5 Ways to Make Exercise A Rewarding Habit

yoga-colors

Don’t let my small size fool you. Just because I look thin doesn’t mean I am in great shape. At least not yet!

When I can’t go to the grocery store without being winded and exhausted, I think I am definitely out of shape. I did turn 40 last year, but am not sure I am ready to settle for being tired and achy already. I still have half my life to live!

What about you? Do you dread getting older? Or have health goals that you can’t seem to motivate yourself to pursue? You want to feel better but have a hard time making your health a habit.

You are not alone. I have been asking around to those older and wiser than me. Most chuckle and tell me I have to get used to feeling worn out. I was ready to throw in the towel on exercise, and embrace the fatigue with more naps.

Then I started reading Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy Until 80 and Beyond written by a 73- year old retired but lively man named Chris Crowley and his wise physician, Dr.Harry Lodge. I was hoping running errands, cleaning house, and squeezing in one yoga class a week would be enough exercise. But I am learning that I need to move more, not less to reach my health goals.

“You do have to age but you don’t have to rot.” ~ Chris Crowley

The authors present with humor and science how we can reverse the decay in our aging bodies. If you aren’t ready to throw in the towel and let your tired old body take hold, then join me as I explore new territory with my changing but renewing body. 

Put Your Foot on the Accelerator

First, let’s see what’s stalling you out from reaching your health goals. Take out a piece of blank paper and draw a line down the center. On the left side, write the word “Gas” and on the right side write the word “Brake.”

Under the “Gas” column, list your health goals. For example, to sleep better, feel less pain, have more energy, etc. Think of this as your GO column, so also list what will help you reach your goals.

Then under the “Brake” column, list your excuses. Write down anything that STOPs you from moving toward your goals. For example, overcommitting yourself, kids activities, self-doubt, fear, etc.

Step back and evaluate which column has more items listed. The brakes or the gas? Now write down what you are going to do to move your foot to the accelerator instead of the brake.

5 Ways to Make Exercise a Rewarding Habit

Here’s what helped me put my foot on the gas and get my body moving to more energy and relief:

1. Embrace the Just Enough Challenge – I do enjoy a challenge and love to learn. So it helps me to think about my exercise goals as a challenge I can enjoy. I set my daily, weekly, and monthly goals small enough to reach but large enough to be an interesting challenge.

2. Learn What Works for You – The authors of Younger Next Year suggest “your first exercise goal is to do 45 minutes of long and slow aerobic exercise 6 days a week without any discomfort.” I have used this goal as a guide not a ruler. Find out what time of day works for you as well as what type of exercise you enjoy the most.

3. Push Through the Discomfort – Dr. Lodge shares great news about how the body regenerates itself. He describes exercise as a good stressor that tears down muscles in order to build them back up stronger. For me, this tear down was almost unbearable, and I was seriously thinking about discontinuing my minimal exercise routine. But I decided to try pushing through the discomfort in order to work on going “slower and longer” instead of harder and less frequent.

4. Ride the Adrenaline Wave – Eventually you push through the post-exercise discomfort and notice you feel a high from exercise. Use this adrenaline rush to get yourself back the next day. Don’t use this rush to be superhuman though. I am still paying for sledding down steep hills with my kids this winter!

5. Make Irresistible Long Term Goals – I may not have the energy and flexibility of my kids but I would like to be able to enjoy them. Make long term goals that you can’t resist. For me, it’s enjoying active vacations and weekends with my family. And maybe getting on a non-stationary bike one of these days!

Why Exercise?

I am happy to share that I have more energy, less aches, less headaches, sounder sleep, and better overall mood. Some of these outcomes weren’t even what I was hoping for, just what I have observed. I had wanted to feel “younger” for several years and am happy that I didn’t throw in the towel.

I will let the authors of this book share with you the science of why exercise is good for almost everyone. Here are the highlights:

“Aging is inevitable, but it’s biologically programmed to be a slow process. Most of what we call aging, and most of what we dread about getting older, is actually decay.” ~ D. Harry Lodge

“Exercise provides the signal that jolts our cells into repairing and renewing themselves and releases the chemicals that bathe our brains in positive feelings.” ~ Dr. Harry Lodge

“The keys to overriding the decay code are daily exercise, emotional commitment, reasonable nutrition and a real engagement with living.” ~ Dr. Harry Lodge

I agree that exercise doesn’t fix all problems but most tell me it sure does help. So how do you get your foot back on the accelerator even if it falls off?

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Please visit my new bookstore to find this book and more that I recommend on a variety of Liberating topics.

Photo Credit: “Yoga in New Colors” by Lululemon Athletica

4 responses to “5 Ways to Make Exercise A Rewarding Habit

  1. Great article! And so very true!

  2. Garrett McDaniel

    Unpaid commentary: I read YNY when it was first released in hard cover. Before that, I had been exercising 2-3 times per week. After reading (and re-reading) this book, I upped my schedule to 6 per week. What knocked me on the head and made me change my thinking were the two graphs on pages 4 and 5, contrasting the quality of life for “traditional” aging as compared to the quality of life for those who exercised. If you haven’t looked at those pages, please do so. I’m 65 years old, weigh 165 pounds at 5-9. My resting heart rate is 64 bpm and my blood pressure is 118/76. I take no medication aside from a daily baby aspirin. You can feel better if you do what these guys tell you. Start slowly but START !!!