“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
MOST ATTEMPTS AT starting new habits are failures. This is usually because we don’t put enough thought or preparation into creating a new routine in our lives. Here are some simple tools for creating the habit of exercise that sticks.
1. Start with a plan
Decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. What exercise are you going to do and when are you going to fit it in to your life. Rather than say 3 times a week say on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7p.m
2. Choose something fun
Exercise doesn’t always have to mean running or going to the gym. It took me twenty years to realise I hate both. I cycle, walk and play tennis. You could start a dance class, play football or basketball, try to make exercise playful rather than a chore.
3. Start small
Don’t try too much too soon, if you want to start running don’t head out for a 30 minute run on day one. Start with ten minutes or five minutes running and five minutes walking. By starting small you are more likely to continue.
4. Commit to 31 days
It is said to take between 21 and 31 days to form a new habit and make it part of your life. Commit to doing this new habit for 31 days and you will reap the benefits. Tick each day off on a calendar; it will give you great encouragement to see each day’s achievement.
5. Use triggers to encourage the new habit
Try and do the exercise at the same time every day. You could get up at six am to go for a walk or cycle on an exercise bike. When you get up, go to the toilet and get a glass of water. Do some stretching and get going. If you do these activities in the same way every morning or every evening, your brain will get accustomed to the routine more quickly.
6. Record the benefits
Remind yourself why you are doing it and what are the benefits for you and your life. This should be easy, exercise gives you more energy, it can increase your productivity. It will keep you healthier, happier and slimmer and improve your sex life. Need I say more?
7. Positive talk
Have you ever tried to start the habit of running and spent the time telling yourself how difficult this is, how bad you are and how much you hate running? Anytime I ran I spent the time bombarding myself with negative talk. Observe your mind, make your words more positive and encouraging.
8. Have an accountability buddy
Tell the world what you plan to do and get yourself and accountability buddy – someone who will check up on you regularly and make sure you are sticking to the plan.
9. List the potential pitfalls
Why hasn’t it worked before and what can you do to make it work this time? If you are aware of what can potentially go wrong you can come up with a positive solution to avoid it happening this time.
10. Reward yourself
Reward yourself with your achievements, if you complete a week; make sure you acknowledge the greatness of what you have done. Do something nice for yourself or go somewhere to celebrate.
11. Think you can
You must believe that you can and you will form this new habit. Often we take on board a new habit, and deep inside we don’t believe we will actually do it. Don’t waste your own time – unless you really believe in yourself, don’t bother. Wait until you are feeling more positive and confident in your abilities to change.
Creating the habit of exercise can be easier than you think. Finding the right exercise for you is half the battle. And if you fall down don’t worry, put the past behind you and try again. Believe in yourself, and you can do whatever you want to do.
Ciara Conlon is an author, blogger and productivity coach who writes atciaraconlon.com. Her book Chaos To Control: A Practical Guide To Getting Things Done is available now published by Orpen Press.