Motivation and habit

My colleague wrote to me this week and said

As with many articles and a topics on this web site I am forever talking about this issue with  friends and colleagues and they tell me, - "the biggest problem is to 'break' the bad habits, ensuring the motivation for exercise is treated as a 'must' in the daily routine."

The theory is always there at the back of the mind (knowing what should be done) but it is taking that massive (and it does seem like massive) action of regular activity, and sticking with day after day, that is hard.

And so finding the right diet/exercise that fits into individual lifestyles especially when they are already busy and divers is difficult. I always wonder how those that regularly exercise and rarely let it slip have the 'mindset' to ensure that they do it as part as their routine - how do they keep motivated and enthusiastic - keeping it as priority on their agenda.

So I have asked them, and here is the answer...  the answer to this big question: HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING, AND NOT LET IT DROP.

In this article I am just going to talk about exercise.  I'll do a separate piece on food and drink later.

Here are the 10 key rules to keeping up your activity programme day after day

1.  Don't try and start at too high a level - start at a level you can easily achieve.

2.  Think of all the reasons why you might not want to do your activity, and how you can overcome these negative thoughts.  For example, if your opening activity is a walk down the road and back, think how you will do this when it is raining.  If you opt for a jog around the park before work, how will you do this when it is still dark at 7.30 in the morning?  You need an answer if this is going to be your regular activity.

3.  Think of your own timetable.  Do you have days in which you won't be able to do the exercise because you have a special event, because you are working away from home, because a child is ill, or for any other reason?  If so, plan now for what you will do.

4.  Remember that we all have bad days, so how will you cope with these?  One way is to do the exercise in a way that happens before the bad days.

5.  Remember also that exercise does not have to mean running shoes and full gym kit.  A walk around the block on an industrial estate can be significant exercise - and for a person who does no walking can make a significant difference.  Just take something to protect you against bad weather.

6.  You don't have to tell everyone what you are going to do.  Many people have given up smoking by telling their friends that they "had a bad cough and really had to stop smoking for a while to get rid of it".  No mention of patches.  You don't have to tell everyone what you are up to.  Then, if you do slip for one day, no one knows and you can pick it up tomorrow.

7.  Try and do something that you enjoy.  When we mention dancing to friends we are often told "I can't do that - two left feet."   But in fact these people have simply never tried, and their initial failure to get the beat and the moves is the same as everyone else's at the start.   Dancing is a perfect example of something that often has no motivational problem because you can dance with friends, and have a social time.

8.  Exercise does not have to be a strain.  Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel good.   So try not to take on something that is going to make you feel bad because it is such a strain.  Take it easy.

9.  Give yourself a weekly reward for completing your exercises.  For example, if you decide to go for a little run in the morning each morning, you can say to yourself, fine, if I do this six days a week I will have the 7th day off.  That is my reward.

10.  You have to want to do this.  You know you will lose weight, so in the end you have to want to lose weight - you really have to want to do it.  And to do it you just have to change your world a little bit.   Don't start big - start small.  A little bit more of a stroll than usual.  A little further... but don't try and make it grow too fast.  You can stay at one level for a week if you wish.

Don't make yourself feel bad, don't punish yourself, don't push yourself too hard.  You have one major idea to get into your head.

Keep doing it, and then do just a little bit more.