I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to establish a regular exercise program that I can stick with, and that will fold neatly into my ever-changing schedule. I have been successful for periods of time only to drop off when circumstances intrude. You might say that’s just an excuse, and you may be right, but even so it does sometimes seem easy to let exercise go when other things require your time. You go along on schedule and then an unexpected event occurs that throws you off track, and before you know it, you’ve stopped exercising.
I decided to go at it this time by first listing all of the impediments that usually get in the way of continuing with a program I have started.
Here’s my list:
- It takes too long to carry out the program I’ve set up. It’s just too ambitious.
- I don’t always have the energy I need.
- If I am supposed to exercise three times a week (which seems reasonable), I seem to resist it some days and end up putting it off with the intention of picking it up the next day, which rarely works.
- I’ve got too many things on my plate today. It’s inconvenient.
- It takes away my small “me” time I’ve carved out for the week.
- It interferes with family time.
- It interferes with my sleep if I decide to do it early in the morning.
- It’s impossible to do after work.
After I made this list, I thought about what I could do that would avoid or circumvent all of these obstacles.
I decided I needed something that wouldn’t take much time, which for me would be 15 or 20 minutes. That ruled out going to the gym. I wanted something I could always get in during the morning hours, but without getting up a lot earlier. It needed to be something that wouldn’t be too physically taxing, at least until I got in the swing of it and decided I wanted to do more. Lastly, it needed to be everyday so that there was no possibility of putting it off to another day. In short, it needed to be in the morning, fast, fairly easy, every day, and not require getting up a lot earlier or going to the gym.
What fits that? I came up with walking a mile a day.
I got in my car and mapped out a mile in my neighborhood, and for testing, walked it. It took about 17 minutes. I didn’t walk too fast, needless to say.
Next I figured out where that 17 minutes could be taken out of my morning routine, and I tied it to things I already do. I decided that the best time for me would be right after I feed my dogs and take them out, and just before a shower. (Side note: my dogs are too old to walk a mile or I would take them with me.)
Now the time is set, the route is set, the trigger activity (feed the dogs) is set, and I am ready. Next step was to make a pact with myself that I would do this for 30 days without a miss. Why 30? Because research has proven that’s the magic number to establish a new habit. Once you’ve done something for 30 days in a row, your brain doesn’t have to expend much energy to keep it going. It goes on autopilot. It is scheduled in. There is little to no resistance left to counteract.
How Did it Work?
It worked really great!
The first week required some additional energy to do it because it was a new habit, and I had to plan and push through any residual resistance I had after feeding the dogs, but because the time I needed was only 17 minutes, it was pretty easy to counteract the resistance and get out there to walk. It’s only 17 minutes!
By week two, I was starting to really enjoy it. I was noticing the trees, birds, squirrels and other life on the path. I also noticed that I was having some interesting thoughts while walking. Creative ones mostly, and sometimes finding solutions to things I was mentally working on. In fact I got the idea for writing this blog on those walks.
By week three I was looking forward to it everyday and anticipating it with enthusiasm. No resistance left at all. Not only that, my creaky knee was feeling better and I was enjoying the rest of my day more once I was done.
Week four! Habit has been established. Bravo! On the weekends, I find myself walking longer and really enjoying it, although I have not changed the minimum of one mile and most days, one mile is all I get in. Over a year, that will be 352 miles! Awesome!!
The benefits are many and increasing as I go. To name them so far, they are:
- More energy in the day, especially the first four hours after walking.
- A reduction in stress.
- A sense of accomplishment.
- Happiness that I am taking care of myself and watching out for my health.
- A desire to eat better.
- A desire to establish another new and great habit, because this one has been successful.
- Happier knees!
- Encouragement to loose some weight.
I’m sure there will be more benefits as time goes, and I’ll let you know about them.
What About You?
Your turn now. Do you have a new habit you want to develop? If so, share with us.