Exercise. We all know we should do it. And there are as many different approaches and fitness programs as their are choices on a Sunday lunch buffet. So why is it so hard for us to do? And even if we find an exercise program we like, why can’t we stick to it? It’s hard for all of us, from the avid athlete to the non-athlete who just wants to get in shape. We struggle with sticking to an exercise plan.
I have been an athlete all of my life. Literally, at the ripe old age of two, my mom put me in gymnastics. It was more of a defensive decision. Either I learned how to flip and tumble the right way (aka safely) or I end up breaking the house and myself. So off to gymnastics I went and from there it was sports history-basketball, volleyball, softball, running.
Although I’ve been active and loved sports all my life, as I’ve grown and life has happened, it has been harder and harder to stay active. Getting married, working, having kids-all of these take up precious time and become more important than exercise. But as we get married and have kids, we often see how important exercise is to our health. Staying active means staying healthy. And staying healthy means more precious time, quality time, with those we love.
So what do we do?
How do we find, implement, and persist in an exercise plan?
The Monday after Thanksgiving of last year, I decided to start running every weekday. And I have stuck to that plan now for over four months. I haven’t missed a day! I’ve ran when I was tired, sick, and had been up half the night with sick kids. I have even ran when it was below freezing here in the deep South. And here are six tips that have helped me stay consistent and I think will help you out too.
1. Find inspiration to exercise.
Find someone who is already doing what you want to do. No, I’m not talking about a super-star or that perfect looking person with a super-model physique. I’m talking about that girl that is normal, but still rocking it. She’s just as busy as you, has a family, job, and all the responsibilities that most of us have, and yet she still finds time to be consistent and exercise.
I found my inspiration in my friend Tracy at Working Mom’s Balance. She’s amazing. She is a mom, a blogger, has a job, is active in her church, and yet she has run everyday for over a year! I’m not talking on a treadmill. Y’all she has run outside, every. single. day. for over a year. She lives up North so she’s ran in super cold temperatures and snow, lots of snow. She’s better than the mail-through rain and snow, there is no stopping her.
Tracy is my inspiration. Just your average girl, doing above average things. She is consistent, so when I want to just quit or skip a day of exercise, I think of her. And I think of how far I’ve come, and how consistent I’ve been. So I drag myself out of bed and run.
2. Find motivation to exercise.
Motivation is different from inspiration. Inspiration looks to others, but motivation is about yourself. It’s your personal why. Inspiration is needed to get you started in your exercise journey, but motivation is what keeps you going. It’s your goal and the progress you’re making and seeing in reaching that goal.
Most of us use physical appearance as a motivation, but exercise provides many benefits besides physical changes. Exercise helps detox your body; it builds physical endurance and strengthens the systems of your body. But it does so much more.
Being consistent at exercise proves to yourself you can accomplish goals. It’s mentally exhilarating to look back at what you’ve accomplished, how much you’ve done, and the consistency you can have. It boost your confidence and proves to yourself you can do what you put your mind to-one day at a time.
3. Set a consistent time to exercise.
It’s much easier to accomplish anything if it’s done at a routine time. Even the most spur of the moment of us, thrive on some kind of schedule or routine. We begin planning our days around those things that happen at regular intervals. Our brains begin to look forward to them and our bodies do too.
Basically make exercise a habit. When we do something over and over, our muscles “learn” that activity. Before long, we don’t even have to think about what we are doing. It’s called muscle memory. But it can work with exercise and habits too.
Have you ever gotten ready in the morning and wondering if you brushed your teethe, put on deodorant, or locked the door to the house? How about driving to town. Ever gotten to your destination and not really even remembered the drive? That’s muscle memory. We begin to just do what we know we must do. And once we exercise consistently, the same thing happens. We begin to do it because it’s what we do.
Remember though that consistency doesn’t have to mean every day. I take the weekends off from exercising. Some people exercise every other day or three to four days a week. And each of those are fine. Just choose how much works for you and be consistent at that.
4. Choose a time to exercise that works for you.
One thing to remember about setting a consistent time is to make sure it works for YOUR schedule. One quick google search would reveal pages of posts on why morning, afternoon, and evening are best for exercising. Basically that means that any time of the day is best if it fits your schedule.
Right now, early morning is the best time for me to exercise. I’ve learned that personally if I don’t get it done in the morning, it probably won’t happen. It will keep getting pushed back because of all the other things needing to be done, until it’s bedtime and I didn’t squeeze any exercise in.
But if you have kids that you take to school, you might find that right after you drop them off is best for you. Or maybe later in the day when you meet up with a friend to exercise. Several years ago, this was what worked best for me.
If you have kiddos involved in sports, you may find that you have time to exercise while they are practicing in the evenings. Or maybe you’re involved in their sports and you exercise with them in the evenings. Getting your kids involved in exercise and working out as a family is a great way to stay consistent and have fun too.
Basically, find what fits your life and what is doable. Don’t choose a time you know won’t work for you. And then be consistent to setting that time apart for yourself.
5. Schedule exercise into your day-write it down.
Now that you have decided on when the best time to exercise is and how often you are going to exercise, write it down. Regardless of what kind of planner you are, find somewhere to plan out your week or day and fill in your chosen time for exercise. It is well-known that when we take time to write things out, they are much more likely to be accomplished.
Not only does this help encourage you to stick to your exercise goals, but it also lets others know your goals. This allows them to encourage you and prevents them from keeping you from your goals.
One other benefit to writing your exercise in your planner is that it helps you see your goals and prevents you from getting to the end of the day and forgetting to exercise. Seeing your daily exercise and seeing it get accomplished or checked off each day is great motivation to keep at it.
On those days that are just so full and busy, you can look back at all the times you still did it and still find time to fit it in. And on those same busy days, you will see that exercise is a priority and is already scheduled in your day.
6. Choose an exercise program that is doable.
This can mean different things to each of us, so let me explain. By doable, I mean something that doesn’t require a ton of equipment, cost a fortune, and can be done wherever you are. (Although you may not want to exercise in the after-school pick up line, you may get some funny looks.)
Sure, a gym membership is attractive. All those classes and options and other people to encourage you. But if you don’t have the time to actually GO to the gym, the money to afford the membership, or someone to watch your kids while you’re there, the gym isn’t doable.
At one time, that was doable for me, but at this season in my life, the gym isn’t an option. If going to the gym is your thing, then go for it. But if it is going to be more of a hassle then choose another option-and there are plenty of options.
Maybe you prefer (or need) something that can be done in the comfort of your home. Youtube has tons of different types of exercise videos you can do for free. These are perfect for the busy mom who needs an exercise program she can do on her schedule, in her pajamas, or with her kids playing in the den next to her.
Just remember to also choose an exercise program that doesn’t require a ton of expensive equipment. This is true especially if you are just starting your exercise journey. Many programs can be done using your own body weight as resistance. Even if you do want to use weights in your exercise program, can foods or other household items are a great starting option.
When you decide to invest a little more, you can find inexpensive weights at discount places like TJMaxx or Dirt Cheap. The point is to not get sucked into the hype that the more you spend the more results you’ll get. The best exercise program is the one that you will actually do. That’s one reason I choose (right now) to run-it’s free!
Now that you’re inspired, motivated, set a time that works for you, wrote it in your calendar, and know what you’re doing, get out and get exercising. Your body will thank you.
Until next time,
If you’re pregnant and want to stay fit and active, check out my friend Olivia’s Pregnancy Exercise Program. She has an amazing Diastasis Reci Bootcamp that I went through and still use the exercises.