Is one of your new year’s resolutions to start exercising more, or start exercising, period? I hear you. Willpower is a tricky thing. For whatever reason, exercise seems to be a sticking point for so many of us that if it comes to skipping that extra Christmas cookie or getting up and going for a walk (especially in the middle of January!), we’ll usually just skip the cookie. But that’s not always enough.
While some find dieting to be easier, exercise is undoubtedly an important part of the process if you want to start living a healthier life.
So how do you get started? It’s a new year. Clean slate. We can do whatever we set our minds to!
First, promise yourself you will exercise.
This promise can be as specific and rigorous as you want it to be, but I find it easier to follow through when I keep it simple, actionable, and when I go easy on myself, at least to start.
If you’re out of shape, and maybe have been for a while, you definitely don’t want to overdo it right out of the gate. Start small, and as you build up the habit, you can increase the time and/or intensity level. But the most important part is making the commitment to yourself to exercise in the first place.
Second, make a plan.
Look at how much time you have, what your typical day looks like, and what type of exercise (sports, rock climbing, zumba, aerobics, yoga, running, belly dancing, etc.) you think you will enjoy and stick to. If you don’t have time to exercise on certain days, don’t promise yourself you’ll exercise every day.
If you hate running or live in a place that doesn’t have a good gym or local trails to use, you probably shouldn’t choose that as your go-to fitness option. Put some thought into it. This is a habit you’re trying to form for the rest of your life, even if you’re just beginning it now. Make sure it’s something you’re going to want to keep doing for the long haul.
Third, make a back-up plan.
This is essential to keeping yourself on track. If your chosen form of exercise takes you outdoors and there’s a blizzard, you’ll want to have a back-up option for those days. I know what you’re thinking, “Can’t I just take a day off here and there for inclement weather?” Taking a day off to recuperate, mentally, physically, or just because you need it, is totally fine, but if you start giving yourself a free pass every time the temperature drops below forty or it’s a little foggy out, your new fitness routine is going to stop being a routine and start being “that thing you did once.”
If you usually attend a class or go to the gym, get a video you can do at home. Plan ahead and do whatever you need to do to make sure you stick with the habit even if conditions aren’t optimal for your usual workout regimen.
Fourth, don’t just set a goal, give yourself a reason why you want to do it.
This is another step that often gets forgotten in the whirlwind of a new year and resolution-making, but it’s super-important. Having goals is great – you’re already one step ahead of those people who are only thinking about what they want – but having a reason to remind yourself why you want to achieve your goal(s) is what is going to keep you going.
Whenever you feel like giving up or giving yourself a pass to procrastinate or avoid exercising, for the hour, the day, the weekend, or even the month, that reason will help remind you why you wanted to start exercising in the first place. To be able to play with your kids more, to run a marathon, to climb a fourteener, to reduce your risk of heart disease, to look good naked, etc. There are no stupid reasons for wanting to exercise more. The only stupid thing is to start exercising without knowing why you want to do it.
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun.
I can’t emphasize this enough. This is why you need to choose something you will enjoy. Exercise is fun, even if it takes some time for it to start feeling that way. It makes you feel good afterwards, you’re sweating out all kinds of toxins in your system, you’re burning calories, and you are creating a habit that will make you a healthier person for the rest of your life, if you’re willing to stick with it.
Whatever the reason you want to start exercising and however you choose to do so, I wish you the best of luck, and I really hope these steps help you in starting this amazing healthy habit!
Photo by: Jeanette Goodrich