On October 24th I was involved with a speed coaching event at Rhodes Wellness College. Throughout the day I was able to have 7 (and a half- random coaching session in the hallway!) 15 minute laser coaching sessions. I was asked a variety of questions, but there was one question that came up multiple times throughout the day.
I was asked at least 3 times that day some variation of this question:
” When I go to the gym I go everyday for a few months straight. I love it, I feel great, I love doing it. Then something pops up (work, school, laziness, injury) and I get out of my routine. One things leads to another and I am not making it to the gym even one day a week, and on top of that I also start eating bad”.
Now I need to be honest here, this question has stumped me for some time now. My natural brain wiring works like this: “I want/need to go to the gym for health, fitness (and a variety of other reasons) and therefore I get out of bed and go. It is hard some days, and I still do it”. That’s the way my brain works around THIS SPECIFIC ISSUE (not all challenges). So for awhile now I have been trying to support people by offering them the following solutions that seem to make sense to me:
- Don’t over do it. Going to the gym daily is a guarantee for burnout. Stick with 3-5 days a week of activity.
- MAKE SURE YOU ENJOY IT. If you hate what you are doing it is not long term. There are enough ways of exercising out there that you can find a few that you actually enjoy and look forward to.
- Find a way to stay accountable. This can be a buddy system, a reward system, hiring a trainer, paying to join a program. I have realized there are some things in life people just can’t rely on themselves for and that’s where my job comes in! (And financial planners, money coaches, dieticians, business coaches, piano teachers, etc).
- Set goals that are progressive. The one thing that keeps me going into the gym daily is I am always looking for improvements in my movement and fitness. I am always looking to do a few more reps, or lift a little heavier, run a littler faster, master a new exercise. Without this you will only have pure willpower to drive you into the gym, rather then some focussed programming and determination. Believe me, at a certain point exercising for weight loss will not be enough to keep you going and consistent. You absolutely have to have other goals and interests.
- Set a minimum. Even on the weeks when I am run down, tired, sore or injured, I set a minimum, and usually it is 3 days a week. That means that I still ask myself to show up to the gym and do what I can 3 days a week. Sometimes this means working on mobility and stretching, sometimes this is joining a less intense yoga class, sometimes just a walk on the treadmill. What I am teaching myself through this practice is that intensity, crazy exercises, and pushing myself to the limit isn’t what keeps me fit and active long term. Consistency, listening to my body, and maintaining my workout schedule is key.
- Be nice to yourself. I think people spend so much time beating themselves up, forcing themselves to do things, and feeling guilty when they don’t. I find it 100 % more effective to be encouraging and empowering to myself rather than disempowering and negative. For example I never say to myself “You need to get out of bed because you need to be leaner and be healthier”, instead I try and say things like “Working out makes you feel awesome and you know how strong and energized you will feel after”. It’s a small solution, very simple, yet effective. It doesn’t mean we let ourselves get away with being lazy and not achieving our goals, but instead means we achieve our goals in a total positive manner.
After I suggest these things a lot of people go and try them, and often find success. Today, while listening to an audiobook by Gretchin Rubin called Better than Before (a super awesome book about everything you need to know about habits), Here is a link to her website: CLICK HERE. I learned that subconsciously I was also doing something else for myself that was leading to my ease of exercise consistency. Gretchin calls it ‘Pairing’, which basically means if you are looking to build a habit you should pair it with something else you already do. I realized that no wonder I find it so easy to exercise regularly, I always pair my 3 times a week strength training sessions with 9 am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday after I have already came into the gym to train my morning clients. First of all I am already in the gym at the time, second of all I have finished my morning clients and I make sure I don’t book other people until 10 am or later. This way there are no questions asked. So for you, pair your activity with something you already do, or something you like to do.
Here are some ideas I can think of:
- If you work an appropriate distance from home, why don’t you PAIR your commute to work with a walk or cycle. (This has worked wonders for me in terms of building good cardio over the years). Bring you workout clothes and shoes and make sure you walk home every night from work! Or pair reading the morning newspaper on the stationary bike- heck it’s better than not moving!
- Pair your workouts with a stop at your favourite coffee shop on the way, and listening to your favourite podcasts or audiobooks. I sure am inspired to get out of bed and exercise when I know that a good coffee and story is also waiting for me!
- Pair your after work workouts with something social afterwards. For example when you plan to meet a friend on a regular basis on a Monday at 7 pm for a tea (notice I didn’t say wine here :P) then you can budget in an hour after work to pop to the gym before you meet them.
- Pair every time you watch your child’s hockey game with a 20 minute walk outside as they get dress and warm up on the ice.
- If you and a few coworkers are all struggling to stay accountable why don’t you pair your workouts with a mid day gym break?
- Pair a 3 times a week workout with a stop at your favourite smoothie joint after (I like Body Energy Club- Click here for their yelp page). Sure it can get expensive, but if you get a good workout in before, and fuel up on their tasty smoothie’s than your health is worth more than money.
Can you think of other way’s to pair your workouts so that happen consistently and regularly? Post them in the comments below!
On another note, I am committed to exploring this concept of “Why do people say they want to exercise but can’t commit to it regularly”. I myself am doing a few experiments on things I want to commit to and will get back to you about what I am finding challenging and what I am doing to overcome it! I am not a super human with super human willpower, the exercise portion has just always come to me easy. Let me explore other areas that need willpower and get back to you!
Hope this helps,
PS- The photo from this blog is an example of PAIRING- On Sunday’s my boyfriend Kyle and I always pair our date day with some exercise. Most often the exercise is hiking. In this photo we are hiking down from the chief in Squamish last winter! Such a fun hike with some scrambly portions near the top.