If you could change one thing about your fitness routine

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

What would it be?

Would you increase the number of times you work out? Amount of time spent each session? Would you seek a workout partner? Find out about the pickleball craze? (Am I the only one who keeps imagining people waving their Vlasic and Clausens?)

Any change will inject new energy into a routine. But how can we be sure this one thing will have a lasting effect?

For many of us, working out is a “should” thing: we do it because it is good for our health, not because we like the feeling of racing hearts or straining muscles. Exercising is as close to a magic elixir as we get and we’d better be active if we want to stave off diseases, manage stress, and live longer.

The problem with this is that it takes discipline. The tendency to choose the easier path, the one that gives us comfort or pleasure NOW, is strong and persistent. I want to read a book. No, I should work out. I want to sleep in. No, I should work out. I want to linger over a meal with friends. No, I should work out.

Now, if working out is the only thing that makes this demand, it’d be fine. Daily life, however, is filled with decisions that require us to call upon our discipline.

I want to drive faster. I want to leave the shopping cart in the parking lot. I want to eat chocolate almond croissants, a pear tart, and wash it all down with an affogato with two shots of espresso and a scoop of hazelnut gelato.

I want to. No.

Our storage of discipline can deplete quickly.

And that is why people who work out regularly stress the importance of building habits because it reduces or even removes the struggle. I couldn’t agree more. But even building habits is a process that requires repeatedly choosing what is right over what is easy.

So what then? Is there anything we can do besides gritting our teeth and giving ourselves stern lectures?

I believe so.

We change the way we view working out. We substitute “get to” for “should.”

I’m not going to Group Pump because it makes me stronger. I am going because my muscles are strong and my movements are not impeded by stiff joints.

I’m not doing pushups because it is an excellent full-body workout. I do it because until ten years ago, I couldn’t do a single one. And now I can do many more.

I’m not going to step class because it’s a great cardio workout that also requires mental focus. I do it because the torn ligaments in my ankles have healed. I can jump and do lateral movements all day long and boy, my coordination hasn’t deserted me when the instructor did that series of turns and complicated moves. Woohoo!

I do it because I can. I do it because I get to. I do it because I am thankful.

Try it. Change how you talk to yourself about exercising. Celebrate what you can do. That way you’re going to a party!

That shouldn't require too much discipline.

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