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The good news is that making time to exercise doesn’t involve carving out chunk of times that will disrupt your work or family obligations. Building a successful habit of staying fit only requires small, sustainable changes that you get to build upon over time. Here are some tips to get you on your way.
Identify Your Why
Stephanie Mansour, CEO of Step It Up With Steph, believes that the first step is to identify why you want to build an exercise habit into your life.
“The bigger the why, the easier the how,” she says. “Answer why you want to make time for exercise. Think about what purpose it will serve you. It’s not enough to say that you want to lose 20 lbs. Understand why you want to lose it and how you will feel. Think about what you will be able to do when you are lighter and fit more easily into your clothes.”
Once you understand your motivation to exercise, you’ll have an easier time fitting it into your life.
Make the Time
Instead of promising yourself that you’ll hit the gym for an hour three times a week, start small. Make simple changes that you can stick with. Brenden Dilley, Personal Trainer and Speaker, recommends that you carve out adequate time that you know you can commit to. “Go to bed a little earlier than usual, so that you can wake up earlier and get your workout in then,” he says. “You only need thirty minutes or so to burn a decent amount of calories and get your day going right.”
Make it even easier and don’t get a gym membership to start. For example, use your half an hour in the mornings to get in some jumping jacks, sit-ups, and pushups in your living room. Then use the remaining time to go for a jog around your neighborhood. Once this half an hour becomes second nature, think about exercising for longer and increasing the frequency.
If you’re not a morning person and you have a very long commute, Michelle Funez, licensed psychotherapist, recommends analyzing what you spend your time on and finding activities that can be replaced with exercise. These include: watching television, surfing the Internet, reading, and/or socializing.
Once you have some slots where you can fit exercise in, schedule them into your day using Microsoft Outlook or Google calendars, just as you would a doctor’s appointment or a work meeting. Whether you’re working out before work, during lunch, or after work, get into the habit of blocking out whatever time you choose to avoid having meetings or calls scheduled during this time. This will ensure that you do have the time to devote to your evolving exercise habit.
Stay On Track
Once you embark on the journey to build an exercise habit, there are a few ways to maximize your chances of staying on track.
On a day-to-day basis, Lora Mays, Running Coach, recommends that you make it a point to set goals. “When you start exercising, think about your ultimate goal. Do you want to run a marathon someday? Do you want to lose 25 pounds? Are you trying to look good in your swimsuit?” she asks. “Now that you have your ultimate goal, set smaller ones to reach along the way.” According to Mays, some people create vision boards, workout journals, or they tie their goal to a specific image to them motivated. Celebrating each milestone you reach is also a great way to keep progressing.
Additionally, it’s helpful to announce what you are doing to your friends and family, as that creates accountability. For example, if your family expects that you’ll be exercising for 30 minutes before dinner, or if your boss knows that you hit the company gym at lunchtime, chances are that you’ll do it.
You can even go a step further and join an accountability group to force yourself to stay accountable. Mariah Dolan, Health and Fitness Coach, recommends doing so and sharing progress pictures with the group. “The other benefit of accountability groups is that you have a team of cheerleaders behind you,” she adds. “You feed off their energy, which helps propel you forward.”
Dilley says that having a workout partner is also a great way to ensure that you’ll complete your workouts. You’re less likely to back out if you have someone waiting at the gym or at the park for you.
It’s also important to realize that developing a healthy lifestyle and body involve long-term activities, rather than being a short-term goal to be attained. “When you accept that you’re in this for the long haul, it makes forgiving yourself for messing up that much easier,” Dilley adds. “You are going to make mistakes, but it’s your ability to forgive yourself that will keep you moving forward.”
Vary Your Exercise Routine
One of the best things you can do once you’ve made the time to start exercising is to have three to four routines that you can rotate between. For example, have some routines that can be done in your living room and have others that require you to be outside and in a different environment.
Likewise, Dolan recommends that you constantly mix up your workouts. “Do a high intensity interval training workout one day, then lift heavyweights the next, then do yoga,” she says. “Boredom is one of the biggest reasons people don’t stick with an exercise program.”
Exercise with Your Family
On the weekends, don’t force yourself to get up early to workout. Instead, involve your family in your quest to become more active and make it fun. For example, use your small children as resistance for lunges, squats, lifts, or planks. Race with your older children or get involved in their sport games.
John Wayman, Owner of Beantown Bootcamp, says that as long as you make family exercise fun, you and your kids will hardly know that you are doing it. “Go on a family walk, bike ride, or hike,” he says. “Play a game of soccer outside or sign up for a family 5K and run/walk it together.” Doing this will feel great, as you’ll be staying active and you’ll be spending quality time with your family.
As you begin to identify why you want to exercise, and start to find the time, remember that exercise is supposed to be fun and a lifelong journey. So, don’t overcommit, do celebrate your small accomplishments, and do involve your friends and family in your quest to move your body.