Are you getting antsy to exercise? We are getting there. Thanks for your continued patience.
What To Do Today
Yesterday you identified how you want to feel and the types of behaviors that already make you feel that way. Today, it’s time to choose your new habit. Take out your worksheet from yesterday (“Decide How You Want to Feel”), and look at your list.
Task #1: Highlight the most motivating, rewarding feelings in column one. What do you MOST want to feel? Now, also highlight the activities reliably make you feel that way.
For example, a client of mine identified that she wanted to feel more calm, and two physical activities that make her feel calm are walking her dog in the morning and going for swims at the gym. Note that while she had experience feeling calm after walking the dog and after swimming, neither of these activities were habits for her, but rather infrequent activities.
Task #2: Choose the highlighted exercise activity that you like the best. My client likes walking her dog best, by far. What activity will you look forward to? What feels fun? What seems easy? What could actually count as play, or even a leisure activity?
I’M SERIOUS. If your habit feels like a chore, or it feels hard, or if it feels like work…YOU WON’T DO IT IN THE LONG RUN. If it is something you feel like you “should” do, but that you don’t actually want to do…eventually you won’t do it at all.
Right now, you’re picking the physical activity you’d like to start off doing, to get yourself in the habit of exercising every day (or nearly every day). For now, pick just one activity to start with. My strong suggestion is to pick low hanging fruit, people. This is the behavior that you want to do the most, the one you ranked number one. My client picked walking her dog every single morning as her new habit.
Task #3: Give yourself permission to do something fun and (probably very) easy. Many people feel like doing a physical activity that is fun and easy doesn’t count as exercise. Men often feel that doing easy physical activity isn’t masculine. You want something that is going to make you sweat. And pant. And immediately look better naked. No pain, no gain, right?
Wrong. You have a choice: Do something hard and ambitious for a short period of time and then quit it, or do something fun or relaxing for the rest of your life. I promise, the people who know about these things (like your doctor, therapist, or coach) want you to pick the physical activity that you are going to stick with. This program is about hardwiring an exercise habit into your brain that you can build on later.
Other people, women especially, struggle with this fun and easy criteria because it feels selfish to them. Their own needs lose out to the needs of the people and institutions around them–their kids, spouse, boss, business, etc. “This leads to a disturbing paradox,” writes Michelle Segar in No Sweat. “When we do not prioritize our own self-care because we are busy serving others, our energy is not replenished. Instead, we are exhausted, and our ability to be there for anyone or anything else is compromised.” So it isn’t at all selfish to take care of yourself in a way that is fun, that will truly replenish you, and that will make you feel happier and healthier for the rest of your lifetime. Exercise is essential if you want to make a difference in the world.
If you are really struggling with this permissions task (or even if you’re not), you might want to read Segar’s book, No Sweat. It is an excellent book.