yourself is the first step towards permanent change.
START SMALL Everyone can find 20 minutes out of their day. Think Tiny Habits.
HAVE A SYSTEM My system is I move my body (walking, weights, floor exercises) a minimum of 20 minutes a day, six days a week. Period. I almost always do more but that’s my minimum rule and commitment to myself.
MAKE A NON-NEGOTIABLE APPOINTMENT WITH YOURSELF This is an appointment that cannot be cancelled. You don’t break appointments at work or having to do with your kids due to the consequences right? Well the same applies here. The consequence? Your health. The payment? Priceless. You can’t put a price on your health.
PLAN OUT YOUR WEEK You need to plan the when, where and what of your workout ahead of time. For example: We’re going out of town this weekend. So, on Friday morning I need to workout before we leave. Saturday will most likely be my ‘day off’ due to the day involved and Sunday I’ll go for a walk or workout in the hotel gym before returning home.
MAKE YOUR WORKOUT SPACE (OR EXPERIENCE) BECKON TO YOU I don’t workout in a gym so we turned a spare room into a workout space.
- I turn the heat on in my workout space before I start so it’s nice and cozy and inviting.
- I can shut the door which means no kids, no interruptions. Just. Me. Time.
- I watch my favorite new show on my iPad (House of Cards) while I’m doing cardio.
- I do my floor work on my bright yoga mat that cheers me up just to look at it.
- If I’m going for a walking workout I listen to my favorite jam or a book I look forward to reading (check out Audible).
- Try catching up with a friend while taking a walk instead of meeting for a drink.
PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK EVERY TIME Give yourself a shout out. “Great job Wonder Woman!” Practicing positive self talk is the first step towards changing your mindset around who you are and how you see yourself. You are a babe who works out! Right?!
YOU’RE A BETTER WIFE, MOM, SISTER, DAUGHTER, FRIEND WHEN YOU WORKOUT You’re happier (hello endorphins) and as a result a better person to those you love so how’s that for incentive? I didn’t even mention healthier and leaner, but hey, that’s just a given 😉
So, what’s your system and plan? I’d love to know.