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Have Trouble Sticking with Exercise?

I don’t know about you, but I find it near impossible to stick with a regular exercise routine no matter how hard I try. I’m in awe of those people that hit the gym every day or every other day without a miss. Kudos to you! You have my undying admiration!

The closest I’ve come to that is going three times a week for about a month, and then something intrudes, and that’s it. Done.

So I decided to try again, but this time I did something different and it worked! So I’m passing it along in case you have the same problem, and need new strategy.

The Obstacles

First thing I did was make a list all the obstacles that seem to get in the way and sabotage my good intentions.

Here’s my list:

  • It takes too much time to complete the exercise routine 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 happens.
  • 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. I’m whipped by that time.

The Solutions

After I made this list, I thought about what I could do that would avoid or circumvent all these impediments.

  • 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.
  • And, it needed to be everyday so there was no possibility of putting it off to the next 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 squeezed into my morning routine.

I decided that the best time 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.) Since I waste time in the morning, i. e. sitting in bed with coffee for much longer than needed, I figured the squeeze in wouldn’t be that difficult. We’re talking 20 minutes, right?

Now the time was set, the route was set, the trigger activity (feed the dogs) was set, and I was 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’s little to no resistance left to counteract.

Note: I’m not sure that’s absolutely true because some habits take longer than others to click in, but 30 days is a good start, so why not!

How Did it Work?

It worked really great!

Week #1

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!

Week #2

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.

Week #3

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 once I was done.

Week #4

The habit’s been established. Bravo! On the weekends, I find myself walking longer and really enjoying it, although I’ve 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!!

Now, I’ll tell you that once in awhile something interferes like heavy rain, getting sick, or some emergency type situation, but when that happens, I’m able to easily just get back on the horse and keep going the next day.

The Benefits

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, legs and back!
  • Encouragement to loose some weight.

I’m sure there’ll be more benefits as time goes on, and I’ll let you know about them!

So what about you? If you’re already a gym rat or runner or regular exercise junkie, my hats off to you. If not, why not try walking a mile a day, or if that’s too far, just walk a half mile. Ten minutes of walking once a day for a month. That would get you started, and help you keep going.

Let me know how it works, or if you’ve found something else that works better for you.

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