How I Jump-Started My Exercise Habit

Although I’ve been fairly consistent with exercise most of my life, I fell off the bandwagon during the COVID quarantine. My gym closed which disrupted my weekly routine. My yoga studio switched to virtual classes which just didn’t float my boat. An old knee injury flared up and put the brakes on vigorous walks in the hills. And, quite frankly, I just got bummed out and lost my drive to do anything.

I started finding my way back to healthy habits when reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits a few months ago. (Read my blog post.) Based on the author’s three layers of behavioral change, I declared the following:

  1. Goals: I will commit to 20 minutes of daily stretching, 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise, and strength training for upper and lower body on alternating days
  2. Process: I will attend to my stretching routine as soon as I get out of bed. I will use home-based equipment to address my aerobic and strength training needs.
  3. Identity: I am a health conscious person for whom proper diet and exercise are cornerstones of my life.

portable stair-stepperOut of an abundance of caution, I decided to work my way up to 30 minutes of daily aerobic exercise. I didn’t want my knee to get cranky again, and I wanted to remove barriers to getting back into a daily routine. I purchased a portable stair-stepper and tasked myself with a 10 minute workout the first week. I added 2 minutes to the daily workout with each passing week. As of next week, I’ll be up to the full 30 minutes!

For strength training, I’ve combined floor exercises with exercise bands. My current regimen clearly does not rise to the level of weight training at the gym, but it’s getting me back in the habit of working my muscles daily. Once I’m immunocompetent (thank you COVID vaccine!), I may reactivate my gym membership.

I’ve also adopted the Atomic Habits’ advice for establishing good habits:

  • Make it obvious: My home gym equipment sits on the coffee table in our living room. Because I walk through that room multiple times a day, I get repeated visual reminders that I need to log my time. Admittedly, it disrupts the aesthetic appeal of the room, but it’s not like we’re doing much entertaining these days!
  • Make it attractive: I listen to podcasts while doing my morning stretch. I watch TV while taking care of my aerobic and strength training exercises. I find that when I’m entertained, the time flies.
  • Make it easy: I have everything I need to fulfill my daily exercise requirements right under my own roof. I don’t have to drive anywhere to take care of it. I don’t have to coordinate my time with anyone else. I just gotta do it.
  • Make it satisfying: I keep a daily log on my desktop to record progress. I am happy to report that I have stuck to my plan without exception for 65 days and counting. It’s gratifying to see all those checked boxes, and I’m motivated to maintain an unbroken chain.

I’ll continue to modify my exercise program to ratchet up my overall fitness. However, I’ll make sure that I can and will sustain whatever I add to the menu. As the tortoise showed the hare, slow and steady wins the race.