Mark Twain said “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
His point is as well taken now as it was more than a hundred years ago: change is hard! The same can be said of breaking a bad habit or picking up a good one. As of this posting, we’re at that point in the year where New Years resolutions to be more active are a distant memory. Now that the weather is improving, many of us are starting to think about getting taking another crack at it.
But how do you break out of the start-and-stop cycle with your workout routine? What can you do to really make it stick this time?
You may want to begin by thinking about the common obstacles that break your routine and bring your efforts to a silent halt. All these obstacles can be described with the blanket term Resistance. Resistance comes in many forms, and appears whenever you’re trying to make a significant personal change. It swallows your initial burst of enthusiasm with unforeseen circumstances or feelings that can easily derail your efforts and leave you frustrated. Its appearance is inevitable. But if you know it’s coming, you can be ready.
You know the drill
Routine can be key in maintaining an exercise habit long term. This can work really well if most of your days have a steady rhythm. Do you leave work at pretty much the same time each day? Make that unwinding period your gym time. If before work is better for you, then do that. The key to this strategy is consistency and predictability. If your lifestyle isn’t so steady, it might be very difficult to make this strategy work for you.
Your workout won’t take much will power if it’s all part of the plan. If it’s built into your day in a way that’s almost automatic, it will be much easier to punch through the resistance phase and just do it because it’s what’s next on your schedule.
Who’s got your six?
One of the many forms the Resistance takes is the people who are closest to you. Ever try to cut back on your fat intake, only to have your spouse or significant other bring home some form of temptation along with the milk you had them pick up? Ever set a date to hit the gym only to have to cross if off the calendar to do a favor for a friend? Your loved ones aren’t intentionally trying to sabotage you (usually), but when you live with and around people with different needs, their interests inevitably clash with whatever change you’re trying to make in your life. It’s like trying to go the bathroom in an airplane: chances are, meeting your needs is going to mean someone else is going to be inconvenienced.
How do you get past this? It may not be realistic or helpful to announce to everyone in your circle the changes you’re trying to make and ask for everyone’s support. Sure, the bigger the cheering section you have, the better, but not everyone is comfortable with that. Pick at least one person who’s willing to help you be accountable. Tell them when you plan to go exercise and have them check in with you every week or every few days to see how things are going. You’re not asking a lot, and a best friend or romantic partner will probably be happy to help. Better yet, if you have a friend with similar goals, support each other! Keep each other accountable and committed.
If you’re not having fun . . .
You’re doing it wrong! If working out is a miserable experience you dread every time, you’re simply not going to be able to keep it up. Even if you’re just bored and you’re doing it just to do it, you could be in trouble. Sure, you won’t ‘feel like it’ every time, but go anyway. That’s good! The Resistance hates when you do that. But the motivation has to be there. You have to want it, not just for the promised results, but for the experience itself. Try different things! Sign up for various lessons. Find a sport or a class you truly enjoy and make it a part of your who you are. Routines come and go: passion is forever.
Practice makes perfect? No!
Actually, perfect practice makes perfect. Go into each workout with a problem solving mentality, or with a goal to improve. In weight training, that might mean improving your form or raising the amount of weight. In basketball it might mean perfecting your jump shot. Engage with the activity, not just with your body, but with your mind as well. You will see better results from what you’re doing, and skipping out or giving up will be the farthest thing from your mind.
Make sure you’re rewarding yourself for sticking with it. Keep track and reward yourself for reaching milestones. (Wherever possible, make sure these rewards don’t involve calories, so as not to compromise your goals.) Massage, it turns out, is both a fantastic non-food reward you can treat yourself to, and a great way to take care of your body. You can even purchase the reward ahead of time as a gift card or in a prepaid package and use it whenever you’ve earned it. It’s easy to place buy a package or gift card online or by phone (425-243-7705). You can also book your appointment online.
A final thought on the Resistance …
If you’re still struggling after trying all these strategies, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror. Is there some underlying issue, some lurking thought error or negative belief about yourself that’s quietly undermining your motivation? A great first step in that direction is to look the Resistance in the eye and recognize it for what it is, no matter what form it takes. If you can name it, you can get around it.
So get out there and stay with it! This time, things are going to be different.
Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to handle your content and social media marketing needs by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org