My Exercise Habits
I wasn’t always a daily exerciser.
Physical activity wasn’t always a priority in my life.
In fact, when my four kids were little, there were times when fitness wasn’t even on my radar!
For most of my adult life, exercise was in and out of my life. I’d join a gym or sign up for a class, participate for a few months, and then gradually (or abruptly) abandon it, allowing other activities and responsibilities to overtake my time and attention.
But after discovering a triple negative breast cancer tumor at age 48, and while fighting to survive through aggressive cancer treatments, I learned how beneficial and how important exercise is after a cancer diagnosis. I learned that exercise was a way for me to take back some control … to reduce my risk of recurrence, to improve my statistical chance of beating cancer, to recover from side effects, and to simply feel better in life!
I fought hard through cancer treatment to stay alive and to be here for my loved ones – and it is now imperative that I keep fighting to stay healthy and improve my own long term outcome.
James Clear, in his book, Atomic Habits, says that “The process of behavior change starts with awareness.”
So every day I ask myself, What are you doing for exercise today?
EVERY DAY I find a way to incorporate exercise into my daily schedule.
And every day is different – sometimes it’s a hot yoga class, some days it’s a 10 minute walk – and sometimes it’s a much longer walk, it all depends on the day.
Every day I check my calendar and the exercise opportunities available to me:
Can I attend a power yoga class (in person or virtually) today?
Can I walk a bit longer with a friend or with my dog today?
Can I fit in a cardio-strength class online today?
And then I schedule it – I register for the class, enter it on my calendar, commit to meeting someone to walk.
Setting a calendar entry is what Clear calls, “an implementation intention, a plan you make beforehand about where and when to act on a new habit.” In Atomic Habits, Clear cites hundreds of studies which demonstrate that people who make a plan for when and where they will perform a new habit (I will take a yoga class tomorrow at 10:00 at X studio) are more likely to follow through.
Clear advises that we give our habits “time and space to live in the world … with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time, even if you can’t say why.” This process is how exercise has evolved for me in my life … I now find that I have an urge to plan my exercise and to move my body … every single day.
I now see myself as a daily exerciser. In Clear’s words, true behavior change comes with identity change. It’s a two way street. Our behaviors reflect our identity, and our identity emerges out of our habits. So by thinking of myself as a daily exerciser, I also influence my own habits and reinforce the powerful urge to exercise that now emerges.
My new daily habit is to ask myself the question, “What are you doing for exercise today?”
And then I answer it. With a specific plan, and with joyful intention. And it works! Every action I take is a vote for the person I want to become. Every time I engage in exercise, it’s a vote for the outcome I’m hoping for, the quality and length of life I wish for, the future I hope to see.
We can all make exercise a daily habit … it can start with a 5 minute walk every afternoon, or a 5 minute stretching routine every morning. Whatever works for you! One step at a time.
So now I have to ask … What are YOU doing for exercise today?