Mummy stuff - 9 ways to make exercise a habit

Since I was in highschool, I have loved exercising. I've done lots of different things over the years, and my fitness levels have ranged from quite fit to quite unfit! I have never exercised so consistently as I have this year though, ever since having Miss M! Because of that, I am feeling the best I have in a long time - physically, emotionally and mentally!

I want to share 9 ways to make exercise a habit in your life too.

1. Do something you love (or that you could learn to love!) 
I love to walk. I have for as long as I can remember. Chucking on some joggers, putting my earphones in, and now grabbing the pram (and the baby!) is now almost a daily habit for me, as it clears my head, gets me out in the fresh air, keeps Miss M occupied and ticks my exercise off for the day! 

Walking is great for weight loss and some toning, but in my personal experience I have needed to do more strength exercises to tone up. In the past week, a friend and I have started a strength training program which we will do 3 times per week - look out for a future blog post on that! 

This year I played in a netball team for a season which was excellent - socially and physically. Team sports are great for accountability, and throughout highschool and uni I've been part of touch football, basketball, soccer, netball, volleyball and softball teams. I have on and off been members of various gyms too, and have done classes and exercised with different weight and cardio programs. 

Work out if you'd prefer an individual or team sport, and trial different things until you find something you love. If you enjoy doing it, it won't seem like a chore! 

2. Do something that fits in with your situation
There's no point committing to something that will continually take you away from your kids, or that clashes with work commitments. Sit down and plan your week - fill in the hours you have to work, fill in family time, and any other hobbies or appointments/commitments you have. If you work 9-5 hours, but are completely exhausted when you get home, perhaps scheduling time in the morning for exercise rather than at night when you know you won't do it will work out better. Or if you are a shift worker, your times for exercise may be different every week. 

For me, I currently work 2 days a week as a high school teacher, so while I do have time in the afternoons, I find there's lots to do when I get home (playing with Miss M, getting washing off the line, cooking tea, feeding Miss M, bathing her etc.) so mornings seem to work best. Now that we have daylight savings in NSW, the evenings are longer, and after tea it is still light out (and a lot cooler) and a good time for a family walk. 

Another point to note is, do you need a babysitter while you workout? Or can your kids be with you? This is why walking with the pram is perfect. Some gyms do have creches which is handy too. 

Also consider - what will I do if it is raining? A treadmill is a great alternative to walking outdoors if the weather isn't great, however these are costly and take up space. My alternative is to put on an exercise DVD or play Wii Dance or Wii Fit on my Nintendo Wii. 

3. Do something that is sustainable
Again, another tick for walking. It is fairly easy on your joints, and I find it quite easy to walk for an hour to an hour and a half without getting tired or sore. A few years back I tried to start running, and I got to my goal of being able to run 5km's but would always get horrific shin splits. While shin splints can be preventable and/or cured, I never really enjoyed running enough, and it just wasn't sustainable for me. You need to find something you enjoy so you won't get bored, and something that does not cause you pain, or anxiety at the thought of doing it!

4. Make an appointment with yourself to exercise 
Like I mentioned before, sit down now and plan your week, adding exercise into your diary as if it was an appointment. Try to avoid cancelling (unless something else is urgent!) What helps me is to keep the same 'exercise appointments' with myself every week - I usually walk Wednesday mornings, Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings, and add another one or two walks in during the week, depending on when I'm working. Make yourself accountable to someone to keep your appointment - get them to 'check-in' with you to make sure you completed it!

5. Create goals you have to achieve
When I started walking again this year after having Miss M, I have some specific goals in mind - get back to my pre-pregnancy weight (I am currently about 1kg away!), tone up, and make exercise a habit (at least 5 times per week). 

Weight loss is always a big one for people, and the thing to note here is that diet is more important than exercise. I have lost 26kgs this year by eating in moderation (not cutting any food group out, and not denying myself if I want a treat) but some find other ways of eating work for them. I have been on every diet on the planet, and none have been more effective than what I'm doing now. I will elaborate on that in a future post too. With that in mind, exercise is so beneficial for weight loss goals as well, and will tone your body, depending on what you choose to do. 

A fun run can be a great goal, and training in the lead-up to an event can give you something to work towards. A 'personal best' goal is also great - being able to run a certain distance in a certain time for example.

6. Start small
Some advocate throwing yourself into training every day, and I personally have never experienced success with this. At the start of this year I began walking 3 times per week. I have built that up to 5 times, and throughout the year have added in other types of exercise as well. If you have never exercised than this is a particularly important point. You might start by walking around the block once, 3 times per week. Then you can build that up to twice, 3 times per week, and so on. Or, you can walk for 10 mins, 3 times per week, and slowly build the time up. This is called 'progressive overload.' There is no rush, and soon you will be doing things you didn't think you could! If you start a program and rush into a full-on training schedule you will become too sore, it will not be sustainable and you will most likely give-up without seeing the results you want. 

7. Do it until it's a habit
Organising the Four of Us creates a 'list of 3' jobs she has to complete each day (on top of the normal washing etc.) She added 5km's on the treadmill as one of her jobs, and continued to add it to her list each day until it became a habit. I think this is a terrific idea! Habits are formed in about 3 weeks, but it only takes 1 day to break them. Even if you don't feel like walking one day, just put your clothes on, and get out there, even if you only walk for 10 minutes. In doing that, you will easily create a new habit. 

8. Be kind to yourself
We all have busy lives, and life does get in the way of our good intentions at times! If you hit a particularly busy week or time in your life, where you need to be spending more time with your family, or doing something out of the ordinary, don't stress, but I do suggest trying to at least get some exercise in. Even if it's a quick walk to the local park with the kids instead of your usual program or exercise appointment. It will clear your head, and get you out of the house, and I promise you will feel better! The important thing is not to feel guilty though. Once we start feeling guilty for not exercising, we soon come to regret exercise, and associate bad feelings towards it. If you miss a workout - be kind to yourself - and just start up again tomorrow. 

9. No more excuses!
Now while being kind to yourself, it is also important not to continue to make excuses! I am a PE Teacher (who now teaches more Maths) and I have heard every excuse under the sun - I'm tired, I'm unfit, I can't do it, I'm sick, my feet hurt, I have a cold, It's too hot... some excuses are legitimate, and you should never excuse when you are extremely unwell, or have an injury, but most excuses are just that - excuses! - and they are not going to get us to our goals. So quit thinking too much about it, quit trying to think of reasons why not, and just do it! 

Hopefully one or all of those has resonated with you. Moving our bodies and being active is honestly so important for our health, and sets a good example for our kids. Brendan and I have talked about making it a part of our family life, especially now that we have Miss M, and especially as she grows, and can join us - for family walks, family bike rides, or just a kick of the footy around the park. I love the feeling it gives you, and I love the results physically, emotionally and mentally. I promise you will love it too!

[Please note: I am not a medical or health professional, and I encourage you to seek advice from your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program. Use the above advice at your own risk.] 

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