How I Started and Kept My Exercising Habit (18 Years Ago)

How are the New Year’s Resolutions going?

If you said “Huh?,” you’re not alone.  I found these interesting statistics at statisticsbrain.com:

Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution 8%
Percent who have infrequent success 49%
Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year 24%
People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions

http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

According to this data, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution, with 49% with infrequent success and 24% who fail on their resolution each year.  However, notice the importance of making a resolution; it says you are 10x more likely to attain your goals if you do!

However, let us not be in category 3 where we make the same goal year after year!

I was inspired to write this post after watching Master Co’s February Full Moon Meditation video.  He always gives a lecture on a spiritual topic before leading a meditation.  I particularly liked his discussion of willpower.  He was talking about sticking to a meditation schedule:

“When it comes to spiritual practice, the secret is not love.  It’s will.”

This is what that means to me: we sometimes confuse being loving toward ourselves with letting ourselves off the hook in doing what we know is right and healthy for us.

For instance, I make a plan to exercise regularly and after a few days, it goes out the window.  I am advised to be kind to myself, so I relax about it and don’t push myself with the result that I don’t exercise much, if at all.  This is not the intention of that advice to be kind to ourselves!  Or if it is, it shouldn’t be!

We are to be loving and forgiving toward ourselves as opposed to beating ourselves up when we miss a workout or don’t meditate as we planned.  That doesn’t mean we change our goals or stop trying to achieve them.

Achieving goals takes willpower.  You can be willful in achieving your goals and kind to yourself at the same time!  But if you are kind without will, you simply won’t make it to the gym or the meditation room.

Master Co also says in the video students ask him all the time for advice or a trick on sticking to their meditation schedule.  He says there is no trick.  There is no technique.  You just do it.

There are so many situations where we massively over complicate things, and this is one of them.  We will read every article on the Internet about working out before we actually walk outside and go for a run.  We will read and study how to create a habit without doing that thing we want to be habitual more than a couple of times!

You DO have to do things in life you don’t like that much.  Yes, I am stating the obvious.  But have you applied that fact to your exercise or meditation schedule?  Sometimes it’s the obvious that we avoid.

(If you are reading this, thinking about exercising, stop reading now.  Put on a grubby old t-shirt and sweatpants, and go jogging outside.  Not in shape?  Jog until you can’t anymore, then walk.  When you have recovered, jog again, and repeat the process for 30 min.  Come back home, take a shower, and finish this post :))

I was looking back this morning and realized I have been exercising regularly for almost 20 years.  I joined a gym at 16 and, aside from a few breaks, I have pretty much been exercising a few times a week since then, though I will freely admit it’s less frequent than before I had a baby.  Do I love going to the gym?  Heck no!  I do it because I care about being healthy–and yes, looking good–and exercise is simply required.

Naturally, it will help if you find something you like at least a little.  When the weather is decent, I go for a run outside, and I do enjoy that a lot.  The gym isn’t the greatest, but it’s easy, they have everything there, and at this time in my life, the childcare is more than useful as well.

So how did I ingrain this habit into my life?

Do it every day for 3-4 weeks.  Every. Single. Day.

Extreme?  No.  I am not suggesting you run a marathon every day.  If your goal is exercise, just do SOME amount of exercise every single day for 3-4 weeks.

Here’s why:  When you do something every day, you don’t ask yourself each morning if you will do it that day.  If your plan is to exercise 3x/week, it is way too easy to see that there are 7 days in a week so you can always start the next day.  Procrastination is extremely easy.  Pretty soon the week is done and you have exercised once or twice.  The next week, you’ll be lucky if you get there at all.

When the plan is every day for 4 weeks, it simply silences excuses and stops procrastination in its tracks.  There are no mind games with yourself.  It’s so simple, it works.  By the time the 3-4 weeks is up, you are so used to going to the gym (or whatever the new habit is), you feel positively weird when you don’t.  I know, because this is how I did it!

You will also learn that even when you are tired, in a bad mood, had to put in extra hours at work, had a bad latte, or whatever else happened that would have otherwise thrown you off and made you put it off, you can still make it to the gym.  You can still do what you need to do, and these small things in life are really just excuses.  So when you do create a schedule for yourself later that may only be 4x a week or whatever, when you are stuck in extra traffic on the way home from work, it doesn’t turn into an easy excuse not to go.

Some of those workouts might be ridiculously short or simple, but that’s ok.  It absolutely counts.  If your workout is at the gym, all you have to do is go and make sure you do something for 10 or 15 min.  That’s your minimum.  You are ingraining the routine into your life as long as you are going, and that’s your only goal right now!

It works the same for meditation.  When the question changes from, “should I meditate today?” To “when will I meditate today?” you are miraculously fitting it in.  You have to change the question you ask yourself!

Master Co also said in a class, “You don’t practice spirituality when you feel like it.”  I wrote that down, typed it up later and printed it out in big bold letters.  Then I hung it on my bedroom wall.

If you miss a day, you still don’t beat yourself up.  If you beat yourself  up, it’s so damaging and disheartening, you won’t continue.  Why would you, with such abuse from a simple mistake?  That is key.  Notice you missed a workout, figure out how to prevent it the next time, and then just literally forget about it.  Next day, keep going with the plan.  There is no other way, and I don’t care how fancy/exotic/exciting people make their plans or their tricks come across.  In the end, you are either doing it or not.

By the way, when you start exercising, the biggest hurdle is not learning all the things you “need to know” about how to work out or lift weights.  That stuff is so ridiculously easy and simple compared to your first task of simply getting to the gym or outdoors to exercise daily in the first place.  Don’t procrastinate yet again by telling yourself you need to learn more first, you need to learn how to workout, you need to learn the best workout first.  You DON’T.  It doesn’t matter if you are doing hopscotch for 10 minutes some of those times, as long as you are doing something!

Putting a new routine in place is difficult, and remember that the hardest part is (unfortunately) the first step you have to take, which is creating the new routine.  It can be incredibly hard!  But once you have that down, the rest is so easy.  Then you can study about what workout is best for you and tweak your routine.

You are not hurting yourself to push yourself.  You are not being unkind to yourself to aim high and force yourself to achieve a goal you know is good for you!  We’re not talking about pushing yourself to do 2 hours on the treadmill here!  Just pushing yourself to move your body every day until it is a natural part of your life.  Getting yourself out of one routine and into a different one takes a push for everyone.  That is ok!  This is good–this is empowering!

I hope this post wasn’t too boring, and I apologize for lack of lightning bolts and wand-waving, but I guess I get a bit annoyed with all the fluff and math that I read about accomplishing simple things, and though I guess this concept will be a lot less exciting, as least you can rest assured it’s honest and functional. And let me add that self-honesty is not a given and not easy.  Master Co also says sometimes we need a “psychic slap,” I believe was how he put it….  At least, I can tell you it works for me!  🙂