You have created your exercise goals and you have a plan for exercising, here are the tried and tested ways of staying engaged with your exercise plan. You have heard these before:
- exercise with a friend
- find a coach
- work with a personal trainer
- join a team sport
- do something you really enjoy
- make a date with yourself so it is always in your diary
You already know that if you implement one or all of these your chances of sticking with your plan will improve.
In addition here is what I have discovered to be true for myself; it is all about how I think. This is a 3 stage escalation. If you achieve Step 1 you won’t need step 2 or 3. If you get to Step 2 and achieve that, you won’t need Step 3. Step 3 is your last chance:
Step 1: Don’t think about it.
I just don’t think about it. I am a morning exercise person. I get out of bed and get dressed and I am out the door before I even give myself a chance to think about it; to wonder if I will exercise today, or not.
I recommend that my clients that they try this – don’t even give yourself a chance to think about it. Lay out all your clothes the night before – shorts, top, socks, shoes, water bottle keys, ipod. Make it really easy to be successful. Set the alarm, get up, get dressed and go. Whether you are working with a personal trainer or you walk, swim, run or go to the gym on your way to work – get your work clothes and breakfast ready as well. Do everything the night before.
If you are going to gym or class at lunchtime or on your way home from work, make an appointment in your Outlook calendar. Set aside the time. Have the clothes handy.
Other things that will help with “don’t think about it” – choose a gym that is convenient, attractive and clean. Work with a personal trainer who is a good fit with your needs. Find a Pilates or yoga class that is the style you enjoy. Do everything possible to ensure you are successful. This is not the time for self sabotage.
Step 2: Remember the Benefits to You
If I do find myself thinking about whether maybe today I won’t get out of bed and exercise – I immediately refer to my benefits list.
Occasionally I find myself awake in bed in the morning and I think “maybe not today”. The reality is that if I miss one day, it is not going to make much difference. The danger is that it could be the beginning of a new habit and I might be tempted to miss tomorrow as well. I immediately remind myself of my benefits – I know I always feel good once I get started, I know that I am taking care of my bones in the future, I know that when I am feeling fit and healthy I think more clearly and am more focussed etc I have my list in my head so that any early wavering is countered immediately.
My clients do this and find that the more they remind themselves of the Benefits of why this goal is important, they are less likely to skip their exercise. They also find that the Benefits more easily come to mind. Be very clear about the Benefits to You and have them committed to memory so that you can call on them any time you feel that initial wavering from your plan.
Step 3: Just do Some Thing; get started
If I am at the stage where reminding myself of the Benefits hasn’t worked (and clearly I am past the Don’t Think stage) then I have to tell myself to “Just do Some Thing; make a start”
Some mornings I might truly not feel like doing outside exercise so I will do something indoors – my own yoga sequence, or follow a Pilates dvd. Or I may not feel like a whole gym work out and decide a brisk walk around the park in the fresh air will be better for me today. Just do Some Thing. And I have an agreement with myself that this is OK sometimes, not every day, this is a sometimes strategy.
My clients who have tried this tell me that knowing they have “permission” to deviate from their schedule means that they hardly ever do. Even if we have designed our own regime we could end up feeling that it is overwhelming. People who have been long term exercise people have less difficulty staying with an intensive exercise schedule. I know a woman who runs races that are 100 kms. She says that she doesn’t think about the whole 100 kms – she starts out to run the first 10 kms, and runs the rest in stages after that. She says that there are times in the 100kms that she might think “just to that next tree”.
These three Steps can be applied beyond your exercise plans. Anything that you are trying to achieve can be mastered and completed using this methodology. The third factor “Just do Some Thing” is particularly useful for dealing with procrastination – that is a whole other article.
Changing your habits and learning how to do things differently can be challenging. Set your self up for success, create goals that stretch you and inspire you, nail those Benefits and make them so clear they spring to mind easily and readily to help keep you on track; to live Healthy, Wealthy and Happy.