4 Steps to Making Fitness Stick For Life

Shape your path and remove your excuses to make this the year you finally make your health and fitness a priority.

Health and happiness require daily doses of physical resistance and adversity. Until recently, that didn’t pose much of a problem. Exercise was once a non-negotiable fact of life. You moved—a lot—simply to survive.

Health and happiness require daily doses of physical resistance and adversity. Until recently, that didn’t pose much of a problem. Exercise was once a non-negotiable fact of life. You moved—a lot—simply to survive.

Now, we live in the age of comfort gone deadly. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more diseases of convenience and abundance have reached epidemic levels. But these issues aren’t limited to physical ailments. We cannot separate mind from body, and our sedentary existences are promoting a rise in depression, anxiety, and a host of mental disorders.

Health is essential. You are not capable of being the person you want to be for others when you don’t respect your own health. That’s why they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.

But how? You’ve tried, and inevitably life catches up with you; the kids get sick, or the AC breaks, and there goes your gym budget. How do you make a change that sticks?

Step 1: Decide

First, you must decide that this is important to you. Exercise is the most impactful habit to enhance every other area of your life. It gives you the energy and mental clarity to get more out of every hour of your day.

It helps you feel confident, optimistic, and proud of what you’ve done. It improves the way you look, but more importantly how you feel. It makes you a positive role model for your family and friends. Your relationships, your work, and your emotional state all improve.

This is not just my opinion. The Mayo Clinic asserts that exercise relieves depression and anxiety symptoms, and there are dozens of studies showing that exercise prevents depression.

Believe me now? Good. Let’s address your environment and the limiting thoughts that are in your way.

Have you convinced yourself that being a mother requires absolute sacrifice, even to the point of always feeling beat down? Are you entrenched in patterns that will shorten your time alive with your family? Are you afraid to look weird in the beginning stages of awkward exercise? Do you feel no support from friends and family?

All of these are tough challenges that you can and will address. Communicate, clarify why this is important, and again, decide to follow through.

Decide that you will do it, not that you will try. The power lies within you to make exercise and movement a daily habit. Regardless of what is on your plate, you can fit this in. I will explain how, but it starts with a commitment to owning your own success or failure. You are ultimately responsible for the outcome.

Step 2: You Don’t Have to Have a Gym

Going to the gym is a chore in itself. You have to make sure you look good, even while you sweat because people are around. You have to ensure that the family is accounted for and in no danger while you are away.

Then you have to drive there, check in, make small talk with all the people you know, lock your valuables, and then finally get to the workout. Add to it that you are typically doing this before or after work, which means you either have to wake up that much earlier or go out of your way after work.

How much is extra time added on to exercise simply by the process of gym-going? At least 30 minutes. You could have finished a decent workout in that time!

On top of that, the gym can be intimidating. If you’re new, you feel awkward and overwhelmed. There are so many exercise options. Everyone seems to know what they’re doing, and you don’t want to look dumb.

You settle on the most boring, simple device possible, and trudge up never-ending steps while watching the news. What a bizarre, almost masochistic device. You have all the excitement of walking up stairs, without the accomplishment of ever getting somewhere.

This confluence of obstacles makes exercise a tough habit for many to maintain.

But you have more options. I have created a home-based training program, called The Will and The Way At Home Workouts, that allows you to save all that wasted time. It frees you to train anywhere and anytime. You don’t have to know what to do on your own, as the videos and plan will teach you the way.

Step 3: Make Habits Your Best Friend

The famed Stanford marshmallow test showed that delayed gratification and willpower are the greatest indicators of success and fulfillment in life.

Willpower is a muscle that grows with training, which means that it will be lowest at the beginning of this lifestyle change. This is good news because our emotional energy will be highest at first.

What we must do is take inventory of our environment and routines to insert new habits, which will lower the barriers to daily exercise by making them part of your pattern.

To make this easier, we must make the desired action a habit. Habits have been studied and are simple to create. The mechanism to do it consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward.

Set a consistent cue, like waking up. Create a path that enables momentum, like setting three alarm clocks in multiple locations to force you out of bed. Have the last alarm set by your exercise clothes. Immediately follow the exercise with a reward. Overnight oats are delicious! Crush a jar right after your workout.

Maybe, like me, you prefer a big omelet. Whatever your reward is, make sure you get it. Your brain will crave earning the reward! For more help making habits and change, be sure to read my work on this.

To ensure these habits stick, I have a mantra: 99% is a wimp! There is no wiggle room. You will wake up to movement every day. If you wake up late, do an immediate four-minute Tabata circuit. You will fit in the four minutes.

Step 4: Stay On It

Even when habits are set, they can be easier to break than maintain. No, you didn’t earn a week off. No, you won’t feel more up to it tomorrow. Protect your habits at all costs. They become you.

Take Saturday and Sundays as off days if you have to. What must remain is your routine of exercise every day, Monday to Friday. The plan is written so that you are rejuvenated by movement some days, rather than taxed. You will not burn out.

Your workout does not have to be in the morning, although I find that works best because of the consistency and the control we have over it. Some will prefer immediately after getting home from work, or at the beginning of the lunch break, or right after their daily staff meeting.

Regardless of the time of day, the methods of setting a habit are the same.

You could even take a workout and split it over the course of a day. A busy mom with an infant might not ever have more than 15 minutes straight, but she can find 10 minutes during her baby’s nap each day and another 10 when her husband first gets home from work, and another five right after the kids go down at night.

When you look for consistent patterns in your day where you can steal 5-10 minutes, the possibilities become endless. Imagine if you set an alarm for every hour at work, and then used that time to do a four-minute circuit.

Six circuits a day would fit easily, boost energy and productivity consistently, and lead to fitness changes that permeate every area of your life.

There are 168 hours in a week. We are trying to find 1-3 hours that we can spread out over the week. 10 minutes twice a day, or four 5-minute blocks can be the route to sustainable health. It’s short, sweet, fun, and most of all, worth it.

You know your patterns. You will make this happen if it is a big enough priority.

What is important is consistency and the mindset that you will exercise every work day. There is no getting around doing at least five minutes. Something is always better than nothing; it keeps the habit alive! Starting is always the hardest part. Get it in. We must preserve the habit above all else.

Shameless plug: you can workout with me on Push, Pull and Thrive or The Will and The Way.

If nothing else, I am willing to be there for you on every step of your journey and someday, someday soon, I hope you won’t need me, or anyone else, because fitness will be second nature to you and an integrated part of your life.

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