Welcome to the new healthy living section at Fresh Fit Kitchen. This is where we will cover things beyond the food. In a recent Instagram poll, you guys told me that you want to know how to develop an exercise habit and stick with it. Three years ago I did just that. I am going to tell you how I did it and give you some tips to keep things going. If you want to be healthy and happy for years to come versus constantly “getting back to the gym” read on.
From No Exercise Habit to Daily Movement
I always knew I should exercise regularly. The truth is, I didn’t want to. I am not athletic. I don’t play sports and the gym always made me feel clumsy, chubby and completely inferior. No gym selfies here. I felt like a walrus trying to ride a bike. Far from the flex Friday posts in my Instagram feed. I tried multiple times to be a gym person. Classes, cardio, weights- you name it. I hated it. Factoring in the drive there meant I’d spend 30 minutes in driving there and back. It felt like such an interruption to my day.
After failing at becoming a gym rat, I decided to workout at home. I wanted something that I could get over with quickly, so I started with the Shaun T workout, T-25. (Let me take a timeout to tell you that I am not a Beachbody Coach and have no interest.) At the height of my weight loss journey, this was my program of choice. I loved that it was 25 minutes. I felt sweaty and accomplished. Eventually I got sick of repeating the same workout, but it was a great spring board for me. It was also a great way to prove to myself that exercise didn’t have to involve hours in the gym. I could do this at home and move on with my day.
Along the way I learned some things that really helped me to keep up the exercise habit long after T-25.
Here’s what worked for me and I hope if you are starting out an amateur fitness person like myself, they help you too.
10 Tips for Developing an Exercise Habit
- Do it for more than weight loss. After about 3 weeks of consistency, I started to feel the calm, accomplishment, and energy that comes from exercise. Yes, energy. On the days I exercise, I get more done, my mental clarity is better, and I sleep better. It’s an instant mood booster. When I exercised only for weight loss, it felt like punishment. The fact is you are not going to out exercise a bad diet. Exercise is a tool to tone up and while calorie burn is a benefit, you won’t work off everything you ate. At least not realistically. You have to realize those other benefits.
- Set your environment up for success. I found out I hated the gym. You might find you love it. Either way you go, the environment has to be right for you. Don’t put a rickety treadmill into the darkest depths of your basement and think that’s a place you’ll find energy and joy. Set up a workout space in a spare room if you have it and make it a place you want to be. If you don’t have a spare room, any room will do. There are tons of equipment free workouts online. They are free. Move the coffee table over, set up your laptop, turn on the music and get to work.
- Don’t over complicate it. If you’re like me and you aren’t athletic, do not try and suddenly live the life of a fitness model. That may not be you, and that’s okay. Find a program or hit up You Tube for free workouts you find interesting, fun and suited for your fitness level. The only competition is with yourself.
- Mix it up to avoid boredom. Don’t do the same thing all the time. I go in phases. In the summer I try to get outside for long walks, jogs, or I move my patio furniture and make up a quick HIIT workout. I also count sweaty hard work as exercise. My quads are shaking after a day of raking and weed pulling. In the winter I take it inside. I look for Tone it Up workouts on You Tube and I am always finding new ones on Fitness Blender. All of these are FREE.
- Fitness doesn’t have to cost money. If you have limited resources, know that workouts utilizing a chair you have in your house and your own body weight are out there and they are highly effective. My home gym includes a set of weights, yoga mat and resistance bands I found at TJ Maxx. I bet I have $75.00 in the entire thing.
- Consider your schedule. Before you ever begin exercising, think about what works for your schedule. Don’t make commitments you can’t keep. If you start work super early, and you just can’t imagine getting up sooner, exercise in the evening. Whatever you do, choose a time that suits your schedule and sleeping habits.
- Understand that habit doesn’t mean obsessive compulsive if I miss a day I will die. As I write this, I have not worked out in over a week. I’ve been sick. Just because you take a short break from something, doesn’t mean it’s not a habit anymore. It doesn’t mean you should force yourself to exercise when you’re hurt or sick. I gave my body time to recover and on Monday morning I’ll be back at it. I know that because it’s now a habit. This week was not normal for me health wise and therefore my commitment had to change. I always choose my health first and this week that meant taking a break.
- The workout that works is the one you will do. The internet is full of fitness influencers claiming they have the answers. This is the program to get you fit forever. No this one. No this one. Wait… this one. Keep a clear head about what you ENJOY doing. Also know that the diet and exercise industry is a billion trillion gazillion dollar industry that makes money off that hope that this program is “the one.” If you love yoga. Don’t be concerned that the rest of the world is doing Cross Fit. You do you.
- Be patient with yourself. Trying something new can be humbling. You will feel clumsy and maybe even a little irritated. Keep trying and keep your eyes on the prize. It takes time to develop coordination, balance and endurance. Pat yourself on the back every time you show up.
- Exercise time is YOU Time. There are proven psychological benefits to exercise. There’s something to be said for taking even a half hour a day and dedicating it to being focused one thing. We are multitasking all too much. If you can manage it, exercise at a time that truly relaxes you. For me that’s in the morning. Before the world is awake and my phone starts dinging. For you that might be in the evening. Perhaps you need to out the aggression from the day. No matter you choice, take the time remind yourself that this is time for you and that you will feel better afterward.
I hope you find this helpful. My view on exercise has changed so much from what it was. That’s really how I developed an exercise habit. I truly enjoy working out and I’ve seen the benefits of consistency versus punishing myself periodically with fitness. Since I began this journey a few years ago, I went from having high cholesterol and borderline blood pressure to perfectly normal numbers. True, it’s not just exercise to blame for those results. Those are the results that matter though. I don’t have some overwhelming physical transformation to share. What I do have is the peace of mind and the overall health results that prove an exercise habit is one worth having.