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5 Tips to Creating a Long Lasting Exercise Routine

5 Tips to Creating a Long Lasting Exercise Routine

We all know that movement and exercise are good for us.

You start out strong and you’re gung-ho and motivated. But it never lasts long term. You blame yourself, assume you’re just lazy, weak willed and not meant to be fit. Sound familiar? This pattern happens all too frequently for too many people.

Taking care of ourselves is important, now more than ever. Physical fitness is important not just for our bodies, it equally benefits our mental and emotional health.

Let’s discuss 5 ways to create an exercise routine that will stick:

1. Realistic expectations.

Set yourself up for success. People will often go from not working out at all and say they are going to now work out five days a week. For most people, that will not be realistic. From a physical standpoint this can not only be potentially harmful, but demoralizing as well. From a goal setting standpoint, it is rarely a good idea to go from zero to sixty all at once.

To create a new habit, start with a couple days a week,  allow that to become routine, then add to what you’re doing. If you rarely work out, don’t start with a high intensity class, listen to your body and start small and slow, as needed. (Always consult with a doctor as well to be sure you are healthy enough to exercise.)

2. Find exercises and activities you enjoy!

I can’t tell you how many times a client will tell me they are going to start running. I ask do you enjoy running? God no, they say. How long do you think that habit will last? Yes, exercise can be taxing and tiring, but you should find activities you enjoy doing. You don’t have to go to a gym to exercise, you can play tennis, take a dance class or walk outside.

Just make sure you take the time to find something you can look forward to doing. Even if you don’t love the treadmill, but that’s the time you zone out and listen to music or watch a show on Netflix, there will be enjoyment and therefore more motivation. More, and varied motivation leads to long term consistency.

3. Be aware of all or nothing/perfectionistic thinking.

Often a person will start off strong for a week or two, then they will miss a day and instead of getting right back on track their mindset says “I already missed a day and ‘messed’ up, why bother? I’ll start up again on Monday”.  If you miss a day for any reason, start back up as soon also possible. Don’t let all or nothing thinking derail you.

Another example of this type of thinking is when it’s suggested to just start with a couple days a week, they think “what will one or two days a week do for me, why bother?”. Physical results take time, so whether you start out at two days a week or five, there is no quick fix. To create a routine that sticks for the long term, starting off small and building up increases the odds of continuity greatly.

4. Know your mindset and motivation for exercise.

Maybe call it movement, not exercise. Some people may have a negative association with the word exercise, as something they “have” to or “should” do. Believe it or not, these little words we use can have great power. By simply swapping out and saying I “get” to work out, or I “want” to, not I “have” to or I “should”,  can totally change your response to it. Take a minute now and say these phrases to yourself, notice how your body responds to being told you have to or should and be aware of your thoughts as well.

It’s important to know what your motivation is for exercising, beyond I “should”. Ideally, I think it’s helpful to have a focus beyond weight loss because that will take time. When you work out, do you sleep better? Is your mood improved? Can you focus more? Are you more patient with your kids/spouse/boss? There are many benefits to exercise, find several that can help motivate you.

5. Accountability.

Schedule it in like you would any meeting or appointment. It should be written in to your schedule, what day, time and activity you will do. It can also be helpful to tell a friend or relative what and when you’re doing, or post it on social media. You’ll know there are people likely to follow up and ask you how it went, so that can help motivate you. That accountability goes a long way. Some people prefer to work out alone, some would rather go with a friend. If it helps you, find a work out partner to help with accountability and follow through as well.

It took me a long time to finally instill a consistent exercise routine, but once you do, it just becomes something you do regularly. I remember I used to lay in bed and ask myself if I felt like working out that morning. I realized that while cozy and comfy in bed, I rarely felt at that moment like working out. I was still waking up, hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet, of course at that moment I didn’t feel like working out. I stopped asking myself that question and I knew by my schedule that it was a day to go to the gym. I also learned over time that no matter what mood, energy or motivation level I entered the gym, after just a few minutes of stretching and starting to move, it was then I “felt” like exercising.

A couple other reminders, it’s important to listen to your body, exercise should leave you feeling better in your body. Also, do not compare yourself to what others are doing, or what you used to be able to do. Love your body for where it is now and what it can do, even if that is limited, focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

If you’d like some help creating and sticking to an exercise routine, please contact me, I’d love to help. Be well.

Kathy Most
Therapist in Westfield, NJ
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