Why would anyone want to exercise every day forever? I believe this is not a question of want, but rather a question of need. We are born into this world and have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make an impact. Exercise is a major component of how we deliver our best selves every day.
The first concern is that exercise has become some kind of monumental task. The excuses are endless. No time. Too busy. Schedule doesn’t allow it. Have to feed the kids. Hurt myself from last year’s run. Have to socialize with friends. Have to buy groceries. I’m blind. In a wheelchair. The list of excuses is endless. Of course exercise can sound impossible when we look at our current obligations or limitations.
So let’s make some adjustments to our mindset and schedule, so that we can make this happen on a permanent basis. I feel like I can talk about fitness freely, as I have been swimming 5-7 days per week for the last two years, including continued exercises on rest days. Let’s get started with several suggestions to make exercise part of your life, forever.
Redefine the definition of exercise.
One mind shift I would recommend is to think of exercise as movement instead. The word movement sounds more concrete, more doable. Sure, exercise might be daunting, but are you saying you can’t move today? Sounds a bit more reasonable to move. When we think of exercise now, we first point to the gym as the ultimate association. Nobody likes running on a treadmill for an hour. It’s literally the most boring thing you could possibly do. Yet that’s the big marketable push in order to see weight loss, tighter abs and firmer butts.
When you make exercise seem less intimidating, life gets easier. Don’t make simple physical activity appear daunting when you can probably point to a number of scenarios where you can move throughout the day. Here’s a simple example: there is an elevator in my apartment complex. There are also stairs. I make a point to take the stairs every time, because that’s one small movement in a positive direction. With this small change, I end up climbing up and down at least 16 stories of stairs each day (I’m on the top floor), and I don’t even consider it a chore. Movement is movement. Don’t downplay the little positive habits.
Find something enjoyable to do.
So the gym is no fun. What do you do instead? Something fun, something that excites you. If no activities come to mind, it’s time to get out there and explore ideas. Try yoga classes. Try hikes. Try dance. Try it all! I got into swimming because it’s great for my joints, and I see myself doing it for decades to come.
If you do something enjoyable, time will fly and exercise will become hobby.
Move rather than drive.
If it takes less than 20 minutes to walk somewhere, you should walk. Or ride your bike. When I need groceries, the supermarket is only 10 minutes away, walking distance. Makes sense to leave the car at home for that trip (plus I get a weightlifting workout in when carrying the bags back).
See what places you commute to on a regular basis and determine if it makes sense to move rather than drive there.
Ignore weird societal rules.
Most would say that taking the apartment stairs instead of the elevator is just plain silly. It doesn’t matter. There are no rules to getting exercise. If someone says you have to work out for 30 minutes, five days a week, ignore those studies. Maybe you want to do 10 minutes of walking, seven days a week. Perfect! The body can handle that. Just look at all of the ultra-marathon runners who are told over and over again that they can’t possibly run 100 miles. Seems to be working for them so far. Some would say that daily exercise is much easier to build as a habit than only three days of exercise each week. Could be. There are no real rules to exercise, and no one needs to be forced to do anything. Just figure out your personal way of moving and see how it works for you.
Count 10 pushups as a day of exercise.
Even if you do 10 pushups today, that deserves a high-five. To help you stick with new habits, let small efforts result in big rewards. A high-five is a big reward hehe. 10 pushups will eventually lead to 15, then 20, then the sky’s the limit.
When you make the initial goal so small that the number seems easy, you will feel silly for not doing it. Also, when you get started on a task, you gain momentum. Sure, you had set out to do 10 pushups, but then you decide you can handle more, since you’re already doing it. Half the battle is getting started.
Walk rather than run.
This will be controversial, but I believe that running, especially on concrete, is not as healthy for your body (especially your knees) as walking is, in the long term. But there is more to the “walk not run” argument here. If you do anything slower, whether it be swimming, cycling, you name it, you will enjoy the activity more. You don’t need to be struggling to breathe at the end of an exercise. If you are, you might never try it again. We’re aiming for sustained habit formation here, not havoc on our bodies. Consistency is key. Walk rather than run.
Get someone to do it with you.
An accountability partner can work wonders for your consistency. I swim with my brother and feel a bit guilty whenever I miss a day. Maybe for you, it’s a walking partner. When you have two people working together, each towards common goals, life gets easier than going at it alone.
Do what your 100-year-old self would do.
100-year-olds are not powerlifting. Walks would be more common. Or even cooking in the kitchen. If you approach life with longevity in mind, you will choose activities more wisely. Think about the activities you can sustain, as you will want to be injury-free.
Eat in moderation.
Food is food and treats are treats. Let’s keep it that way (even though it’s hard). Like everything, eating in moderation is the best way to keep our internal organs in shape, while keeping us light on our toes. In Japan, food is consumed to 80% capacity. In Western culture, the capacity seems limitless. We can moderate consumption by buying smaller plates or just being consciously aware of our true limitations.
That’s a wrap! Hope these tips will help you get into an exercise routine that you can enjoy for years to come. At first, like with any habit, there will be struggle. When you have off-days, don’t stress about it. There is always tomorrow to get back on track. See what little routine you can start implementing today, even if it’s a walk to your mailbox or pushups first thing in the morning. With momentum, you will see progress in no time at all. The best part is, if you enjoy what you do, progress will seem effortless.