The Embarrassing Question
How many times have we pledged to ourselves that this time around I am going to stick to exercising? How many times have we started with great enthusiasm only to fall back in place at square one?
If you are reflecting on the answer to any of these questions, then you know that you are having problems adapting to the fitness regime that you want.
Whether it’s deciding to renew a gym membership or making your New Year’s Resolutions, you know cannot do away with fitness in your life.
The increasingly sedentary lifestyles and our awareness of the diseases and disorders in store for people who keep living that way, make us cringe out of fear.
We want to incorporate a consistent exercise routine in our lives but for some strange cosmic mischief we can never build a sustainable habit.
Behavior under a Microscope
Let us examine the situation from the beginning. When you make pledge (which you are going to break by the end of the week or if you are really psyched then by the end of week two) you are acknowledging the importance of what you are proposing to yourself.
You KNOW that the lifestyle change that you are proposing is much needed. You KNOW that if you keep eating like this then you will end up with a Santa-like belly come Christmas.
However, the pricking question is that why are you not able to follow through with it?
Old habits die hard, there is a lot of truth in what ol’ Mick Jagger said. Acclimatizing to changes is a gradual process and will need a strong stamina from your end.
Our biggest problem is that we take big leaps, when planning a fitness habit.
It is not easy for someone who has not jogged for over half a decade to tie up his running shoes and start running five miles every day.
That is an unrealistic assumption, and it can further be compounded by solemnly swearing to take up several other drastic changes at once.
Examples include people who think that they will quit smoking, stop drinking, hit the gym four times a week and do cardio on top of that.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, even Chuck Norris will have a hard time coping with all these monumental changes introduced at once.
You need to understand that your body has become accustomed to your habits, it will resist any change you may want in its state.
This should not be treated as bleak new, rather the opposite, there is a bright silver lining to all of this, it also means that once that awful transition period passes by your body will take to your fitness routine like breathing air.
Yes, it will be difficult to take time out of your busy life, but every essential thing requires a sacrifice, which is always worth it.
The lesson here is start by developing small, easy to do routines that you can manage without wrestling yourself too vigorously, especially if you find that you physically and mentally cannot work out for a protracted period.
Instead of running five miles, start running for five minutes if you have not run since the ice age.
Exposing yourself to that brief moment of exertion and becoming regular in performing it, is the best way to go about it.
Once you find running for that duration a piece of cake, then take it up a notch, either by doubling the time or the intensity.
Only when you find that your body has become accustomed to exertion of this form, is when you start setting metric-based targets. Even then it is wise to start small, half a mile, then becoming used to it.
The analogy for someone who is afraid of the water and tries it by dipping a toe, then a foot then both feet is similar to this. It involves mentally convincing yourself that this can be accomplished.
The internet of things has made life fast, and maybe it has become a little too quick. You can stream a whole TV series the day that it is released, you can download the latest games within seconds.
The ability to execute and enjoy the fruits has become a commonplace expectation, but hey, no pressure.
This thinking has pervaded all that we know and as a result we have become accustomed to getting results in the same swift manner.
Sadly, the human body is not your speedy internet connection and it does not have the infinite resources of the App Store, think more along the lines of a DSL-based torrent free age, where you had to put effort (and money) to get stuff.
Realizing that there will be no overnight results, no matter how high you rank your level of sacrifice and exertion, is key to becoming regular in your regimen.
It is a good idea to not think of standing on the scale for at least a couple of weeks after you have taken up a fitness schedule. By doing this you will avoid anxiety and allow your body to naturally take its course.
Keeping Up with Yourself
No matter what excuse you make for missing a work out, you will only believe it if you want to.
You are accountable to only yourself, so take accountability seriously. Being regular in exercise is the most central principle, it always pays off.
Goad yourself into carrying on with your schedule, and reward yourself if you feel you managed to work out despite having a million reasons to skip it.
Your neighbour lost 40 pounds in three months and gave up drinking, your jaw drops and you turn an awful shade of green.
In anger and under influence of excessive testosterone and adrenaline, you switch to a heavy work out, then burn out and before you know it it’s a year since you last exercised.
Such obsessions are psychologically and physically unhealthy, you will do a lot better if you are focused on being healthy yourself.
Procrastinating never did anyone good. Don’t make excuses and start today.
Aarts, Henk, Theo Paulussen, and Herman Schaalma. “Physical exercise habit: on the conceptualization and formation of habitual health behaviours.”Health education research 12.3 (1997): 363-374.
De Bruijn, G. J., and R. E. Rhodes. “Exploring exercise behavior, intention and habit strength relationships.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports 21.3 (2011): 482-491.
O’donovan, G., et al. “Fat distribution in men of different waist girth, fitness level and exercise habit.” International Journal of Obesity 33.12 (2009): 1356-1362.