The toughest thing to conquer is making a quality fitness routine a habit. It can be an overwhelming to think about getting 30-60 minutes of cardio 5 days/week, strength training the full body 2-3 days/week and on top of that stretching all the tight spots of your body for at least 1 minute each and every day – preferably at the end of your workout. Just thinking about it may make you feel discouraged. However, if you follow these tips, you may be successful in developing a realistic and attainable fitness strategy to incorporate into your daily life.
It’s easier to refine a habit than it is to start one. With that in mind, start by picking an easy habit to form and then refine it later. When it comes to forming a habit, there is arguably nothing more important than consistency. In other words, just do it and then do it again. Perfection is not the goal. In fact, in the beginning, mediocre is not even the goal. In the beginning, the goal is – at the bare minimum – to do something active. Simply do something active consistently. One of the best examples of this that we have at H3 is our morning Body Basics routine. This is a 6-minute strength routine using the resistance band that is a way to work your entire body every day. Do this first thing every morning just like brushing your teeth and this will become a habit. The only real rule with body basics is that as long the exercise doesn’t hurt your joints, keep doing it. Once the routine is built, the form can be refined later. Plus, this habit could grow into a more comprehensive routine down the road. Regardless, something is better than nothing, especially when done consistently.
One of the most powerful secrets to success is also one of the greatest barriers to success. And that is making exercise enjoyable. How do you make exercise enjoyable when you’ve never enjoyed it before? Or maybe you used to enjoy, but now it hurts too much.
A great way to cultivating enjoyment out of something is to first find appreciation for it. About 6 months ago a guest at H3 said to me, “nobody washes a rental car”. In other words, no one takes care of something if they don’t own it. My brother is actually a great example of this. I remember going to visit him at his studio apartment which he rented and every time I went there it was a mess. A few years back he became a first-time homeowner and I’ve never seen a house in better shape. Because it’s his and he’s invested in it, he now cares more and maybe even on some level enjoys taking care of it. So what about fitness? How do we develop an appreciation and maybe even a sense of ownership for something we have historically hated? It starts with Mindfulness.
Mindfulness in its simplest form is being present and aware in the moment. Mindful movement is being present with your body when it moves. Being aware of which muscles are working and which ones are relaxing. Being aware of what you feel and how you move affects what you feel. Mindfulness has an amazing ability to lead to curiosity. Curiosity can then lead to fascination. Before you know it, not only are you fascinated by how you move, but you may also be enjoying it. An added benefit to mindful movement is that you are less likely to get injured. An injury is a common reason for falling off the habit wagon. Use mindful movement to stay in tune with your body so you can stay happily in the game.
Sometimes we have great ideas for improving our lifestyles. For example, going for a 20-minute walk every day. What a great way to increase activity into your daily life. But what if that great idea gets forgotten.
You may be thinking that the solution to not forgetting is writing it down, and you would be right. Logging is a great way to stay adherent to a program. Having said that, another great way to make developing a fitness habit easier is to pair that activity with a current habit that has already been developed. For example, anyone who has been to H3 before is likely to know what a “thermal walk” is. A thermal walk is a 20-minute walk within 20 minutes of eating a meal. There are many benefits to the thermal walk concept, including the inherent reminder that eating gives you to go walking. For many, it is easier to develop a walking routine using the thermal walk concept because it becomes tied to a meal event instead of a stand alone habit.
KISS -Keep It Simple, Silly
One of the greatest barriers to fitness is the emotional feeling of “but it’s hard…”
The solution to this problem is KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly. Put together a program that is both physically and emotionally realistic for you. It can be easy to get caught up in an “all or nothing” attitude where everything is “on or off”, “yes or no”, “good or bad”. But the reality is life doesn’t work that way. As Bob Wright says, there are “degrees of on”. Just because the exercise guidelines suggest 5 days/week of 30-60 minutes of cardio is optimum, does not mean you are a failure if you are currently doing 2 days/week. Because you could have done 0 that week. Two days was a “degree of on”. It was also simple, realistic, and respectful to your level of physical and emotional readiness. The simpler your program is, the more likely you are to adhere to it. And remember, it’s easier to refine a habit than it is to start one. So don’t worry about being perfect. Just start. Progress will come.