For the past number of years I have struggled to maintain a consistent exercise regimen. When I was younger, this was not a problem. I would sweat it out on the stair master or treadmill at the gym, and spend an hour lifting weights with the grunters. I’d roller blade at the beach with friends, go on runs through my neighborhood, or swim laps at the neighborhood pool. I thought of myself as a physically active person. I WAS a physically active person, and I assumed I always would be.
Even when my kids were very young, I kept up an exercise program of some sort. As an older parent, I felt it was especially important for me to maintain my strength and agility so I could keep up with my little ones. So, when I gradually became more and more sedentary, I felt a little bewildered. Yes, I have issues with my neck and that has limited the types of exercise I am comfortably able to do. But there’s more to it than that. I became dismayed as I saw myself growing less and less physically active. I had to acknowledge to myself that I could no longer truthfully identify as a physically active person, and this kind of felt like a big deal. I wasn’t sitting around all the time, but as far as getting my heart rate up and gaining strength? Wasn’t happening.
These are some things that kept coming up for me:
I wanted to know WHY I was struggling. As though there was some deep meaning for why I wanted to stay in bed an hour longer, or why I wanted to keep my butt planted right where it comfortably was.
I’d heard the research on it taking 21 days to change a habit, and did not find it to be true. Discouraging!
I was waiting for inspiration. I thought I would have an “aha” moment and everything would change.
Eventually, through working with a life coach, I realized there was no secret sauce. Why I was no longer active was neither here nor there! I needed to focus instead on what I WANTED. My coach encouraged me to come up with what I wanted around exercise and physical health, and to put it into an easy sentence or two. Now, this is the truth I can hang my sweaty shirt on: I am a woman who values my health, and exercise is a priority for me. I want to be active with my kids and to grow old in a healthful way.
It’s not earth shattering, but it is life changing. Your reason for moving your body might read differently. That’s ok, mine is what is needed to get ME going.
Sometimes, I still struggle on the front end; that hasn’t magically disappeared. When I feel like staying in bed or crashing on the couch instead of getting my walking shoes on, this is the process that works:
- I PAUSE and take some deep breaths.
- I get in touch with what I am thinking. Usually, it’s something like “I don’t feel like it!” “I’m tired!” “I deserve to do what I want right now!” Standard stuff.
- I make friends with those thoughts. I invite them in as familiar friends, and let them know I recognize them.
- I tell those thoughts they are going to have to take a seat. That sometime I’ll listen to them, but not today. They need to go sit in the corner and be quiet for now.
- I remind myself of how I WANT to live: I am a woman who values my health, and exercise is a priority for me. I want to be active with my kids and to grow old in a healthful way.
When I remember to PAUSE and go through this process, it works. I put on my shoes and head outside! I can honestly say that I always feel happy that I did. Not once have I wished I’d have stayed at home. This has the effect of connecting me even more deeply to the value I hold of being a healthy woman who moves my body.
Are there habits you’ve struggled to break or implement? This process can be used for almost any habit you’d like to change. Do you yell at your kids? Do you wish you spent more time in a creative pursuit? Instead of feeling guilty, identify why it’s important to YOU to create a better habit. Your reason might be different from mine. See if you can connect with the change you want to make, rather than focusing on why you’re NOT doing what you want to do.
If this is a process you’d like to explore further, contact me.