Exercise: Making it a Routine

Have you ever noticed that when you love something you don’t need to argue with yourself to do it!? You don’t have to argue with yourself to go on a holiday, or listen to your favourite music or laugh with your friends.

Pleasurable things are easy to do without thinking or overthinking them – you just DO them.

So how do we make something that our mind says is going to take effort or even be un-pleasurable, into something that we look forward to?

The answer, in simple terms, is to make it automatic.   So often, we create routines and “bad habits” for the very things that we don’t want to keep repeating.

Often these are the types of activities that we would term addiction or an obsession, whether it be substances, eating the wrong foods or binging on reality television. We know it’s not good for us in the long term, but in the short term – we do it anyway.

We WANT to learn to do what’s good for us in the short term, which has to accumulate benefits in the long term AND MAKE IT AUTOMATIC.

Deliberately making something automatic involves CREATING A ROUTINE that eventually won’t be questioned. We need to make the first step relatively easy so that our minds can’t argue too much – or when the mind does complain that it is a small enough step that we can override the mind.

Take my personal example.. my teen son is a mountain biking extraordinaire- he literally began riding and jumping his bike at the age of three with bravery beyond my imagination. Over the last few years, he has convinced me that I’m capable of climbing big hills and going down jumps! Going down is fun (and scary) and has become the reason to convince me to ride at all.   While my idea of a jump is a minuscule molehill compared to his mountains, the thrill of the jump is what brings pleasure and fun!

Nevertheless, my mind generally complains on the way out to the track, about how my legs hurt, about how much effort it will take, how tired I am, how I’d rather be laying about, how I’d like to do something easier and generally questioning why are we doing this anyway?

If we take the step by step approach, you simply contract with yourself to take the smallest step. It could be that you contract to ride for only ten minutes.

So when your mind complains, you can say back to your mind – “Look it’s just ten minutes. I can do ten minutes”. You may need to repeat it again and again, like “surfing an urge” you don’t act on what your unhelpful self-talk is saying, you continue to get your body to do what it needs to do to reach the goal of riding for ten minutes.

We can acknowledge that ten minutes of riding isn’t going to achieve much in terms of fitness or skills development. At this stage, you are simply training your mind to know to learn that riding your bike is something you can do. The physical benefits come later. As you build your enjoyment, you build your physical ability.

When you do reach your goal of ten minutes, you may be surprised to realise that you are enjoying something about being out on your bike. Bringing your mind to what you enjoy is a driver for motivation.

When you finish the ten minutes you may well find that you’d like to do another ten minutes. Or you can follow the halves rule and just do another five minutes, and keep contracting with yourself to do another five minutes as often as you like.

Later, once you are in the routine of doing at least ten minutes each day, you can have your starting point as being 20 minutes, and add to it to with ten more minutes or five more minutes.

Just do something is the motto here.

From a psychological perspective, it is better to do ten or twenty minutes of exercise each day, than leave it for the whole week and expect yourself to do an hour of exercise.

I apply this strategy to walking for exercise, and also with exercising in my home gym. I wonder what type of exercise you could apply it to?

More help

Revive Health and Happiness has a team of psychologists who are all experienced in dealing with stress, procrastination and anxiety.

We have a variety of strategies to help and support you in managing procrastination if it is getting out of control and of course, can help with anything else that is troubling you or your loved ones.

Contact our friendly team now to talk about how we can help.

By Lisa Irving

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