Hooray, it’s spring (or summer . . ., or fall . . . , or winter . . . or some strange combination of seasons you can’t quite identify . . .this is, after all, the northeast). Anyway, you want to be outdoors. But the weather is SOOOOO fickle, and you’re just not motivated. Well, perhaps it ain’t just the weather? Maybe it’s just . . . well . . . you? No!?! It couldn’t be!?! Could it?
Worry not! There are lots of tricks to help you turn your inertia into motion. The one very best tip that has worked for me is the one I’d like to pass along to you: make a regular date to exercise.
To Exercise . . . SOCIALIZE!
I believe there’s only one way to build an exercise habit, and that’s to exercise routinely. And there’s only one way to exercise routinely, and that’s with a buddy. I promise you, when you find your own personal exercise partner, your motivation will soar. Here’s my story:
Twenty years ago we moved into the development where we still live. There are walking paths among the houses and one day my husband Bob and I were taking a stroll. We saw Beth weeding her garden and Bob introduced us. Beth was a member with him on the homeowners’ association board. We chatted for a while, Beth telling us remorsefully that she had lost her walking buddy to a relocation move. “Barbara will walk with you,” I heard my husband tell her.
Now my husband is a smart man. He’d NEVER volunteered me without checking with me first. Except he just did. WHAT was his motivation? Could it possibly have been that he thought I needed more exercise?
All of this went through my head in a fraction of a second. “Sure,” I heard myself say, and before I knew what was happening to me, Beth and I had a 5:30 am walking date on Tuesdays and Thursdays! It lasted for many years, developed into biking one of those mornings in the summer, and into snowshoe forays in the winter – all at that unearthly early hour. Neither of us ever wanted to disappoint the other with a no-show, so we always went, rain or shine, heat or cold, in sickness and in health. And that’s precisely the way an exercise date works!
You may not have such an easy time of finding a walking buddy, unless of course your partner is as equally outspoken (brave? foolhardy?) as mine and ready to fix you up. But with a bit of imagination I’ll bet you can find ONE from your store of acquaintances. Who among your neighbors, your book club, church members, charity volunteer crew needs more exercise? Hey, the next time you are at a neighborhood cocktail party, just ask. It might set you up with an exercise partner for the next 20 years.
Socialize To Exercise
Where one exercise buddy is good, more can sometimes be better. Bob and I discovered another exercise nirvana. It’s a cycling group called the Wednesday Night Riders (WNR). Somehow, I’m not sure how (maybe someone looking for more exercise buddies—or new victims?), but a number of years ago, we received an invitation from a member to participate in their rides. They ride for 16-20 miles on a variety of routes near Shelburne, Vermont. We were told they had a ”fast” group and a “slow” group.
Given my riding strength and endurance at the time, I was skeptical. No, make that VERY skeptical. But I let myself be talked into giving it a try. Bob promised to pedal with me in the slow group – which turned out to be pretty fast for me! I strategically positioned myself at the tail end of the peloton and, I’m proud to say, mostly kept up. I had enough fun to try it again and, over time, I got better. Neither Bob nor I ever “graduated” to the fast group. But don’t feel sorry for us – we preferred the mellower gang in the slow group! We also liked joining them afterwards at the local Italian restaurant for dinner! That’s when we had a chance to get to know the members. This one-time date to try out the WNR turned into a slew of new friends and multiple invitations to rides on weekends, for longer summer tours with overnights, and even dinner invitations with no biking required! My advice: Just say yes to an exercise invitation!
Exercise Begets Exercise
From the WNR concept Bob and I developed a group of Monday Night Riders in our own community. By the end of that first cycling season, the MNR gang had had so many good times we didn’t want to stop. So we morphed for the winter into the Sunday Afternoon Snowshoers and continued our exercise gatherings (and potluck dinners!) all winter long. We all have so much fun that nobody ever wants to miss a “meeting” and we end up exercising together pretty much year ’round!
Other tips that help to make an exercise habit stick
*Break out of your procrastination by taking one small step. Make that first date to exercise and stick to it.
*Choose something fun to do. Remember, when we were kids, exercising outdoors used to be called “play”!
* Set yourself up for success by preparing for your exercise date ahead of time – set out your clothes and shoes, water bottle, snack, or whatever is required for your rendezvous.
*Be prepared to make lifestyle changes. Begin with small changes such as walking once a week. Over time you will get the exercise bug and expand the schedule as your motivation grows and your fitness increases. But you have to start where you are.
*Don’t question the “why” or “where” or “how”. Just do it. When you have a regular date, you’ll know the “who” and the “what” part.
*Be committed to your buddy or group of friends. They depend on you as much as you depend on them.
*Exercising in a fun way is key and provides opportunities to meet new people. Check online in a community forum or in the local newspaper for the startup of a outdoor sports group or form your own. It’s contagious!
*Join a class. Then show up early and talk to others. Ask questions. Make friends.
Finally, may I just say again, make a date to exercise, you won’t regret it!