Over the last couple of months I've become quite taken with daily exercise. I know, I know, it seems a bit crazy to imagine enjoying working out, but it's happening. Once I got back into the swing of things after a long year of travel, I quickly experienced the enormous benefits of moving my body every day.
Like any new habit, there's a natural path of development for affecting change. Once I decided to create a daily routine, I dusted off an old newsletter I wrote about the four stages of developing the discipline to exercise every day. As I reviewed the info, it really made a difference, and I hope it inspires you to do the one thing that will have a huge, positive impact on your health and longevity - MOVING!
Let's take a look....
Stage One - Let's get this over with, shall we?
At first, exercise can feel like a chore. After all, it takes effort to move your body, especially if you've been sedentary for a while. As you start to exercise, you may find yourself counting the minutes on the treadmill, or waging an inner battle with yourself about whether or not to sneak out of the gym early. When I was at this stage of the process, two things helped. The first was using the support of a partner. When I was tempted to "just skip this one workout," my sister, Kerri, my workout partner, challenged me to stick with it and follow through.
The second was that I didn't allow my perfectionism (one of my top fitness obstacles) to create a negative association with exercise. For example, in the past when I'd start working out, I'd do things like raise the elevation of the treadmill too high, thinking that it would quicken my progress. This only caused my legs to feel like lead the next day. Or, I'd force myself to complete every single minute of my cardio routine even though I felt exhausted and needed a rest. Although it's important that a fitness program be progressive to build strength and endurance, allowing yourself to be driven by a perfectionist "inner task master" is setting yourself up to fail.
Stage Two - I'm not thrilled, but I'll do it anyway.
As you keep at it, you'll start to experience the many benefits of exercise. You'll notice that you have more energy throughout the day. Your moods level out, and you feel better about yourself (and your life). The critical voice that monitors your weight and how you look will start to quiet down. And, there's a good chance that you'll also notice a significant decrease in your appetite and stress level. As a result, you'll feel clear-headed, and more able to focus during work or while performing your daily tasks.
Although working out still feels like work during this stage, you focus more on the end result (how great you feel afterwards) than on the task at hand.
Stage Three - Wow, this ain't so bad after all.
Once I'd been exercising for eight weeks, I not only felt good after a workout, I started to feel good while I was doing it. My cardiovascular endurance increased, and I noticed that I could run for longer periods of time on the treadmill during my interval training (alternating running and walking to raise my heart rate). The amount of weight I could lift also increased and I started to see muscle tone. I still remember the day I stood in front of my bathroom mirror flexing my biceps and seeing definition not only in my arms, but also in my shoulders! At this stage, seeing and feeling results will fuel your desire to honor and strengthen your body. You'll love how you feel!
Stage Four - Exercise is my secret weapon.
When you get to this stage you realize that besides being the key to health and longevity, exercise builds self-esteem and gives you the ability to live life on your terms. You recognize that, along with building your muscles, you've developed discipline - the key to making healthy choices in all areas of your life.
At this stage you'll want to exercise. For example, when I feel overwhelmed during the day, I jump on my elliptical trainer and do a quick 20-minute workout to clear my head, burn off stress, and get focused.
When you reach the stage where exercise becomes your secret weapon, you'll be amazed at how easy it fits into your schedule.
Once you develop the discipline of exercise, you'll still have days when you'd rather not go to the gym. But the difference will be that on those days, you can afford to stay home knowing that you can trust yourself to get right back on track the next day. The key to reaching stage four is to focus on taking small, progressive steps. For example, if you're at stage one, just focus on your next workout. When you feel like you've lost your motivation, use this mantra:
"In order to get from A to Z, I only need to take step B!"
I've become someone who works out nearly every day. I've made it a "joyful priority." Since I claim that one of my top values is health, I've learned to put my commitment where my mouth is. When health is a value, and you understand and respect the stages of development, it's easy to make the time. Ready to move? Take the challenge below...
Take Action Challenge
So, what's your step B? If you value health and have a desire to up the ante when it comes to moving your body, decide right now what your next step could be and take it. You will love the way moving makes you feel! This week's video is a fun and clever example of human ingenuity.
You'll find it here. Thanks, Connie!