The habit of exercise

There is no question that regular physical activity is good for me. It’s hard to ignore the barrage of news touting how hitting the gym makes life better. This is the time of year when fitness centers go all out enticing couch potatoes to become models of fitness.

Bad habits strike again

Exercising regularly succeeds when it is a habit. My blog post on healthy eating explains how I am turning bad habits into good habits. My brain is wired to reward me for things I like to do. That means that exercise needs to be fun to make it a regular habit.

I have friends and former coworkers who exercise regularly. There is a consistency in their behaviors. Exercise is a habit. The lunch bell rings, and they head to the gym. They get up in the morning and are off to a spinning class. Exercise is something they don’t deliberate about or weigh the options. Their choice is automatic. It is a habit.

I need to develop a habit of exercise. Some experts believe that establishing a habit takes about 66 days. That means I need to exercise regularly for the next two months. I’m not naïve. I know that other factors come into behavior change. I came up with three behaviors that need to be in place.

Be consistent

Inconsistency was the culprit of my failed attempts at head to the gym. I joined Planet Fitness. Headed there religiously for three weeks. It rained. I skipped a night. I was tired. I missed another night. It was like dominos. As one night fell, the pattern repeated until no days were left standing.

I have been exercising regularly for three weeks and enjoy it. I made consistency a priority. I set a schedule of heading to Planet Fitness for a 90 minute workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings with Tuesday and Thursday workouts at home or at Planet Fitness.

I met with an exercise physiologist to set my routine. I am consistent on how I do strength training and aerobic exercise. I have goals on increasing endurance over the coming months. I am committed to not varying from this routine. I can’t adopt this habit if I am not consistent.

Have a purpose

Purpose does drive motivation. With no purpose, there is no motivation. The same applies to a habit. With no purpose, you have no reason to develop a habit of exercising regularly.

I found purpose in my life vision and goals. I need to be healthy to live the active life I want. My happy retirement depends on eating healthy and being fit. My bike keeps me fit during warm weather. A fitness routine makes being fit a yearlong habit.

Having purpose feeds the part of my brain that rewards me for doing fun things. I tell my brain that it will be rewarded through exercise. Envisioning what I plan to achieve through this regular exercise gets that dopamine working.

Track my progress

I am good at tracking progress. It’s a byproduct of my career. It’s also ingrained in my personality. It was only natural that I track my progress on being a fit person. My phone has fitness apps to track my cycling and hiking.

My OSU weight management program recommended MyFitnessPal to track diet and exercise. That is an ideal solution for me. My MapMyFittness and Fitbit apps interface with MyFitnessPal and automatically feed my workouts and steps into MyFitnessPal.

Tracking progress is a motivational tool. It gives me visual proof and feedback on what I am doing and the progress I am making. This feedback pushes me to move forward by increasing my endurance and level of exercise that I set out in my goals.

Some final thoughts

My previous attempts to adopt a fitness routine focused on losing weight. I hated what I saw on the scale. I watched scale numbers fall and slow to a trickle. Impatient, I soon abandoned the goal and routine. I failed to see that sustained weight loss is a long-term investment that pays off over a longer period of persistence.

This time I am focusing on the process of regularly heading to the gym. I am being persistent on living and feeding this process. The result will be achieving my goals. Time will tell. I get to see how accurate 66 days are as the timeframe for forming a habit.

Tom Bilcze
Have some fun today!

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