How I’m Building a Fitness Habit that Finally Sticks
Feb 12 2019
Feb 12 2019
THIS is the year that I will finally set a fitness routine!
…said I, for the past five years. And I have the Passion Planner ‘Year in Review’ reflections to prove it.
This year is no exception, but this time I’m focused on figuring this out once and for all.
It’s not like I haven’t tried. But I think I’ve been going about it the wrong way.
The main difference this year, is that I’m going slowly. So slowly that I can assess, learn, and adjust.
Crafting my Dream Fitness Routine
First, I’m figuring out how I want fitness to fit into my life. My dream fitness routine… These are the factors:
Time commitment – fitting fitness into my calendar
Effect on my other projects – how fitness influences my creativity and work
Enjoyment – what form of fitness is fun for me?
Daily Fitness Goals
I’ve tried weekly bouldering or yoga, but I find daily routines so much easier than weekly habits.
My friend and yoga expert Kayla taught me that it’s better for your mind and body to do yoga a little bit every day rather than one longer session once a week!
Fitness Habit History
IN HIGH SCHOOL
My daily routine in high school was to run for 10 minutes on the elliptical as soon as I got home from school, do a 10 minute yoga video (the same one, from a DVD), shower, and do my homework.
At uni, I promised myself to go running every day at 3pm as long as the temperature was above 15 degrees Celsius. It was particularly appealing to run at Oxford, as I had a favourite quick loop through town, around Christ Church Meadow, and back to college.
My other rule was ‘Go climbing; no excuses’. I would always show up for OUMC climbing nights, and let myself leave whenever I wanted to, but I had to at least turn up. It didn’t matter if I didn’t feel like it, if I felt a cold coming on, or if I had work to do.
When I lived with my parents outside Boston, I did Blogilates regularly, and attended early morning yoga classes in the city.
These rules saved me so much decision-making energy that I simply did not have time to muddle with. These routines were also specific to my life situation, and fit into my schedule.
I’m less motivated to go to the climbing wall without a club. I am less inspired to go running now that I don’t have a beautiful loop along the river where Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first told out loud.
I’m less motivated to go to early morning yoga when I don’t also have to leave the house, and my 19th century flooring is not the most suitable for floor exercises (Plus my cranky downstairs neighbours would kill me).
Daily Fitness Habits I’ve been building over the past few months:
I’m treating my Fitness Routine like a video game. I start small, with one manoeuvre to master, and every month, I level up.
In December, I committed to doing the morning stretches my chiropractor prescribed me. These take up less time than a Taylor Swift song.
In January, I added on evening stretches. One yoga pose minimum for it to ‘count’. The point was to start, even if the practice was 10 seconds long.
This month, I am adding a minimum of 4K steps per day. Looking at my pedometer app, I hit 10K, or I get around 2-3K. When I don’t prioritise walking, I feel it. 4K is so reasonable as long as I prioritise it. What really excites me about this is that it’s cumulative. Years ago, I tried sticking to Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project rubric, adding on different habits in different categories each month. About halfway through the year got so overwhelmed trying to keep track of everything. Sticking to the fitness theme declutters habit tracking for me.
The barrier to fitness entry
Going running or to a fitness class requires so many hidden steps: I have to get there and back, do stretches, get changed, take a bath. The whole process takes hours. So I’m starting with just the stretches.
I’m building up my daily fitness commitment one tiny piece at a time, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
My morning and afternoon stretches are placeholders as I try to identify when and how I want to bring more fitness into my daily life.
I’ve already learned that if I’m going to spend a few minutes doing yoga, those few minutes are better spent in the afternoon to break up work than just before bed.
Enjoy the aftermath of the habit
I spend much more energy resisting doing exercise than actually exercising. I’m working on this.
I pay attention to how my body feels when I take 2 minutes to do my morning stretches, or when I do just one yoga pose in the afternoon.
It hasn’t taken long for me to learn – just by paying attention – that my body feels better when I do my routine. I mean, I thought I knew, but now I know. For sure.
When I do my stretches, my back doesn’t ache so much when I work.
When I do my stretches, it’s easier for me to maintain proper posture throughout the day.
When I get in enough walking, I think better. I create better. When my body doesn’t ache, I sleep better.
This self-knowledge is far more valuable than the stickers I give myself on our Paddington bear calendar (although that is fun too, and marks my progress). I have a rule of twos – if I skip a day, that’s fine, but I need to get back on track the next day.
My daily monthly fitness goals are the bare minimum. Everything else is extra credit.
That said, I do now live minutes away from our local volcano that inspired me to move to Edinburgh. I aim for a weekly morning walk there with Snug, and have found that this walk is not just good for my body, but an excellent creative ritual for letting my thoughts breathe.
I’m subscribed to ClassPass lite, so to make the subscription fee worth it, I have to go to at least one yoga class per month.
Steve, Snug, and I have also gotten into a habit of a weekly family walk outdoors. I started a Snugventures page in my planner to keep track of dog-friendly walks, including commute time, so we can choose one. This ranges from an hour-long loop around a local park to a day trip to the Cairngorms to to scale a small mountain. Adventure is a requirement – the rigour of it depends on the day.
Consider your dream fitness routine, and how you want it to fit into your daily life.
Commit to the tiniest first step towards that vision.
After you do exercise, reflect on how it makes you feel, and how it impacts your other projects.
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