IcebergThose who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness. Edward Stanley

As a health and fitness specialist one of the complaints I often hear is “I would love to exercise regularly, but I’m just too comfortable with my lifestyle.  I can’t seem to make it a habit.”  Follow these steps to master the fitness habit:

  • Get leverage on yourself. Identify extreme pleasure with building an exercise habit, and extreme pain with neglecting the habit.  Exercise will make you feel more energetic, alive, and strong.  It is one of the few things that can increase mental clarity and intelligence.  Possessing those attributes feels amazingly pleasurable.  Also, if you are not actively growing (in this case through exercise), then you are passively dying (through inactivity).  By neglecting the exercise habit you will fall into a variety of poor health conditions (most probably cardiac disease, the number one cause of death in the United States).  If you stay fit as you age, you will feel young, however if you neglect your body you will wake up one day finding it diseased and decrepit.  With matters of the body, once it’s broken, it’s too late.  You will never be the same.  Instead maintain your fitness and you will be rewarded by lasting health, energy, and youth.
  • Start small. Remember you’re in it for the long haul.  If you are currently inactive, resolve become out of breath once per day.  This can be achieved by taking the stairs to your apartment, going for a bike ride, or walking briskly for five minutes.  It is easy to accomplish.  According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz it takes the human brain 21 days to form a habit.  Resolve to become out of breath on 21 consecutive days.  If you miss a day, begin the 21 again.  After you have established this habit and are in a bit better shape (or are fit to begin with), resolve to break a sweat everyday.  Repeat for 21 consecutive days.  As you master this new habit, make an investment in yourself, and learn how to train properly, whether from a running coach, a personal trainer, or yoga instructor.  Whatever interests you.  You may end up looking like this guy.

My rule is to break one sweat a day, whether that’s going for a run, whether that’s dancing, whether that’s loving – just break a sweat a day. Matthew McConaughey

  • Apply the principle of Kaizen. Kaizen is a Japanese word, literally meaning to change toward virtue.  In the Japanese language Kaizen has come to be a practice of small daily increases towards a desired goal.  It was brought to western attention when several Japanese businesses, including Toyota, began to teach the idea to assembly line workers shortly after World War Two.  To use Kaizen, simply improve continually.  Each day exercise slightly longer, or better yet, slightly more intensely than the day before.
  • Get accountable. This can be done by hiring an instructor or trainer, working out with a friend, or simply making a commitment to someone publicly.  When you will be letting others down as a result of not fitting in a workout, then it will be much easier to get off the couch when you’re tired.  Playing tennis with friends or having a weekly game of pick up basketball can be a great way to do this.  Note: For sports, the level of intensity, and therefore how much benefit you receive, depends on who you play with.  Choose wisely.
  • Make it meaningful. Exercise is a way to let off steam, change your emotional state, and get rooted in the present moment.  If you can turn your exercise habit into a personal ritual, you will cultivate mental well being as well as physical.  Running, Yoga, and Martial Arts are highly meditative activities, but any form movement can be used to change your mood to one of playfulness.  Choose something that is fun for you.  Remember dancing is also great exercise!

I do it as a therapy. I do it as something to keep me alive. We all need a little discipline. Exercise is my discipline. Jack LaLanne

  • Don’t set yourself up to fail. Feeling lethargic is a huge reason why people can’t seem to build an exercise habit.  It is normal to feel lethargic sometimes.  It can be overcome by resolving to start small.  However many people set themselves up to feel lethargic all the time.  Fried, starchy, and sugary foods, as well as alcohol are often the culprits.  Minimize intake of these types of foods as much as possible.  Remember: No excuse is valid.  In case you forgot, you are ultimately in control of yourself.  Stuck in an office?  Do the “Prison Workout!”

By exercise. I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t always have to be on the go. I sit around a lot, I read a lot, and I do watch television. But I also work out for two hours every day of my life, even when I’m on the road. Jack LaLanne

A personal story:  Starting high school I was a something of a weakling known among his friends for being awkward and clumsy.  Through regular and consistent workouts, specifically by getting serious about my training in Kempo Karate, and using the above principles, I was able to gain strength, grace, and power.  I transformed myself into a handsome, athletic, and extremely healthy individual in about a year.

As you cultivate your exercise habit, you will find the benefits spill over into every portion of your life.  Chores will be less arduous, and challenging physical tasks will become easier.  You will begin to look healthier and more beautiful.  After your daily exercise, sitting on the couch to watch a movie will feel amazing! And it will be well earned.

Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it. Plato

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