As of right now I am 1 month, 28 days, 18 hours, and 15 minutes away from running my very first marathon. There’s a part of me that finds it really hard to believe that I’m actually serious about running a marathon and a part of me that can’t believe I’m fit enough to actually attempt a marathon…especially when I remember where I was 2 and half years ago.
Where I was was 180 pounds and unable to walk for 5 minutes without pain in my hip joints. But when I found myself 10 pounds lighter at the end of the Daniel fast, I got this crazy idea of adding exercise to my new healthy eating habits. Novel idea, right?
I hated the idea of exercise. I couldn’t walk up the 3 flights of stairs to my office where I worked at the time without huffing and puffing and stopping at every flight to catch my breath. I was embarrassed by my appearance in work out clothes, but I swallowed my pride, wedged myself into a pair of shorts and hit the gym.
I started on the elliptical. My initial goal was just to stay on the elliptical for 30 minutes without dying. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, every week, so my goal was to exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week.
It sucked. I was winded, hot, and sweaty, but when I finished my 30 minutes and saw the number of calories I had burned, I felt great. But then I had this issue of getting home and not wanting to go to the gym again. Somehow, I had to develop a habit of exercise. I mean, I had the eating part down now, but we all know that physical health has to involve some type of physical activity too, right?
So these are some things I did to help develop a habit of physical activity:
- Schedule exercise. That’s right. Put your gym time, walking time, Zumba classes, biking, or whatever exercise you choose on your calendar. For me, having an event on my calendar gives me some accountability. I’ve made room for it in my schedule, so I’d better do it. And having it on the calendar prepares me mentally for that time. I can review my agenda for the day, see that I’m going to the gym at 6 p.m., so all day I’m preparing myself for this next event. I know me, and if I left exercising up to “I’ll go if I feel like it”, I’d never go!
- Choose an activity you like. If you hate running, don’t run! You’ll never exercise if you equate exercise with torture. I stayed with the elliptical for a while until I wasn’t gasping for air the entire time and started feeling kind of bored. Then, I branched out to try different things. I tried Zumba and found that I loved it. I was no good at it, but I loved it! I kind of felt like this lady in blue, but at least I was moving!
- Sleep in your workout clothes. Yep, I just said sleep in your workout clothes. An early morning gym date was always the hardest for me. Slapping snooze on the alarm was much easier than getting up, changing clothes, and heading out for some exercise. But I discovered that getting dressed was half the battle. By sleeping in my workout clothes, I eliminated that battle, so I could just pop out of bed, jump into my shoes and go.
- Pack a gym bag. When I would schedule my exercise time at the end of my work day, I made it a habit to pack my work out clothes so I could go directly to the gym after work. It’s much harder to go out again after I go home. Being tired from a long day of work, the couch would call to me, and 5 minutes rest on said couch had all the power in the world to kill my good exercise intentions.
- Track your progress. I became more motivated to continue exercising when I could see my progress. Last time I did 30 minutes on the elliptical at level 2; this time I did 30 minutes at level 3, and I still walked out of the gym under my own power! Progress! It felt great! Paying attention to my level of exertion was another way I monitored my progress. When I first started Zumba, I could hardly make it through the warm up without keeling over. The first time I made it through the class without feeling like I was going to puke was a happy dance day!
- Give yourself time. It takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit and new research shows that forming a new habit can take anywhere from 2-8 months! You can read more about that here. Remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that takes time.
So what’s your activity of choice? Remember that no matter what you do, even if you think it’s too little or too slow to count, you’re passing that person on the couch!