30 Days of Exercise

I used to be a gym rat. A hard core, gung-ho workout fanatic.

But ever since the baby, I haven’t been able to get back into a groove. Granted I’m sleep deprived, hormonal and always on the go, but the truth is, I’ve gotten lazy.

Last week I drove to the gym, walked inside, looked around, and left.

How sad.

Exercise was once a habit, now it’s a chore. I miss my old routine. I miss feeling strong and fit and energized, and I want my motivation back. Which is why this is the month where I make my triumphant return to the gym.

The Challenge: Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day

This month is about getting back into the exercise habit – sorry, no 15 minute plank attempts this time. To spice things up (and since I never do well with vague challenges) I’ll be tailoring my workouts to achieve these specific goals:

  • 1 mile run: 8 minutes 30 seconds
    • Day one: 9min 50sec (I can hold an 8:30 pace for about 90 seconds)
  • Forearm Plank: 5 minutes
    • Day one: 1min 26sec

I’ve done enough challenges to know how hard it is to stick with a new exercise (and diet) program. There are certain things that need to be done in order to maximize my chances of success. Here’s what I’m doing to stay on track:

  1. Make it public!
  2. Make it specific. 30 minutes of exercise every day, with a focus on running and strength training, as I’ll need to improve my leg and core strength.
  3. Make it realistic. Keep it challenging, but not unattainable.
  4. One thing at a time. Exercise only; no diets or food restrictions.
  5. Plan workouts in advance. Every night before bed, I write down when I’m going to work out, where, and what I’m going to do.
  6. Make contingency plans. What happens if I don’t feel like going to the gym? What if the baby kept me up half the night? If my body isn’t cooperating, I can go for a long walk, drop in on a gentle yoga class or do a meditation/stretching series.
  7. Ask for help. My old trainer is helping me with workout plans, circuits, tips and lots of encouragement.
  8. Just keep going. If I mess up or skip a workout, I won’t beat myself up about it. Instead, I’ll analyze where I went wrong, tweak the program, and get back to work the next day.

For the past 4 days I’ve fought my way through jogs and sprints, pushups and planks, scissor kicks and lunges. I haven’t enjoyed any of it. In fact, I spend most of my workouts fantasizing about pulling the plug on the whole month.

But I’m sticking with it because I know that I’m capable of enjoying and even loving exercise. And I’m a better person too.

Journalist and author Charles Duhigg says in his book, The Power of Habit, that when people start exercising regularly, they often unknowingly start changing in other areas of their lives.

Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why, but for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.

Duhigg defines keystone habits as “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives” (other keystone habits include food journaling, making your bed and eating dinner as a family).

When exercise is part of my regular routine, I’m not just fitter, stronger and healthier, I’m more conscious about my food choices, more productive, patient, focused and creative.

I like how I look and I like how I feel.

And that’s what keeps me going.