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6 Steps to Successfully Integrate Exercise into Your Day

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I often get questions from coaching clients, friends and even co-workers around the topic of exercise. And I think this is a big topic for many people.  If you are reading this blog, then likely this includes you.  There are a few reasons why people turn to me about this topic:

1)      I used to be a personal trainer and have inside information on the subject (true).

2)      I was a competitive triathlete for 7 years, so I have a lot of experience balancing my workouts (up to 20 hours/week) with my daily life (also true)

3)      I work out regularly, it appears I have this topic all figured out and that this comes relatively easy to me (not so true).

 

The types of questions I am asked vary, but the majority of them revolve around how to establish and maintain a regular exercise routine. And specifically, how to accommodate it around other competing priorities of daily life. Because this topic is more complex than it may first appear, I will break it down a bit first, share some personal experiences and then jump into the how-to steps.

 

For starters, it’s good to focus on what is working for you already.

 

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When I get stressed out, I like to take my vintage kayak out for a quick paddle. What are some contexts when it comes easier for you exercise? For example, are you more likely to do it when you are on vacation? Or when your workload is less? Or when your kids are at camp?  Are you more or less likely to exercise when you are stressed? Basically, ask yourself what conditions make it easier for you to commit to exercising.  Jot them down. These examples show you that you can do it, even if it is not as regular as you want it to be.

 

It is possible to fit exercise into your day.

 

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You may be asking yourself at this point, “Yea, but how do I translate this into my daily life?” The answer is, you often need to get creative. If you are like most people, it feels like you have an endless list of stuff you have to do, which competes with finding the time and energy to work out.  You feel compelled to prioritize other duties, before you “allow” yourself to take care of you. Alternatively, even if you do manage to carve out the time, it can be really hard to get out of bed or off the coach to actually work out.

 

Be intentional about creating favorable conditions to make it more likely (and easier) to workout.

 

Truth be told, exercising regularly is a daily struggle for me too.  And I really like doing it – well, most of the time. Some background: I am a busy mom, employee and solopreneur. I know how hard it is to carve out time.  About 20 years ago, I set myself the lofty goal to work out 6 days a week.  And I have maintained this routine throughout the evolution of my life – from being single with a less demanding job living to my current life.  BTW: If my exercise frequency sounds like it is way too much for you, take heart, I’m not suggesting you do the same.  It is what I aspire to do, because it works for me.  I noticed that his level of physical activity helps me maintain my rhythm and live at my best – both mentally and physically.  For you, it will likely be different. Find out what your ideal sweet spot is.

 

Research substantiates that exercise is a major contributor to a life well lived. Our brains work better when we exercise regularly – it improves our memory and ability to focus. It is a fantastic mood enhancer. And our bodies were made to move, so it’s no surprise that a fit body simply feels better. It allows us more freedom to actually do the things we like and want to do. Be it specific activities like playing sports, keeping up with our kids or simply having more energy in our day.

 

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In service of supporting you on this topic, I will be totally transparent about my own journey.

 

For a big part of my life, I was totally unfit.  Much to the embarrassment of my parents who owned a sporting good store and were super active themselves. Why did I start exercising? Like many, just knowing that it would be healthier for me, was not really enough.  My actual trigger was when I heard that university students gained a certain amount of weight per year.  And I just did not want to fit into that statistic. I was already dissatisfied about how my body looked and felt before I started university, so the idea of adding an extra 5-7 pounds per year was just not acceptable.  So, I started riding an indoor exercise bike. I still remember how terrible it felt when I first started. In fact, 5 minutes on that torture machine totally wiped me out! I was panting and sweating profusely, and my face turned beet red.  Those 5 minutes went by so slowly. I could not wait to get off the bike. It was awful. I hated it. A lot. If someone had told me that I would be representing Canada as a triathlete many years later, I would never, ever have believed them.

 

That was then. This is now.

 

 

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If you are curious about more details around my story, check out the About section of my website by clicking HERE.  The short version is: I turned my narrative around.  I started with the decision to be an active author of my story and design it as I truly wanted.  I did not want the circumstances of my life to author my story. How does this idea land with you?

 

If you want to re-design how exercise fits into your life? Follow the steps below:

 

Step 1: Make a decision and commit to it. Decide how much exercise your body ideally needs to be at its best. Write it down where you can see it every day. Then make a commitment to yourself to honour this.  Short and simple – set your intention around this before you move to the next step.

 

Step 2: Get social.  Include others in your commitment. Share your plan with persons who can play a positive instrumental role in helping you achieve your exercise target. For example, your spouse and/or friend who wishes for you to feel healthy and happy. It is also a good idea to leverage your social support network to help you be successful.

Alternatively, you can also be a role model to another person. Share your plans with another person who may be inspired by your quest and possibly even join you. Exercising with others can be very helpful to sticking to an exercise plan. Not only does it makes it more fun, there is the added bonus of being each other’s accountability partners. While you may struggle to show up to your workout for yourself, you’ll likely feel more compelled to follow through for the other person.

If you feel torn between spending quality time with your family and getting your workout in, do a workout which includes them. For example, go to the pool together, take your toddler with you in the bike stroller or go for a hike together.

 

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Step 3: Make a plan. Be intentional about when and how you will exercise by being very specific about how it will happen. Schedule and plan when and what you will do in advance. Put it in your calendar as you would any other appointment (like going to the dentist or out for lunch). Prioritize exercising as an equally important task as other tasks you successfully complete on any given day. Make it part of th routine, like brushing your teeth.  Avoid thinking of exercise as a secondary “nice to have” part of your day, because inevitably you will drop it and do something else instead.  For tips on how to create positive habits, click HERE to read a previous blog post on designing routines or habits which will work for you.

 

Step 4: Create an environment to support your goals. This goes hand in hand with the above point but adds another important nuance – you want to make it as easy as possible to say “yes” to exercise. This often only requires little tweaks to your routine. For example, pick the best time of day for you to fit exercising into your schedule.  If you find yourself getting too hungry at the end of your day to exercise, simply take along a mid-afternoon snack to eat in advance of exercising. If you find it hard to get off the couch once you are home, don’t go home first! Instead, take your gear with you and exercise directly after work. If you identified mornings as your best time of day to work out but find it hard to get organized that time of day, lay your clothes and gear out the night before. You get the picture. Make it easy to exercise by taking your mind’s tendency to rationalize yourself into not doing it out of the equation.

 

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Step 5: Say “no” to say “yes”. When creating space for anything in an already full life, you inevitably need to say “no” to things which do not contribute to your goal.  So that you can say “yes” to what you have identified as more important.  What helps me prioritize exercising is to think of it as saying “yes” to myself. When I take care of myself, I am in a better place to tend to other people or areas in my life which are also important to me.  And there is not shame in that. You need to tend to your own garden, before you can help someone else’s. It’s time you give yourself permission to say “yes” to you. Which brings me to the last step:

 

Step 6: Just *%&# do it! Most of the above steps require thought and planning, so this last point may appear contradictory at face value. But at the end of the day, you will start exercising regularly when you simply go and do it.  Once your plan is set up, it can really be that easy. It always has. There really is no additional thinking required. Don’t let your mind rationalize you out of working out. Just get on with it! Grab your gear, get out of the house or into you exercise space.  No whining. No excuses. Just do it.

What helps is when you making an honest deal with yourself: Agree to start exercising despite the excuses you have not to do it.  And if you still want to stop after doing it for 10 minutes, you can. No questions asked.  All good.  Then notice what happens. Most likely once you start, you won’t want to stop. But don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself.

 

Well there you have it. My top 6 list on how to get into a regular exercise routine. Now it’s your turn. Take control and make a choice to say “yes” TO YOURSELF. And be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions or feel like sharing your story to inspire others.

 

If I can do it, so can you. I believe in you. Let’s go!

 

Namaste,

Simone

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