It's a lot like spring around here and my usually pretty deserted walk routes are busy with other walkers, runners, bikers, and the like. This too shall pass. While the numbers will not go as low as in winter months, my fellow sidewalk occupants will again decrease once the initial motivation of spring weather passes.
I am here for those of you who tend to do just that: start a walking, running, or exercise program as soon as the nice weather hits and then after a couple of weeks, fall off your routine and sink back into old activities and habits. How to avoid falling off?
1. Make a list of all the ways that your exercise program does and will make your life better. But, don't stop there. Once you've made the list, make sure it is stronger than your reasons for not exercising. A good example of what I am trying to get at here is smoking cessation. Many folks trying to quit make a list of all the reasons they want to quit and there are many of them. There might only be a few or even one reason not to quit, but if that one reason to keep smoking is stronger and more powerful than the 20 reasons to quit, attempts to quit will fail.
2. Get emotional about it! Strength and conviction comes from strong emotions. Notice and really focus on how happy you are after a walk or a run. Remind yourself of this great feeling all day as often as you can. The more you connect to the positive, the less you connect to the challenges and difficulties of sticking with your program. Tell people about it. Write it in a journal. Sing a song about it..... Now, if you aren't feeling positive emotions, then you might be doing the wrong exercise for you, or you might be taking it into a level that's too challenging. make it something you feel good about, start there and move up gradually.
3. Stop trying to invoke willpower. Willpower is really not very powerful for probably more than 90% of us. Most of us can not will ourselves to do something or motivate ourselves to do something, so stop trying. Instead, use the techniques listed here and stop talking about yourself as if you had no willpower. Connecting to the positives and the emotional reaction that comes from them, will motivate you more than willpower ever could.
4. Make it fun. Again, you will feel positive and stick with it, if it is fun. Ideas: make it social and invite friends, listen to fun books or podcasts, add challenges like stops at parks along the way, bring your dog and throw the Frisbee, create a meeting at the end of the walk where you laugh with a friend, or make it a destination in which you complete an errand or task that needs doing (I get immense satisfaction from killing 2 birds with 1 stone).
5. Think about the whole picture. When we exercise we release hormones. Some of them make some of us feel great, some of them make us feel some anxiety, some of them literally change the relationship the brain and body have. So, experiment with yourself! If after 2 weeks of walking daily, you miss your walk, do you feel the change? What change are you feeling? After a 30 minute jog, do you feel anxious? What's happening to your sleep? Your appetite? Your sex life? Pay attention to all of it! All of it will affect your health and your well-being. Don't have a one track mind toward weight loss or toward fitness. If exercise makes you sleep better, studies show that good sleep helps you lose weight, stay more mentally stable, enjoy others and much, much more! There may be an amazing chain reaction to look forward to, if you just keep yourself open-minded!
6. Make it part of your identity. It's easy for us to say negative things about ourselves, to call ourselves fat or out of shape or unhealthy or whatever and it becomes automatic and part of how we think of our identity. So do the same with your new exercise regime. I am a walker, I am a runner, I am in shape. Make these statements part of how you see yourself.
7. Get some help. Some of us think exercise looks one way and when we find ourselves unable to do that one thing, we get stuck and can't re-focus, then quit. This is when you need help. You may need some coaching or counseling or you may need someone creative to work with your unique-ness and create a great program for you!
How will you get out there this spring and stay out there for summer, fall, and winter!?