You know that you want to be ___________ (enter any number of positive adjectives that are plaguing your mind at the moment – healthy, fit, strong, confident, muscular, thinner), but it can be SO hard to get started. How many cycles of “tomorrow’s the day” or “I’ll start on Monday” or “next month when things aren’t so stressful” have you gone through with your get-healthy goals? If the number is uncomfortably high, you’re not alone. We’ve all heard the adage that it takes 21 days to start a new habit, right? Well, according to a study completed at University College London of 96 habit-hopefuls who wanted to add a new healthy routine such as running every night after dinner, including fruit with their lunches, or doing 50 crunches every morning after breakfast, it wasn’t that easy. While some more feasible habits, such as drinking a glass of water in the morning, did seem to get established after 20 days, the average habit-forming time span was 66 days, with some folks in the study still trying for habit status after the better part of a year! Yikes!
Before you throw in the gym towel and decide that you’re doomed, we do have some tips for how to successfully get started on your own quest to health.
- Start, and continue, with an attitude of self-compassion. Aside from sounding very gentle and sweet, there is actually scientific backing to this. If you exercise or diet from a place of guilt, or from a fixed mentality, then every time you slip up (which we all do, many times) you’ll view it as a character flaw. Whereas an attitude of self-compassion will help you to think of your diet changes and exercise attempts with a growth mentality, or something you can improve.
- Remember that every positive decision you make is a gain, but you have to keep going. One long walk isn’t going to fulfill your requirements for a week, just like one super food salad isn’t going to “carry” you through the next five meals. The long walk and salad are, however, great steps in getting you to where you want to be.
- Want to know the very best exercise for you, the one to guarantee results? It’s the one you like, and the one you’ll want to do. Aim to do this exercise, or another enjoyable one, for around 30 minutes, most days of the week. The good news is that exercise can take many forms, from dancing, to swimming, to aggressive house cleaning. And remember that every time you choose activity and health over poorer choices is a gain for your wellness.
- Slow and steady wins the race, and meets your goals. Over exuberance in the beginning is a great way to sabotage yourself. Either you get burnt out mentally, or your body gives out because it’s not used to doing what you’re asking it to. Start slow, and celebrate each gradual gain.
- Try a little of everything. The exciting thing about beginning a physical health routine is that there are so many choices and options to sample. You never know what might strike your fancy and find a permanent place in your regiment. Under the instruction of your trainer, give weight training a try, as well as biking, yoga, stretching, and jogging. Many people just getting started enjoy walking or using the elliptical machine. The choices are yours – just get out there and try it!
In the end, decide that you want to change for the right reasons. Focusing on the scale, or your pant size, or your appearance may motivate you temporarily, but that fuel will often burn out, and cause damaging self-reproach. Instead, decide that you want to be healthier because you love and respect yourself, and deserve to be the best you can be.