How to support your exercise habit

In Happy Hats on October 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Run: Reflection 3

Recently there was a change in a lunch policy at work.  We can no longer sit down at our desk during our lunch break.  It is one of those non-negotiable changes that sometimes befall you at work. This policy may be the norm for a lot of places, but for my workplace it is new.  I used to be able to use my lunch break to check the news, surf, check my email, write emails, get a few extra minutes of work done, and more. You get the idea. I chained myself to my desk because of the convenience and fast internet connection.

Basically it has been a comfortable, self-delusional way to keep my butt on my chair and not move from there.  I tricked myself many times into thinking I couldn’t leave, that it made no sense as I was three minutes into my lunch break and I had to finish whatever it was I was doing.  It became a habit.  Before I knew it I was using my lunch break not as a way to take care of myself, but as a way to get more things done, things that many times didn’t have to do with things I wanted to do for me.  I would tell myself I could exercise at night at home.  Then I would come home and feel so tired that exercising was the first thing out of my mind.  Then I would feel guilty about not exercising at lunch when I had the time.  It became a very neat circle of justifying not exercising and then beating myself up about my weakness later.  Isn’t the mind funny like that sometimes?

Well, with this new policy I can’t stay at my desk.  I mean, I could.  My boss trusts me not to. I am also a supervisor so I have to give a good example to my staff, and I trust them not to stay at their desks during their lunch break.  I have here personal powerful motivations that bide me to comply with the new policy and overpower the appeal of staying at my desk:

  • Following the rules
  • Being trustworthy to a person I look up to as a role model
  • Being a role model for people that look up to me as a role model

I’ve had a few tempting moments when I think: “I don’t want to go to the gym today. I’m tired” Before this policy change that thought would have done me in.  I would skip gym time and stay at my desk.  Now I can answer with: “Okay, and do what?”  The idea of just sitting somewhere, just looking at people and not having access to a computer, a book or anything to do something ‘productive’ is enough to get me going.

I am intentionally not bringing books or my crocheting happy hats project for Christmas, just my gym clothes.  That way, the only thing I can do other than be a lump on a chair somewhere is to go to the gym or go for a long brisk walk.  I can report that I have been exercising consistently during my lunch time four times a week since October 11th.

I have read that a good way to create a new habit is to select an already formed habit or established event that will trigger the new habit.  In my set up before this policy change I had no trigger that I could see or imagine to create.  This external trigger is clear and clean, and it is easy to attach a new habit to it… any new habit actually.  So, I am being careful to only bring with me the items that will further my exercise habit.

So, look around you.  There may already be opportunities to set up one of those non-negotiable policies in your workplace as an external trigger to support the habit of exercise you want to establish and that you have been struggling with.

From my experience I would recommend you to ask yourself the following questions.  It may be a good way to start a conversation with yourself that will lead you to create an optimal situation where exercise is the only way out.

  • Are you in a self-defeating cycle of promising yourself you will exercise when you really can’t?
  • Are your motivations to get going powerful enough?
  • Is there a non-negotiable event or policy at work that you can set up as an external trigger?
  • How can you intentionally create or support a situation so exercise is the only out?

If my post resonated with you and you know other people who would find it interesting, practical or inspiring, please share it with them by email, facebook or twitter. Sharing is the only way my writing will reach new readers. Thank you!


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