How to Start an Exercise Habit

Let’s face it. It’s not all that difficult to start an exercise habit. After all, most of us have done it more than once. The challenge is with sticking with the plan. More often than not, our initial enthusiasm wanes, we’re distracted by other things transpiring in our lives, or we’re disappointed when we don’t see results fast enough, and we simply give up.exercise habit

Nevertheless, we’ve all known those people who find a way to hang in there, and would no sooner miss their morning exercises than they would their morning shower. So, what’s their secret? In most cases it comes down to starting an exercise habit and committing to it.

How I started my exercise habit

A few years ago, I was approaching the 230-pound mark. My knees hurt from all of the excess weight they carried and I was tired all of the time. I blamed my knee problems on my arthritis that was a result of a growth deformity that was corrected by surgery in 2006. My knee problems were my perfect excuse not to exercise. So, I buried my head in work because that’s where I could win.
Between 2006 and 2013, I would exercise. I’d get to the gym and ride my bike while reading a book. I figured I was getting some exercise, and it was a nice escape from my daily routine. The exercise was relaxing, and I loved it. But, I exercised on and off for the next few years; always using my crazy life and two-hour daily commute as an excuse to kick my exercise habit to the curb.

In 2013, I suffered from major back problems that lead me to a chiropractor 2-3 times a week for about a year. I couldn’t walk very far. In fact, I couldn’t even walk around my block. It was too exhausting and painful.

After a year of that madness, I went to my primary care physician to see if he could run some tests on me. He sat down with me, and we talked for a bit. Rarely, do I see a physician who will actually take the time to talk to me. Usually, they spend about 4 minutes telling me what’s wrong with me without asking one single question. Sigh. After a few tests, he looked at me and said, “You’re healthy…your core isn’t. You need to strengthen your core”.

Six months of physical therapy later, I began walking again. It was slow and embarrassing at first. I’d walk around the block and call it quits when I got home. The next week or so, I’d walk around the block twice in one session.

Soon, I was walking a mile, then 2 miles and now I walk 3 miles. In fact, I workout about 2-3 hours a day. Yup…I workout that much and the needle still doesn’t move on the scale. But, no worries! I look great!

My exercise routine starts in the morning. Mostly, because if I do it first, I don’t have an excuse not to go. Plus, I figure that by taking care of me, I can take care of others. I’ll do about 30 minutes on the elliptical and then about an hours worth of strength or yoga, alternating on odd days, five days a week. Sometimes I walk the dogs at lunch. That’s the benefit of working from home I suppose. Then, I finish my day with a 3-mile walk with the hubs.

How to Start an Exercise Habit

So, how do you start an exercise habit? The following tips will help.

1. Pick a day and time that’s easy and convenient to stick to. Some medical and fitness experts feel that it’s best to exercise in the morning. If you work out at a gym, choose one that’s conveniently located between home and work. Exercise, take a shower, and you’re ready to face the day, energized. If you prefer to exercise at night, do it on your way home from work. If you go home first, there’s a good chance you’ll lose motivation.

2. Start out slowly and build from there because in the beginning it’s more important to get into a routine. Some suggestions include taking a brisk walk through the neighborhood or a local park, use the treadmill for 15 minutes, play tag with the kids, swim a few laps in the pool. Come up with a variety of activities that you enjoy doing and keep in mind that, there’s no hard set rule that says you have to buy exercise equipment or go to a gym.

3. Keep going (even when you don’t want to) and develop the habit of “going”. If you stick to the plan and don’t give in to the temptation of not going, within 3 to 4 weeks you’ll have a habit in place that can last for the rest of your life, with periods of reminding yourself why you’re staying the course.

4. Every week, increase your activity levels which can be as simple as increasing the incline on your treadmill, going on a longer walk or adding an extra day to your weekly workout plan.

5. Work up to 30 minutes of cardio a day during the first month of your new exercise plan. Then in the second month, add on yoga and strength training and something else in month #3, like kick boxing or Zumba. Creating a plan that involves several activities like running, walking, cycling, tennis, weight lifting and varied aerobics classes will not only keep exercising from being boring but ensures that you’ll have something do to, even on bad weather days.

7. Commit to keeping up with the routine. That said, if you do fall off track, and the best of us do from time to time, get back on track right away.

Exercise Equipment

The best exercise equipment is a decent pair of shoes. They don’t have to be expensive. I wear Filas and they work fine for me. Besides my shoes here are other things I like:

  • Phone or MP3 player – perfect for playing podcasts and music.
  • Gym membership – around here gym memberships start at $10 per month, can’t beat that!
  • Yoga mat – great for stretching, yoga and crunches.
  • Weights – perfect for keeping my muscles toned.
  • LifeSpan stretching partner – I LOVE this for helping me stretch.
  • Recumbent bike – I like to read on this…old habits die hard.
  • Elliptical – I use one every day at the gym

If you’re going to buy exercise equipment get a discount on it. If you follow my blog you know how much I LOVE Ebates. It’s how I get the very best deal on everything I buy. I even get a discount on Amazon! If you’re new to Ebates, you can support this blog by clicking here and getting your $10 gift card. I’ll get a referral equal to half that, so thank you. It helps me run this blog.

Making behavior changes can be difficult, but once you start an exercise habit, it will be easier to maintain. Rewarding yourself for creating and sticking to healthy habits is also a good way to stay motivated. Start by setting a goal, determine a reward and then work towards it. You might consider buying yourself a new pair of fun walking shoes, workout clothes, or treat yourself to a massage for working out every day for a month. These are just a few examples – Do whatever motivates you the most.

What tips do you have to share?

5 Tips to Weight Loss Success

Diet fads never work long-term. Extreme exercise regimens can result in injuries or visits to the emergency room. weight loss successThe best way to stay with a program is to find one that’s easy, safe and that you enjoy. Believe me, there are weight loss programs are out there that you might actually enjoy.

Weight loss programs take time. If someone promises you quick over-night success, they’re lying or are uninformed. Pick a program that seems interesting to you and stick with it for 30 days to see if it yields results. If not, try a different program. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Walk More

If you can set aside 30 minutes every day to get away from your desk or home and walk around the neighborhood, you’ll burn calories while strengthening your legs and your heart. It’s also cheap, requiring a simple pair of sneakers. If you can’t commit to 30 minutes, try starting with 10 or 15 minutes. Just get started!

Peddle a Bike

These days you can get a bike that’s stationary and fits right under your desk. They call them Desk Cycles, Peddlers and mini-bikes. These portable exercise units have bicycle pedals attached to a metal bar and allow you to bike while you work.  With a DeskCycle, you don’t have to leave your desk. You can peddle away while working, sitting on the couch and even while your eating, although I don’t recommend them.

To be honest, I prefer to get out and bike the neighborhood. I have a three wheeled bike that I use to go to the grocery store and gym. It helps me carry my groceries while saving on gas and helping the environment.

Take the Stairs

Admit it, you know you should take the stairs instead of the elevator, but if you’re like me, I have to guilt myself into making the right choice. Start with claiming one day as stair day, where you don’t use the elevator at all. Stair climbing Saturday will help you commit to taking the stairs and getting into the habit. Then you can add a day until you’ve covered all days of the week!

Yummy Foods in Moderation

You don’t  have to cut out all of the yummy foods in your life, but you should eat them in moderation. There is no single food that will completely reverse your weight loss attempts. That is unless it’s a trigger food that you can’t stop eating. Those should be left on the shelves of your grocer.  Everything in moderation, as long as you stay within your Weight Watchers PointsPlus® or calorie values.

Make Habits

Those who set a routine and stick with it are likely to be successful than those who exercise whenever they feel like it. The goal is to create habits that you don’t have to think about. Successful weight loss requires about habits, positivity, and commitment.

Remember to talk to your doctor before starting any weight loss program.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which helps me keep this site running. Please see my FTC disclosure for more information.

You Can’t Work Off a Bad Diet

Remember back in the day when you could eat just about anything you wanted and not gain weight? bad dietOr maybe you did struggle and even now can’t seem to drop any pounds. Unfortunately, losing weight gets even harder as we age.  Even if you could workout 24/7 (who does that?), you simply can’t work off a bad diet that’s based on sugar-laden treats and high fat, high-calorie foods.

The truth is, all the crunches and cardio in the world won’t create a sleek physique if you’re following an unhealthy diet. While it’s true that consuming excess calories calls for additional exercise, it’s impossible to get enough exercise to make up for eating a massive cheeseburger, “super-sized” French fries and a large milkshake is sadly, not an unusual combo for most people today.

Are You a Professional Athlete?

If you’re one of those people who frequently justifies  eating huge pasta dinners and fried chicken by taking a spin class or Zumba, it’s time to recalculate just how many calories you’re actually burning off compared to those your consuming. Most of us aren’t professional athletes, meaning we don’t need the same amount and type of fuel that the pros consume.

Eating high carb snacks or meals might make sense for a competitive athlete, but it doesn’t for someone whose idea of exercising is a two-mile run or boot camp class three days a week. Instead, make healthier food choices that include lean protein (grilled, skinless chicken, fish, tofu, etc.) and every once in a while treat self-talk to your favorite spaghetti. Yes, it’s OK to have some of your favorite foods once in a while, but if you truly want to achieve healthy, sustainable weight loss, it’s important not to make it a habit.

More about Moderation

While adhering to the belief of “everything in moderation” can be a real diet killer, if you feel you have the control to treat yourself once in a while without slipping back into unhealthy eating habits permanently, it can help you stick to making healthy choices the majority of the time. It’s a fact that the more you try to eliminate your favorite foods, the more feelings of deprivation and resentment will build up, usually resulting in the undoing of all the hard work you’ve put into building healthy eating habits. Research has shown that 95% of the people who follow an extremely restrictive diet to lose weight will end up putting the weight back on when they switch back to normally eating again.

Bad Diets are Motivation Killers

Whether you’re overindulging in high fat, high carb foods, consuming too many or not enough calories, or drinking too much alcohol, all will lead to your being less motivated to exercise. When we eat well and by “well” we mean healthy food choices, we’re more motivated to exercise. When we consistently exercise, we’re more motivated to eat healthier – it’s a win-win situation.

Don’t Beat Yourself up

Have you ever had this happen to you? You start to lose weight, feeling confident and hopeful. You just know things are going to be different this time. Then, you end up overindulging and end up feeling like a failure. This is usually when the negative self talk begins – I’ll never lose weight! I might as well give up! I can’t do anything right! Putting yourself through a mental beat down isn’t going to help you lose weight. So stop demeaning yourself and focus on your strengths, not  imaginary flaws.

You Can’t Work off a Bad Diet

It takes time to develop healthy habits. What’s important is to keep trying. You can’t work off a bad diet. Following a well-balanced, nutritionally rich plan will help you lose weight and most important of all, keep it off. Sign up for Weight Watchers or 21-Day Fix and get a gift card by signing up for Ebates here.

Note: This post contains an affiliate link, which helps me keep this site running. Please see my FTC disclosure for more information.