Creating an Exercise Habit
In my twenties, I worked out to get a butt like JLo. (Hot take: She won the genetic lottery. I could do 1000 squats a day and could never get a booty like that.) I never enjoyed my trips to the gym because my only motivation was changing the person in the mirror. When I didn’t see IMMEDIATE results, I was discouraged and started picking apart the bumps and rolls in the reflection. Exercise was a battle and you’d find me waving the white flag of surrender.
Fast forward to my thirties and a life with two small babies. Confession: I would jump in front of a train for my children, but my soul needed some quiet in those early days of mothering. After our son was born, I suffered a wicked case of postpartum depression. I went to therapy, got on medications, changed my diet, and leaned heavy into exercise. My cousin (brilliant photographer and a sister to me) just made this brilliant metaphor: Our husbands are Honda Civics. They need gas and occasional oil change. We are Nascar automobiles. We need special tires, and people to change them. We require premium gasoline, and people on headsets to keep us going. For the love of all things Holy, we need a pit crew!
That hit hard.
When I started treating my trips to the gym as part of my therapy, my entire mindset shifted.
Running on the treadmill wasn’t about getting a better body, it was about being strong enough to pull myself out of the darkness. More than a decade later, I’m proud to say I have created a daily exercise habit. I’m one of those people that packs running shoes on vacations. (Remember vacations? Those were fun.) Running, lifting, and cycling are my therapy.
So here’s how I have created and maintained an exercise habit for the last ten years.
- Find a non-scale reason to get moving: For me? I needed to pull myself out of a dark place. I got a little buzz after finishing a tough workout and soon I started craving that feeling. My mental health was my reason. Perhaps yours is to be strong enough to lift your kids, or have enough stamina to play tag in the backyard. There’s no shame in wanting to lower the number on the scale, but if that’s your only motivation it will rarely create a lifelong habit.
- Create a calendar: I love a list and a paper calendar. Call me old fashioned, but the act of crossing off a task is a thrill. (It really doesn’t take a lot to make me happy, obviously.) I started printing off blank google calendars and crossing off every day I exercised. I didn’t want to break the streak so I kept going.
- Switch it up: I don’t do a gut-busting tough workout every day. In fact, I say I have workout ADHD. I can’t stick with one discipline every single day. I get bored and need to switch things up. Now that gyms are closed it’s been a challenge, but here’s what a typical week looks like.
- Find a buddy .. even virtually: I use an Apple Watch (link?) and use the activity tracker. I use the “sharing” feature so my girlfriend and I can track each other’s progress. If it’s noon and she hasn’t exercised yet, I send her a friendly “You alive?” text to get her going.
- Make it fun! That means dancing counts. Or yard work, or whatever you really enjoy that can help you work up a sweat. On days I don’t feel like running or tuning in for a Peloton ride, I pull weeds for an hour. (I told you it doesn’t take much for me.)
Start slow. Show yourself grace if you aren’t as fast as you were in high school. Get moving. You won’t regret it.
What’s your favorite workout these days?