Two years after turning 35 I realized that if I wanted to prolong my life, have mood stability, and prevent steady weigh gain – I have to start exercising regularly. I realized my days of cutting out carbs and going for walks to shed a few holiday pounds are gone. I needed to start regular cardiovascular exercise with strength/resistance training – and I have to do it regularly. Otherwise my risk of heart disease, diabetes, being unhappy and feeling less confident in my body go up, way up. As a skeptic of the diet and fitness industry, this was a hard truth to accept. Currently, I am about 40 days into building a lifelong exercise habit that will (hopefully) carry into my 40s, and I will write about what I learned in this series.
The mental preparation required for a six month+ commitment is completely different than a short term one. In order to make the exercise habit stick, it became a matter of weathering uncertainty and motivating myself 180 days in a row. I am still hoping that after six months, the habit will form and it will be much easier to just do my thing without having to motivate myself or be mindful of it on a daily basis.
I am currently 42 days into the process, and I have already learned a few things that I think have kept me going so far. I started the process by breaking up the six months into 9 chunks of approximately 20 days. I have marked the end of each set into my calendar as a reminder to reflect and readjust as needed.
Goal for first 20 days was to just get started and aim to exercise 20 days in a row. I felt that if I can come close to my set 1 goal, I would be well on my way.
I started on December 30th and set a target of at least 30 minutes everyday – with 45 minutes being the ideal. The decision was to make exercise a priority – what that means is if I had a competing priority, I would delay that until I have completed my 30 -45 minutes.
1. The key for the first 20 days was to plan ahead. I made sure my exercise clothes and shoes were in a place that was visible. I made sure I was completing my workout as soon in the day I had 30 minutes available. I worked from home a bit more to allow myself the space to meet my 20 day goal. The day I had to go to the office and had dinner plans afterwards – I made sure to get a brisk 5K walk during the day.
2. I chose simple but personal goals to keep me motivated. I’ve read about people setting goals like running a 5K or doing a pull up to keep themselves motivated. In my opinion, the goals are most effective if they are personally meaningful. Mine were:
- Fit into a dress I bought in my size for a specific occasion that stretched a bit uncomfortably in parts.
- Do two rounds of “the twist” without getting winded.
First one is obvious- I used outfits I bought that were too tight to motivate myself to keep exercising. The second was a life long “goal” of dancing throughout the Twist portion of a party without getting tired. Both goals were super fun, relatively easy and satisfying to achieve.
3. Finally, I had a select few people that I committed to – people who didn’t care if I “failed” but were impressed with my success. Sometime it can be self defeating to have too much encouragement or accountability. The six commitment demands fun and enjoyment – otherwise it’s too hard. So I picked a handful of people that know how to support in an easy going way. And just told them of my daily progress.
Voila! Now I am into my set 2 (currently battling a cold – bit of a setback) but fully ready to resume once I feel better!
Check out the following posts where I get more into the 3 components of building the Exercise habit: