How to Make an Exercise Regimen Sustainable
Like my initial obsession with food, my regular exercise started as an effort to lose weight post study abroad. I am now willing to admit I am totally, 120%, addicted to exercise, but not because I want to lose weight, because it makes me feel amazing. I have more energy (seems counter intuitive on the surface). I sleep through the night more often. My skin is clearer and brighter. I drink way more water, so I stay better hydrated. My mood is significantly better. I could go on and on. (Read more about the health benefits of Exercise in this previous post)!
Some people find it fulfilling and enjoy pushing themselves to their limits with exercise. That is not my approach. The extent of my “Personal Best” is getting an arm balance in yoga, reaching a new level of flexibility, or finishing a race (without any regard for the time it took me). I don’t try to beat mile times or lift more weight than yesterday. I exercise to achieve inner peace; to breathe in the greatness of and appreciation for my life and the beautiful world we live in. To take in the energy of the earth through grounding myself and breathing in oxygen.
For me, it isn’t a sustainable regimen if I’m constantly forcing myself to exercise because I “need” to. It helps some people to get a work buddy to hold them accountable, and to turn a workout into a sociable event. If it’s a form of exercise you don’t enjoy or in an environment you don’t enjoy, it feels like a chore…and who likes chores? Studies show it takes about two months to form a habit, so here is how to make an exercise regimen last:
- I believe exercise is important to becoming your optimal self, but you have to figure out what you like! We are all different! I have discovered that I enjoy extended outdoor activities most, and specifically running, road biking, and yoga. Maybe you are not like me, and get fulfillment from a quick 20 minute workout that leaves you panting for air when you’re finished! There are so so many ways to get in exercise: biking (mountain, cross terrain, road), running, walking, yard work, workout classes, (spinning, boot camp, Cross-fit, insanity, boxing, and so many more!!), weight lifting, workout DVDs, adult sports leagues, cleaning the house, etc. There is something for every personality!
- Start slow and small, and work up. If you are currently pretty sedentary, don’t go out and try to run 6 miles from the get go, maybe begin with a walk around the block instead. You don’t wan to burn yourself out doing things that may injure your body or leave you feeling like you’ve failed because you couldn’t (reasonably!) complete it. When I’m not training for a race, I exercise typically 5 times, per week (sometimes more if I have time), but I started with once a week for 20 minutes. Just a few short years ago, I could hardly run one mile without stopping to walk (which is also fine!), and I just completed my first marathon last fall!
- Something is better than nothing! No, it’s not always easy to get myself to the gym or outside for a run, but I remind myself that some sort of movement arts is beneficial to my body and my well-being. If you want to watch your favorite TV show or movie, watch it walking on the treadmill, or on a stationary bike, and just go however slow or fast you want, instead of sitting on the couch. There are absolutely times when I get to the gym or outside in my workout clothes and I’m still not in the mood, so I don’t exercise long, but I always feel better and not one time have regretted my choice to exercise. It can turn my day around in an hour! I am so much more productive when I start my day with a workout. (But don’t forget to take rest days too – recovery is equally important for your mental and physical state 🙂 )
- Love yourself. Your body is an incredibly smart machine, listen to what it’s telling you. Exercise should not be a form of punishment, for feeling “gross,” or consuming too many calories that day. If it comes from a negative place or a place of self-hatred, it will not be sustainable long-term. This goes back to my first point of finding a form of movement you love doing. If you are active in a loving way, you will want to continue doing it. I personally suggest exercise not solely as a form of weight lose, because in my experience it so easily is associated with negative thoughts and feelings. Exercise because of its health benefits on your body as a whole – mentally and physically, inside and out.
I can think of so many moments where the first 20 minutes on the machine I’m just counting down until my workout is over, but suddenly something clicks and I’m moving to the beat of my music, singing along, with a huge grin on my face. (I sing aloud sometimes when I run, I don’t care who’s judging hehe).
Studies have proven how negative a completely sedentary lifestyle can be on health, so get moving, in whatever way YOU want!
What is your favorite form of exercise?