So, I am curious, how many of you made New Year’s resolutions around your diet or exercise? How many of you are still adhering to them?
There are four major factors that influence our ability to stick with, or adhere to a new exercise program:
1) The demands on our time
2) The staggering array of choices
3) Our general feelings of resistance to change
4) Our history of success and failure
Unfortunately, none of these factors is going to go away. So how do we stick with our wellness journey in spite of it all? Let’s look at each one individually.
- What do I value most in my life? What is a priority?
- How do those values and priorities connect or coincide with my desire for wellness?
- How do I currently schedule my time?
- In what ways can I use my time differently, to ensure that I am meeting my wellness goals?
- Are there ways that I can schedule two of my values or priorities into one time slot? How?
- Am I being present? If not, how could I be more present?
- How can I incorporate cardiovascular exercise or strength exercises into my everyday activities?
Have you ever sat back and really thought about the staggering array of choices that you have, not just for exercise, but also for life? I remember when a friend of mine came to the US from Australia for the first time—the sheer number of options for toilet paper astounded him.
Now, consider your exercise options. Even if we want to start a new exercise program, how do we know where to start? Do you sign up for yoga, or cross-fit, or Zumba, or Pilates, or bootcamp, or P90X, or maybe just join a gym? The confusing array of choices cause stress, and often stress leads to inaction. Before making a choice, it is important to get clear on your end goal, as well as think about what you really enjoy. If you don’t know what you might like, experiment, and try out different things.
Be patient with this process. When you go shopping for clothes, you usually look around, find something you think you want, try it on, and swirl around in it a bit to make sure it fits right and doesn’t pull here, or cinch there. I urge you to do the same thing with your workout. Just because your best friend loves Cross-Fit, doesn’t mean it is a fit for you. Find something you love that aligns with your goals.
Change is hard. We have all gotten into habits and routines that are comfortable and feel good to us. Some of us, when we contemplate a change in our lives, feel the stress in our gut, in our chest, in our head, or all over our body. Extensive research has been done to understand the process of change, and different models have been developed to explain how and why people change. The underlying theme to all of these models is that change takes time and preparation.
One of the greatest downfalls for people entering into a new exercise program is that they move from zero to full throttle, without easing up on the gas and experiencing different speeds or routes along the way.
Preparation is critical because it ensures success when it comes to action. When starting a new program, it is important to:
- Write down and commit to a formal plan for yourself, with SMART goals, (Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Time-Bound)
- Be realistic about your time-constraints, so you can plan when you will be able to work to meet the goals you made
- Brainstorm, and identify small steps—some of which may include thinking, feeling, or planning, and may not actually include any exercise just yet
- Identify possible barriers that might get in the way, and strategize for how to take those barriers off the table.
- Identify people, resources, systems, and environments to support you
Finally, our success with adhering to a new program is connected to our history with previous exercise programs. If we have had a negative experience with exercise or diet in the past, we may go into our new program with a stressful feeling. Instead, look toward your past for times of success and build on those strengths.
- What fitness activities did you like in the past?
- When was a time in your life when you felt really alive and well—what were you doing? Who were you with?
- How can you incorporate some of those same environmental factors into your new program?
- What motivates you?
- What strategies may be effective in helping you reach your goals?
I wish you well in your health and wellness journey for 2013.