Three things that stop you from being consistent with exercise

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

I remember wanting to exercise regularly but taking long breaks from any attempt. My excuses were valid. I was a busy college student. Academics and work were priorities. When I had extra time during the summer, I could try to exercise. If I started a walking program, I would take a 9-month break as soon as the summer was over. Have you been there? You start to exercise and you even enjoy your new routine. The problem is that you always find yourself restarting your exercise routine. While it is easy to identify why I would stop my walks, I never considered the following: 

Company - Exercising is so adaptable to our preferences. I do not mind having others with me. I also have exercised by myself a lot. I noticed that when most of my friends were sedentary, I followed that same path. It was never on purpose, it just happened. It has been said that a man is known by the company he keeps. I know this to be true when it comes to my academic life. I learned to gravitate towards students who were better than I was. 

This approach worked well. I graduated with honors. I also stayed away from people known to always have excuses when it was time to turn in assignments. They often spoke about all the other fun things they were doing. While we were all adults with the right of choice, mine paid off. I often tell my kids that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15:33). I find this to be true in the area of exercise. 

Even if I am exercising alone, I gravitate towards people who are better than I am. In the past few years, I gravitated toward a group of runners who were faster and fitter than I was. It took some time but I arrived at their level. This strategy led me to be in the best running shape of my life. The company you keep matters when your goal is longevity in exercise. 

Past - The rearview mirror is an excellent tool when you are driving. It helps me see what is behind me. When I'm backing up to the street, I use it for safety reasons. The problem is if I keep looking at it while driving forward, I will get into an accident. Similarly, looking into the past while trying to create an exercise habit is not wise for two reasons. One reason is that it can be self-defeating. I remember speaking with a friend who kept speaking about what she used to do in the past. She woke up and went to the gym at 4 am faithfully. 

For some reason, she couldn't do it anymore. We tried to encourage her but she was so focused on her past, she was not listening to our words. She also was not listening to herself. Her words were filled with regret and a touch of unforgiveness. How could she allow herself to gain all this weight? Self-defeat was the cycle she experienced. The second reason is you can't have the past back. This simple truth can be difficult to grasp because we can't bring everything we experienced in the past back, all we can do is move forward. 

There is something romantic about thinking about what we were able to do in the past. Happy feelings fill our minds until we remember where we are: stuck in the present. The past is exactly what the meaning of the word announces: gone. It is wise to let go of it if we want to make progress towards an exercise routine. 

Mind - My mind can be either my greatest friend or an arch-enemy when it comes to consistency in exercising. When negativity fills my mind, I have a difficult time starting any exercise of my choice. I also have a difficult time maintaining effective movement with so much mental negativity. I learned to practice what some of my friends call "mental toughness." My definition is, that when the going gets tough, I know exactly how to use my mind to get going. Before I arrived at this conclusion, I didn't have a chance to develop grit. I simply was inactive. 

A series of life circumstances led me to the conclusion that doing what it takes to be active was the way I wanted to live. I also learned that the stop-start dance was not for me. Embracing consistency in exercising is a joyful challenge. 

Joyful because of the multiple well-being benefits. Challenge because it is not easy. I do find that most things worth doing in life are joyful challenges. 

We can all use our company, past, and minds to catapult us to our desired outcomes. 

• Who is influencing your current level of activity? Is this influence deterring you from your fitness goals or encouraging you to reach your goals? What do you need to change in this area of your life?

• Do you find yourself feeling nostalgic about your past accomplishments? Are those feelings helping or hurting your current rate of exercise? What are you willing to do so you can change in this area?

• Is your mind a constant battlefield or a field of dreams when it comes to your exercise routine? Ideally, what would you like to achieve mentally so you can reach your exercise goals?