Nov 17, 2015

How to incorporate exercise as a habit

The last 10 days have been raining heavily and Bangalore is at a freezing cold temperature in the mornings. It would be nice and comforting to snuggle inside a cozy blanket and get some more sleep. But my body clock wakes me up on time for my Yoga class.

It's been 6 months now since I started doing Yoga and it has become a part of my routine now. On days when there is no Yoga class, I feel something is missing and my body also feels the same. It has taken me so many years to incorporate a regular exercise regime in my day. I find keeping my eating habits under check relatively easier than doing regular exercise. I had struggled, been lazy, gave myself enough excuses over and again but Yoga has finally helped me to break all the obstacles that I had built for myself. If you are like me who is struggling to get some exercise into your routine, the following 6 tips might be helpful.

(1) Try multiple forms of exercise and pick the one that you like the most
For years, I have tried hitting the gym, jogging at the nearby park or a lake, at-home aerobics, brisk walking and even tried to learn swimming. But I hadn't been consistent at any of these. I had tried Yoga for a few weeks at home by myself after my awesome Swaswara trip. But the motivation didn't last long. This time, I found a Yoga class being organized in my apartment and it has clicked for me. Don't give up if you find a form of an exercise boring. Keep trying new ways until you figure out the one that you enjoy.

(2) Choose the one that offers low resistance to get started
By low resistance, I mean the one that doesn't provide you many excuses to quit early. When I started jogging at a nearby lake, I enjoyed it for a few days. But the walk from my home to the lake is taxing and I would eventually end up using this distance as an excuse to quit. The same problem happened when I was enquiring about Yoga classes in a center which was around a km from my home. I'm sticking to my present Yoga classes because it happens within my apartment complex and at a convenient time of 7 AM. Make a list of common excuses that your mind throws when you begin an exercise routine. Don't resist but be aware of them. See if you can appease some of these excuses, particularly those with respect to time, distance, schedule etc.

(3) Try to compete with yourself, not others
If you are amidst other people either in a gym or a class, do not compare yourself with others. You would come across people who are better than you, can jog for a longer duration, can stretch a lot more, have more stamina etc. But don't let that demotivate you so much that you end up quitting. Set targets for yourself and make minor improvements everyday. If I'm stretching for a Yoga pose and my instructor counts upto 10, I would see how much longer I can hold. If I was able to hold for 5 counts, I set a target for 6 counts the next day. I have no idea how others in the class are progressing. I'm focused on myself and see how I can improve a little better today. It's like a game I play in my mind where I set achievable targets.

(4) Focus on the work, not on the outcome
I know it's easier said than done, in a results-oriented world we live in. But this really seems to be working for me. In my "Weekly goals" plan, I set a goal that I should go for atleast 4 Yoga classes every week. The goal is not about weight loss or inches loss which I may or may not be able to influence completely. If I keep being regular at my exercise routine, I believe the outcomes would eventually fall in place. So instead of checking if the weighing scale is showing any improvements every week, try setting measurable goals that are focused on the work to be done.

(5) Make friends, form a group, find a partner
Being amongst a group of people with a common objective really helps you to be regular at your exercise routine. If not a group, atleast find one other person - a friend, a colleague or a neighbor so you can motivate each other. I think this is one of the important reasons why I have been consistent with Yoga but got so bored in a quiet and lonely gym. There's more people to talk to, have fun and crib about "sore pains" :-)

(6) Find an instructor or a mentor who will push you
When I used to do Yoga on my own, I never pushed myself to stretch a little more or hold for few more seconds in an asana pose. As humans, we love comfort and our minds wouldn't want us to step out of our cozy comfort zone on a normal day. But eventually our bodies would get used to any exercise routine, unless we keep increasing the stretch limit. I'm so grateful to have found a Yoga instructor who pushes me every single day and helps me to understand how much I'm capable of. I have improved step by step in getting many asanas right in the last 6 months.

Sitting is the new smoking for our current generation. So keep moving, be physically active and try to get some exercise into your day, however busy your schedule might be. Hope these 6 tips were helpful to you. Would love to hear your comments.

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