How Do I Get Healthy Habits to Stick?
Are you striving to improve some of your habits? To say good-bye to some old ones and “come on in” to new, good ones? Aren’t we all? If you had the opportunity to easily and permanently change a few habits to improve your health and happiness would you be interested?
Starting vs Staying Power
No surprise that one of the biggest habits we get asked about as group fitness instructors is how to make exercise a regular part of life. And of course, it’s not just about STARTING a fitness program (especially in the new year), but also STICKING with it.
One of the key ways to successfully put more movement into your life this month, next, and throughout the year is to resist temptation to get fit all at once. Overdoing it and trying to progress too quickly is a sure way to set your new or improved habit up for failure. No one wants to face next year and say “last year I wanted to lose 20 pounds. Only 25 to go.”
Ok, seriously, the trick is to progress at a pace that allows you to convert desire into habit. What often happens:
- You’re super motivated. You start an exercise program with energetic intent and full power. No results yet that you can see, but, hey, it’s only been a few days.
- You up the ante. If twice a week is good, thrice is better. If 30 minutes of exercise is doable, then 45 minutes will really get this new exercise regimen going. If the pace is comfortable, then you must not be pushing hard enough.
- Week three or so — your body aches; your muscles are sore; your schedule seems taken over by trips to the gym or basement exercise room. And darn, but you still don’t see results. All this work, and it’s not working! Yet. Now.
- You get demotivated. Or injured. Or pulled back into your prior schedule because who can sustain such a big change?
The FIT Principle
Every year eager baby boomers, active agers, mid lifers, and others take on too much, too fast, too intensely. They get hard hit, instead of a habit.
When you are looking to improve your movement habits, keep in mind the FIT principle:
- F = Frequency. How often are you working out?
- I = Intensity. How hard are you willing to exercise?
- T = Time. How long will your movement sessions last or total up to?
Make One Change at a Time
Change only ONE of these elements at a time, about every two to three weeks. Going harder and longer and more often all at once is a statistical road to failure. Up the ante one letter at a time – more F or I or T. No ands.
Let me repeat this as it’s so critical and so overlooked: As you progress into your new life of improved movement habits, change only the Frequency, Intensity, or Time of your workouts when you uptick. Stick with the revised version another 2-3 weeks. Then consider whether you need to adjust upward again by going more often, harder, or longer. Pick one. Add. Keep. Adapt. Repeat. A little bit more than the week before.
Sustainable and better for you! Sounds like a new food or vitamin. The FIT principle will help get and KEEP you fit. Next thing you know, you’ll have created a new, healthy, successful exercise habit.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA