What prompted me to write this article is that of late, I realised that people do not have a clue as to how exactly to start an exercise habit. It is easier said than done since it is a lifestyle change that one is contemplating for his/her life. Since I too have sailed the same boat I thought of addressing this topic to see how many might actually start of on a new empowering habit.
New research has repeatedly pointed to a lack of exercise as the number one reason for all Lifestyle diseases. Add unhealthy habits and bad food habits and many people are walking the road of self destruction. I am aware that starting a new habit is not easy and the need of the hour is a tremendous shift in our mindset. Let me first try to decipher what the problem could be and then get to the solution at a later stage.
Make it Too difficult:
People set out with a lot of enthusiasm and start out with a big goal. They tend to decide that they will go to the gym for an hour every day for 6 days in a week which might sound good but sustaining it in the long run is not for the fainthearted. You might do it for a few days but over a period of time you tend to feel demotivated and perplexed.
Too many Goals:
Most of us do tend to work on too many goals at the same time like hitting the gym, doing cardio stations, eating healthy, avoiding sweets etc… Now what this does is the opposite of empowering you. Most of us tend to get overwhelmed at the sheer number of things we need to work on and the enthusiasm will fizzle out. Imagine you are trying to juggle one ball at a time which is pretty easy but when you add a couple to the one you are already juggling then our focus gets compromised and ultimately one tends to lose everything.
Lack of motivation:
It is not discipline but the lack of motivation which is the number one reason for people not to get into an exercise habit. If one works on his/her motivation level then the discipline will eventually fall in place.
So how does one overcome this with something simple and practical?
Set one easy measurable goal:
The idea is to set one goal and work at it diligently. It might be going for a walk in the morning for 4 days a week or even going for a 15 minute walk every day after lunch with an office pal. What this does is it sets the pace and making it a long term habit is something that will be that much easier. Work on a time where you would never miss, like say something first thing in the morning or after lunch/dinner. The more specific you are with the time and exercise your planning will eventually bring the purpose. Once this is done write down the Goal with as much as clarity you can envision say like which days or the week, time, place and duration of the exercise. I have said this before that there is magic when one writes down the desired Goals and outcome.
Log the exercise:
This is one of the simplest things one can do and with all kinds of smart phones people carrying, one can download an App which will do the rest. The idea is to record the activities you are doing. You will start to see the progress which will then motivate you. Just ensure that you log the activity everyday and not make it complicated. Just recording the time, duration and how you felt doing the exercise will give you a good reference point for the rainy days ahead.
Report it to others:
Making yourself accountable is the key. This might be a spouse, friend, coach or even an office colleague. With technology at our fingertips it might not be that much a challenge to ensure people who matter to you the most are updated daily on your progress. However set it up and make it a daily habit to ensure that you do not miss on a single day. I personally feel that this is very empowering and clients of mine who swear by this habit look forward to writing down their achievements. There is a sense of accountability that it does brings to the table. When you share with people, be sure that they know about your goals and are care about you to follow up on you. Well if you do not have anybody then it is time to avail the services of a Life or a Wellness Coach.
Add motivation as needed:
Usually the first three steps should be enough for most of you to develop a simple exercise habit. However if you do happen to miss out on two consecutive days of workouts then immediately get into the why and use any external motivator if required for you to restart the habit. External motivators might be watching a movie, reading a book or even following me on my fan page. The idea is to stick with the habit whatever it takes. If you need to add a couple of motivators, go ahead but get back to the exercise habit immediately. There is power in momentum and this should be used in continuing with an exercise habit. Once you make this a habit for say a month or two then you can always add on a few more challenges based on your goals and outcomes.