You’ve started exercising – that’s awesome! Do you know how to keep working out?
WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?
This will take some trial and error – identify what you like to do, how you can easily measure progress, and discover what trips you up.
When you’re early in establishing physical activity in your life, it’s either:
Exhilarating, and you want to go full-force, so you set goals for yourself that are really intense, leading to quick burnout, or
A drag, and you keep thinking “I can’t” and give up quickly, or
No big deal, you are just squeezing more movement into your life and not much else has changed, and you eventually forget about it, or
Making you feel optimistic that you can do this, but you still have all your other priorities competing for your time and energy.
I’m sure there are many others, but you get the idea, the direction your thoughts go will dictate what happens next. Let’s look at each scenario:
This Rocks! Wait… What Happened?
I’ve done this one so many times. Something triggers me to get going, and I’m all in! I’m thinking “My life is going to be this way from now on! I’m going to get in the best shape of my life before (insert event or milestone)“. I workout hard for maybe five days in a week, get sweaty and sore, and think “I just have to figure out how to keep this up and I’ll be good.”
Next thing I know, reality sets in (again). This seems to happen sooner each time, too. One of the biggest problems with my approach has been that “I just have to figure it out” part. On what planet does an intentional, dramatic lifestyle change happen without a plan? None that I’ve ever been to. Does this mean I should plan the all-out pattern I started with? Well, my family and other responsibilities would say “um, no”. Needless to say, this is not the recipe for how to keep working out.
Ugh, What Was I Thinking?
Starting to exercise when you really weren’t motivated, or with the wrong mindset usually leads to this thought, pretty fast. This can happen when you started doing something that wasn’t enjoyable for you, you placed unreasonable expectations on yourself, or your mind and heart weren’t in it for the right reasons.
I have memories of joining a gym when I first moved to a new city, and probably went two or three times during my whole membership. It turned out the drive to get there was a major hassle, and honestly, the facility’s offerings weren’t enough of what I needed to overcome that hassle. I assumed I would use it regularly and maybe make some friends, but learned pretty quickly that isn’t very easy for introverts like myself.
In a previous life, I had gone to step aerobics classes and had a blast, so I kept going back. I needed to remember that lesson. So, I made two rules for myself after this experience in the new city: If I’m going to join a gym, the drive there needs to be reasonable. Also, I need to enjoy the facility. If the equipment isn’t what I like to use, and if there are no group exercise classes, I simply won’t like going – so I shouldn’t waste my money and create frustration for myself.
I also need to keep my reason for exercising clear. The times it’s been simply “I need to lose weight and look good” and expecting it to start working right away have never worked. This is not the best recipe either, it’s missing quite a few ingredients. But I bet you already knew that, didn’t you?
I’ll Just Move a Little Bit Every Now and Then
You’re probably thinking “Isn’t that what you say we should do?”. Well, yes and no. Without being deliberate about moving more and aiming to build yourself up, you will very quickly forget about it and it will fall apart. The key to the strategy of integrating movement into your life needs two important parts: 1. Having a clear and meaningful reason that motivates you down the road, and 2. effort.
Integrating movement into your life doesn’t mean no effort, you also need to put a little energy behind it, going at least a bit above your regular activity level. Now, we all know the story of the tortoise and the hare – the tortoise won, right? He sure did! But, remember the key here is persistence and determination (to reach a goal), not being slow. So pick up the pace and be more like a sea turtle if you want to build and grow. Definitely smell some flowers along the way, but don’t let them cause your routine to flop. Keep your eye on the prize, whatever that is!
I Can Do This, But It Will Take Discipline
Shoot for this one! People who have the most confidence in staying active have several things in common: They plan ahead, prepare in advance for obstacles, find something they like to do, and stick to the activity that’s most rewarding. This will take some trial and error – identify what you like to do, how you can easily measure progress, and discover what trips you up. Have patience in the beginning! Consider figuring out your process as the first goal if you have to.
Becoming an active person takes will, hope, good planning, and a decision to make your health and happiness a priority. There are no quick fixes, but don’t let that discourage you! With anything else worth doing, the greater the effort, the greater the reward. Remember that. Once you’ve got that down, go for the good stuff and start to feel better!
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