By Ray Foucher
This is a good time of year to consider getting more exercise as many people start off the new year by making a resolution to exercise more. Often the problem with this or other resolutions is sticking with it for more than a few weeks. As I am well into my 61st trip around the sun, I am thinking about exercise and thinking I need to make it more of a habit than I have in the past. We all know that exercise has so many benefits for mind and body; the challenge is how to stick with it long enough for it to become a regular habit. Well, here are some tips that might help you (or me) to really make exercise part of a lifestyle.
Why am I exercising? This is the first question to ask yourself. If you can come up with good long-term reasons you are more likely to do it long-term. Make the reasons personal, emphasizing the benefits you expect from all that effort. Do a little research and make a list of the benefits known to come from exercise – they are considerable. Inspirational pictures perhaps of an athlete you would like to emulate can be encouraging.
Set goals. Set both a short term (say 3-6 weeks) and longterm goals (a year). Your goals should be SMART meaning they are:
S = specific – not just to walk more but to achieve a specific distance or time
M = measurable – not just to lose weight but how much
A = attainable – an impossible goal brings only discouragement
R = relevant – something that will be a benefit to your situation
T = time-bound – a goal with no deadline is really no goal at all. A goal for a set time such as a year gives you the opportunity to say “goal completed” and move on to greater goals.
Involve others. Working out with a partner can make it easier and more enjoyable. If you exercise alone you can report your progress to someone else; there are probably even on-line ways to do this. Keeping a record of your exercise can help you be accountable to yourself. Include the benefits you find as an encouragement. Chart your progress in regard to your specific goals. You might even keep a visual record of your improved appearance – take a selfie.
Time and excuses. These can short-circuit your good intentions in a hurry. Schedule a good time for exercise in part of the day when you are less likely to face challenges doing it. Come up with ways to deal with the challenges you might face in completing your workout. Be determined to exercise anyway. One trick is to promise yourself that you can stop after ten minutes if you want to. By that point, you’ll likely be into it enough to finish. Find ways to make exercise enjoyable.
Listen to good music, audio books etc. Often you can make another use for your exercise time. Exercise will make many other things you do more efficient and the time lost to exercise may be made up. Make it easy on yourself. Having proper equipment can make a big difference in the comfort level of your workout. Good footwear and the right clothing are important. A good pedometer if you are walking or running might be a help to track your progress. Avoid missing too much of your schedule or it will be difficult to keep going but don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day. Things come up; just get back on track and keep going. Choose an activity that you enjoy and are likely to do each day. Simply walking is very good.
Safety. Make sure you are properly equipped and using proper technique. Of course, make sure the exercise you choose is within your health and fitness capability and there is no medical reason not to do it. You want to avoid injury and remember pain is a signal so if you are having pain back off. There are times of year I have some kind of a bear deterrent when walking.
Finally, remember – we are talking exercise – put enough effort into it to get the benefits. Exercise, if done strenuously enough, releases endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) and you will feel better right away. I went for a brisk walk this afternoon and found it much easier to quickly put this article together as a result.