Proven Methods to Rebuild Your Fitness Habit

III Marine Expeditionary Force Marines perform burpees during a Force Fitness Instructor (FFI) course July 31, 2018 at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. Marines participating are required to lead physical training exercises to demonstrate the various exercise techniques they’ve learned during the six-week course. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kindo Go)

We are all creatures of habit.  We can get out of habit very easily too and build a habit of doing something else (or nothing) for a very long period. For instance, it is not uncommon to be in the fitness habit for many years, but when an injury or illness causes a break in your daily fitness routine, getting that habit started again can be difficult. The longer you spend not exercising also builds a habit.  That is why in order to achieve a goal you must to deal with two habits:  one you must break and one you must start.  Here is a list of considerations that are reframed to help with dealing with the two habits above:

Instead of thinking that you need to start working out every day for an hour, do this:

Do This – Not That:  Set a time every day to start doing a form of physical activity. For many getting up a little earlier seems to only conflict with sleeping longer (no family, work, or other commitments). The goal here is to get out of bed, put on your exercise clothing and shoes, and start walking. If you have equipment available, bike, elliptical glide, row, or swim. Start out for 10 minutes goal. If you are still getting over long term illness and still weak or just beginning a fitness routine ever or in several years, this is ALL you need to build the habit of waking up / not sleeping and start moving. Now, if you feel better after 10 minutes, keep moving, add other dumbbell and calisthenics exercises and stretches. BUT let the 10 minutes of moving determine that – not the comfortable bed determine whether or not you will be training harder or not. This way the habit of exercise is starting to build regardless of a 10 or 45 minute workout is completed. Do these 5-6 days a week for a month and you will find the habit is there for you and you will feel much better after only a week of starting this wake up / moving habit.

“It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” ―Benjamin Franklin

Eat This – Not That:  (see link) As with moving and adding activity over inactivity, the same holds true to eating healthier options and eating less than healthy options.  There are many foods that we all know are not considered healthful (candy, soda, cake, cookies, other treats). Eating less of these or even better eliminating the high sugar content from your diet can be a liberating habit to break that not only makes you look better but FEEL better too! Foods like lean meats, nuts, seeds, berries, fish and other healthy but tasty treats can be a suitable replacement for the standard snacks we mindlessly and habitually eat.

Start Small – Not Big: When people get motivated to change their health, wellness, and appearance through dieting and exercise while also eliminating other bad habits of smoking, drinking, etc., that challenge just became too big to do at once.  My recommendation is to start small and specific. Day 1 you simply add movement.  Just move more for the first month. If you want to add something else – add drinking more water, but save the dieting for another month. And save the big bad habits for a different month. You may find that by adding more movement to your day, you actually crave healthier foods, and drink more water than you normally did. Continue for a month or two more and you may find that you are drinking less alcohol and ready to give up smoking. The key here is do not do it all at once.  People make resolutions each year like that and they typically do not make it to February.  Read New Year – New Goals (12 month Challenge)

Find Partners – Not Solo:  Finding a workout partner is the most effective way to start adding the healthy habits to your world.  Feeling like you are going to let someone down by not showing up is a good motivator to get out of a comfortable bed in the morning. If you need more expertise with training, find a trainer at a local gym or hire one to meet you at your house or a local park to train. The monetary investment is also a good motivator for you to get moving again and people tend to stick to it longer when they either have a partner, group training, or a personal training program.

“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going." Jim Ryun

Let It Out – Don’t Keep It In:  Let many people know you are starting your road to fitness.  Not only is this a good source of internal motivation for you, but you may also help to motivate another to move.  You may also find a few partners with such an announcement. There may also be doubters in your circle too – proving people wrong is a strong source of motivation for many, though it can be crushing as well.  Know who you are talking to and avoid too many negative people. In fact, it is not a bad idea to start limiting involvement with such negative people.  People come in two types – faucets or drains. They will either fill you up or suck the life out of you. Be strong when you find negativity in your day and prove it to yourself that you can rise above the haters.

In the end, the combination of starting a healthy habit has to be combined with eliminating something else. Make sure your WHY is strong. Having a solid WHY you are doing this is important. For your health. For your kids. For your future. For your family. For your confidence.  Whatever the reason you have to start a new habit and break an old one let it be understood mainly by you.  Because, when it matters, self-motivation will win every time. Good luck.

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