Making exercise a habit

While I have (more or less) mastered the routine of eating healthy, I still struggle greatly with incorporating exercise into my daily schedule. I love to run, once I get outside. But in the morning, I’ll find any excuse not to get out of bed and venture into the cold (or rain, or slush, or sunshine, or whatever else seems to be a good reason to avoid getting up). 

Thus, I’m constantly seeking tips on how to make exercise a regular part of my routine. I’ve found a very inspirational and simple blog called Zen Habits, which has lots of ideas on how to make exercise a daily habitAnd I also love to hear from people in my life who have the same goal. Below is some advice from Teagan, an ecologist in Montana who is a long-time runner and biker. In 2008, she completed a 2,300 mile bike ride from the Yukon to Yellowstone National Park (see this article to read more about her trip). She talks about the importance of making exercise a part of your life, in the same way that eating and sleeping are mandatory activities:

Combine things you love with exercise. 

If you’re a competitive sort, schedule a weekly game of racquetball or basketball. If the social aspect appeals to you, find a group of friends to exercise with. You can have a different friend and different activity for each day of the week. If you love exploring, go for a long bike ride around places you don’t normally see. If you’re inspired by a scenic view, find a trail or route near a natural area.

Diversify your activities. 

While it’s great to commit 100% to one thing, say running, it can be super hard on your body to subject it to the same stresses every day for months or years. If you can find activities that challenge different parts of your body, your overall fitness and enjoyment will benefit.

Be flexible. 

It can sometimes be hard to do the same activity based on seasonal changes, weather, and changing school or work schedules. Incorporate exercise into your class or work commute; run or walk there. Bike to a dinner party or to the store if you have a small list. Find a gym or indoor activity that you can frequent when the weather is cold or inclement. You can maintain a high level of fitness this way and also keep reduce stress on your body.

For more ideas on how to get moving, see Top 42 Exercise Hacks, or Developing an Exercise Routine, or Make Workouts Daily.

Health is a daily commitment

     Wow, thanks everyone for the enthusiastic response! I received a number of reflections and resources that people would like to share about how they live healthy. From now on, I’ll try to post at least one resource, inspiration, or idea per week. 
     Below is a reflection on living healthy from Emily, a friend of mine who is a nurse in Madison, WI. Note her statement that healthy living is a commitment you have to renew every day. This is something I definitely find I must do. Read her upbeat and inspirational reflection, then see below for some resources on making health a daily commitment.

I think you have to make a commitment to yourself every day if you want to achieve a healthy life. That means in all aspects, not just nutrition and exercise. You must allow yourself to have room for mistakes, learn to forgive yourself when you err, and to be open to the love and wisdom of others. To address the idea that in our society it is so easy to be UNhealthy, I think if you make a commitment to yourself that you renew everyday, then the healthy choices become more natural. Surely, it is easier in the short term to make unhealthy choices, but what is easy is not always best. And, more often than not, the things that are most worthwhile in this life are the things that do not come easily. My inspiration comes from the people I care for. You know, I’ve made my career around managing people’s long term illnesses, and so often those are things that could have been prevented by lifestyle choices and changes. I just tell myself I don’t want to suffer in my old age (if I make it that far!), so when I buy fresh fruit in January I think of it as an investment in myself and my family for the years to come!

One Way to Commit Each Day: Keep a Food Journal

  • Food journals help you pay closer attention to what you’re eating. The simple act of recording your food intake will help you see patterns in what you’re eating, including when you’re more likely to eat too much or indulge in foods you’d rather not include in your diet. 
  • I’m not a Twitter user, but I know many people are. If you do tweet, here is an ingenious new way to easily keep track of what you eat each day: Tweet What You Eat
  • If you don’t tweet, you can call into an 800 number to verbally record what you’ve eaten each day (or any other aspect of your health that you’re working on): Use Jott to Keep a Food Diary
  • You can also use an online journal. Most of the ones offered online are full of ads and/or cost money, so I would also recommend an Excel spreadsheet (here are some templates) or a regular old notebook.