Lewis lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is the mother of four boys. She blogs at thetiffanywindow.wordpress.com. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
We all know exercise is good for us. We need to nourish our bodies and keep them strong.
If my local YMCA is any indication, a lot of people want to get fit. Losing weight and getting more exercise are constant resolutions for Americans at the start of a new year. No one goes into January hoping to gain five pounds and eat more potato chips.
Then why is it so hard? I can predict, with sad accuracy, that within a month the population at gyms around the countries will start to dwindle as we settle back into our old routines.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. A few changes to how you exercise might be the key to starting a new habit, one that sticks.
1. Make fitness fun
Treadmills and dumbbells are goal killers. Unless you love this mode of exercise, find something that gets you moving without being monotonous. There are dozens of innovative ways to exercise. Rowing, pickleball and belly dancing (really!) are fun ways to stay active while enjoying the sociability and novelty of a new skill.
If you’re an outdoors person, pick activities that get you out in nature, like cross-country skiing, kayaking or hiking. Look for indoor trampoline parks, adventure racing, rock climbing, mud runs or water polo. Think outside the gym for ideas that will get you excited about moving your body.
2. Find committed friends
We are social creatures. Most of us are empowered by our friendship circles. When I moved to Minnesota five years ago, I hadn’t done any serious running for more than a decade. Two marathoners in my neighborhood invited me for a run. I started slow, gasping my way through three- and four-mile runs, and gradually built up to half marathons. Last year I ran two full marathons. Running has changed my life. Even still, I would sleep most mornings if it weren’t for my fine friends who beam their running lamps through my front window, demanding I join them.
Go ahead and keep your friends who want to lunch out at Chili's every day, but make some friends who take fitness seriously. They will hold you accountable. And chances are you’ll make some great memories together.
3. Sign up for a race, a program or a class
Put your money where your mouth is. You don’t have to invest hundreds, but if you sign up for a 5K, you’ll be more motivated to train. If you pay for a boot camp, you’ll show up. If getting fit is important to you, make a modest financial investment.
4. Reward yourself
Yes, exercise can be its own reward, but if you’re needing a little more motivation, come up with a weekly or monthly reward for sticking to your goal. It’s even better if you can use the reward to reinvest in exercise: run for three months, buy a new pair of shoes. Bike 10 days in a row, buy a new water bottle. Try to keep food rewards out of the equation. Rewarding yourself with a milkshake is counterproductive.
5. Put it on the schedule — earlier is always easier
If possible, put fitness first thing in the morning. This will ensure that it doesn’t get pushed aside by other tasks, and it will kick up your endorphins for a successful day. No matter what time you exercise, put it on your calendar so you’re committed. Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Set yourself up for success, and not excuses.
6. Don't overcomplicate things.
If you can’t afford a class or a membership, if you have no friends and nothing but desire, just take 10 minutes a day to work your body. A few minutes are better than nothing. The Internet is replete with quick workouts you can do from your desk or your living room. One of our go-to family workouts is the New York Times seven-minute workout. (It’s easy to find online.) You can do it in your house with no equipment but a wall and a low stool. It will work all your major muscle groups, raise your heart rate and jump-start your metabolism.
Often, we’re stymied by exercise because of the time involved. However, studies have shown that intensity matters more than time. Sprint up and down your street. Run the basement stairs seven times. Take a break from your desk and do five pushups every hour. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all.
Years ago, when we lived in Miami, we had a favorite park that we walked to every afternoon. On most days, an old white van would pull up outside the park. A woman would climb out, leash her dog and walk five times around the perimeter of the park.
The woman was severely overweight. She put a lot of effort into this daily exercise. Every day I sat in the sandbox playing with my toddlers, silently cheering this woman.
She was doing what she could. She was putting one foot in front of another.
That, right there, is the start of success.