Consistent exercise has never been a part of my adult life.
My middle and high school years were spent on the soccer field, the basketball court, the volleyball court (and the bench), so I guess you could say during that time I was in pretty good shape.
Enter college. And cafeteria food. And the Freshman 15. And, a lack of discipline. Exercising became the least of my priorities. I would go through spurts where I’d run for a couple of weeks, but I never made it a habit. So, when I got married and then pregnant two years later, exercising was still not a habit. As the pounds piled on through my first pregnancy, and then my second, I would long for the day when I could be consistent.
My excuses were real. The kids needed to nap, it was raining, too dark, too cold, too hot, on and on they went. Before I got pregnant with Mason I started running and actually trained enough to complete a 10-miler (read about that here). Once I was pregnant with him, though, I was worried about another miscarriage and stopped exercising altogether.
Then one day I decided I wanted to be healthy. Yes, I wanted to get rid of my pregnancy weight, but I also wanted exercise to be a part of my life, especially as I got older.
How did I do it? How did I make exercise a habit? Hopefully these tips will explain a little bit of what I did, and will encourage you in your own pursuits.
1. Find a type of exercise that works for you.
Over the past few years, the spurts of running that I did paid off in results. I felt better, lost weight, and had more energy. Even though running was never something I absolutely loved, it worked for me.
Not everyone is a runner. Or a cross-fitter. And as wonderful as I know Yoga is for some, I can’t even bear the thought of doing that on a regular basis.
We all have different body shapes, endurance levels, even some physical conditions that might limit us from certain types of exercise. The point is that if you want to make exercise a habit, you need to find something that will work for you. Maybe not the most fun, but something that will push you and help you to reach the weight loss goals you’ve set.
Remember that math formula I shared in my last post? Losing weight is simple: burn more calories than you are taking in. You can walk briskly, do a workout video for 25 minutes everyday, run 3 miles, do cross-fit, or ride a bike, and if you’re watching your intake, you will burn calories and lose weight.
2. Choose a time of day to work out.
Working out early in the morning would be my preference. But my husband’s work schedule doesn’t allow for that (I’d have to be up by 4 am). So, when I got really serious about making exercise a habit, something had to give in my schedule.
For me, it ended up being nap time. That precious quiet time of day that was reserved for reading, housework, Pinterest browsing, or whatever I wanted had to become my time to workout.
My husband’s schedule was such that he got home mid-afternoon, giving me an opportunity to have about 45 minutes to run, and still make it back in time to get dinner going and spend the evening at home.
I had to rearrange things. I started showering at night, which has never been my favorite. I got up earlier in the morning so that the quiet time I lost during the afternoon could be made up. Some days I would put dinner in the oven and then run so that I didn’t have to rush around getting everyone fed.
But, I stuck with it. I didn’t always feel like running at 3 in the afternoon. I never regretted it afterward.
3. Make a workout plan.
Mine was running. I found a path I liked, knew its distance, and started out slowly, running a few minutes at a time, or 1/2 mile at a time. I set a time limit of 30 minutes in the beginning. I would run as long as possible, then walk, then run, etc., for 30 minutes. As time went on, I would adjust the times of running/walking, and eventually I was able to run the entire 4 mile course.
The key for me was to set shorter goals in the beginning so that I wouldn’t get discouraged.
I also tried to run 6 times a week for an entire month. They say doing something for 21 days straight will make it a habit. It worked for me. By the end of the first month, I felt so much better, that I wanted to run.
4. Set a long-term goal.
I had two long-term goals that I thought were obtainable during the 3 month time frame I had. #1: I wanted to be able to go out and run three miles without difficulty. #2: I wanted to do a 6 mile run without stopping before we moved away from Florida.
By setting these goals, I knew I had to keep at it, and it became a competition with myself. My husband knew my goals and he encouraged me, cheered me on when I reached certain milestones, and watched the kids for extra periods of time when I needed to do the longer runs.
I guess I had a third goal, too. I wanted to decrease my time/mile. When I started, I was running an 11-12 minute mile. By the time I finished that three month stint, I was doing 9.5 minute miles, and my 6 mile run was completed in 1 hour, 5 minutes (that included a water fountain break). I don’t say this to brag, by any means, but only to encourage you that if you stick with it, you’ll get better. That workout video that you can’t get through right now? Keep at it! Eventually you’ll be able to do it.
5. Push yourself.
There were so many days when I wanted to give up. My legs would be tired or I wouldn’t be able to breathe properly. If I pushed through, though, I could keep on. I even ran in the rain one day.
Some weeks resulted in no weight loss. This was discouraging, but as I started noticing my clothes becoming looser, and my face getting a bit thinner, I knew that was a result of exercise, and let me tell you, that’s a great motivator!
Confession: I haven’t been running since we moved in mid-December. Between the holidays, moving, and now living in a MUCH colder climate, I’ve only run three times since December 19. But, I was able to do my 3 miles once, and that felt so good! I’ve also somehow managed to keep off all but 1.5 pounds of the weight I lost. Once the ice melts from our storm last week, I’m going to map out my new route and get at it again. And I can honestly say that I’m excited.
That, my friends, is how I made exercising a habit. And, maybe even a hobby.
This is Part 4 of a series: Sometimes I Wear Spanx. Click here for all posts in the series.