Because I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not intentionally prioritize physical activity, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to build a habit that won’t be broken. Working with clients for almost forty years has also taught me how to help individuals become active people who know how to care for themselves. Doing so meant that we had to figure out, together, how to overcome all kinds of obstacles. Here are some things I’ve learned:
- Consistency is king! Doing just a little (10 minutes) and often (daily or several times a day) is the best way to make movement a regular part of your day. Especially when you don’t feel like it, you can remind yourself that it’s only 10 minutes and get out the door. Then, once the habit is established, you can extend the time as your body and schedule allow.
- Choose an activity that is easy to do and doesn’t require considerable effort to begin. For many people, walking fits the bill.
- Listen to your body and go with how you feel that day. If you are tired or sore, take it easy. Work at a pace that does not feel torturous. If you feel more energetic, push yourself to a speed or a resistance that challenges you but feels good! (Sometimes it feels great to work harder than you normally do!) Forcing your body to work hard (like a drill sergeant would) when you aren’t ready for it can build a negative association with exercise that is hard to undo.
- Commit to having fun or at least make your time as enjoyable as possible. Enjoy nature; exercise with a friend; listen to great music; talk to God; think about what you are grateful for; listen to a podcast or book on tape.
- Try new activities as time allows. Turn your walk into a nature hike on the weekend. Try snowshoeing in the winter. How about a dance class (online or in-person)? Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or hard to “count.”
- Take your kids with you! (I did this for many years.) We had baby backpacks, jogging strollers, bike trailers…you name it. This strategy not only increases the intensity of the exercise but also teaches your children that exercise is important.
- Be active during the day as much as you can. Walk to do errands. Climb the stairs in your home regularly (rather than piling stuff on the bottom of the stairs). Get a standing desk to cut down on the amount of time you sit at the computer.
- Take control of your thoughts and learn to manage the words that you speak over yourself. Replace thoughts or comments like, “What’s the point? You are never going to get in shape” with “You can do this! You’re doing great!” Learn to be your own best cheerleader.
If you are struggling to make exercise a priority or are suffering from poor mental or physical health and would like some help building healthy habits, contact me to set up an appointment. I’d love to support you! firstname.lastname@example.org