5 Secrets to Sticking with Your Movement Habit

movement habit

There are two really hard parts of building a regular movement habit. Starting it, and sticking with it. Today, we’re talking about how to keep going with it once you’ve broken the seal, and how to get back on track when you inevitably fall off.

It’s part of a week’s worth of episodes on finding ways to move your body more because exercise has so much to offer you physically, mentally, emotionally. And today’s big idea is that to really make a movement habit part of your lifestyle, you’re going to need some stick-with-it strategies in your back pocket. Otherwise, you’ll get derailed by all kinds of stuff–you get sick, work gets busy, you go away, there’s a pandemic etc.–and then it will be so very very tempting to let it slide.

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First thing: Sign up for something, preferably something you have to pay at least a little something for.

I talked about this in the how to find the time to exercise episode, but it applies here, too. The accountability of signing up for a class, or a challenge, or hiring a fitness professional will help you keep going over the long haul. Remember, we need to keep moving until we die. This is a long-term endeavor we’re talking here. Signing up to run a marathon is great, but what happens when the marathon is over? I prefer signing up for at least one thing that has no end date. For me, that’s personal training. Unless my trainer goes out of business, I’m sticking with him. Here that, Forrest? You’re stuck with me! And please don’t go out of business!


Second idea: Keep track of your efforts, and if you can make it a game

What you track improves–it’s like the scientific principle that the simple act of observing something changes the outcome. Get a fitbit, or iWatch, or a basic pedometer, or start looking at the data that the free Health app on your phone captures and you will be motivated to move more.

My personal favorite is signing up for a virtual challenge with friends–the two apps I’ve heard of are the Conqueror and Challenge Hound. You can pick a route, like across Ireland, or the Inca Trail, or even from across Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings, and the app will show you how far you traveled on the map, and show where you are in relation to your friends, and even send you postcards when you reach certain milestones. There are so many of these to choose from that when one ends you can just start another one. And trust me, you should absolutely just start another one. They are fun and addictive and they get you moving more and when they’re over, you move less. 

And thirdly: Despite all my reasons and exhortations this week to get back to regular movement, rest is an important part of your movement plan.

It’s when you recover, and when you can really embrace stillness. Plus, no one can be ‘good’ all the time. Pick a day each week when you won’t do anything and enjoy the heck out of it. 

Fourth: Build movement into your vacations

It’s really common to have a hedonistic attitude on trips and vacations and then when you come back you’re totally out of your healthy habits. So, sure, loosen up the reins a little, but can you also build some movement into your time away? Go on a hike, or if you’re going to a city, do most of your exploring on foot, or rent bikes or sign up for a bike tour, or go snorkeling or skiing? Moving your bodies together is a great way to spend time together and to see the sights. And if no one else wants to move with you, wake up early and go for a walk a couple of times while you’re away. That way, you don’t show up back at home and feel like you’re back to square one. 

And finally, you’ve to strengthen your start again muscles

It means resisting the sometimes overwhelming urge to tell yourself that you’re lame or that you suck because you haven’t kept up your movement habit. Just tell yourself, hey, it happens, and then walk out the door and take a walk–it will make you feel better. Starting again is an unavoidable part of any kind of practice. Don’t dwell on why you stopped. Don’t think at all, and just get moving. It will help you shift back into a good groove. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to think right now about which of these strategies you’ll use to help you maintain your movement habit. To recap, they are: 

Spending some money to work with a professional–a trainer, a yoga teacher, a physical therapist. 

Signing up for a challenge of some sort so that you gamify it

Remember to take a rest day so that you don’t burn out. 

Think about how you can build movement into your next vacation

And practice being gentle with yourself when you get off track so that you can build your start again muscles. 

Which one speaks to you the most? Can you do something right now to act on it? Reach out to a personal trainer, or ask a friend to join you in a challenge, or start a list of active things you can do on your upcoming trip, or writing yourself a note right now that says, “I forgive myself for getting away from exercising for a little while. All I have to do now is one thing to get started again.” 

Next week, I’m switching gears and talking about podcasting!

After all, yesterdays’ episode was my 700th, and honestly I get so many people asking me questions about what it’s like to podcast–I’m answering all those questions and giving you a peek behind the scenes next week. 

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Want to be a better person, but don’t know where to start?

My new daily podcast, How to Be a Better Person, is here to help by sharing one simple thing you can do in the next 24 hours to rise. My mission? To help you live your best life.

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