It’s a story most of us have lived through at some time or other: we begin an exercise program, and it’s going well, but after a week or two or a month or two or even a year or two, we fall off the program. Then we might get a little down about that, and because of the initial friction of entering any plan, it’s hard to get back into it.
I recently fell off my cycling training for a couple of months due to my bypass, and I found it hard to get back into it. I reset my resolve (press the reset button!) and re-focused myself, leaving off all other goals.
So, for those of you who’ve fallen off your exercise program, and want to get back in, here are my tips:
- Re-focus and commit yourself again. Often we think that, because we already were on a program, we can pick it back up, no problem. But in reality, we need to condition ourselves for a new habit (although it should be more relaxed this time since we’ve done it before), so we need to start (almost) at the beginning. That meant beginning with committing. Write down your goal, and tell people about it, put it on your blog, post it up at your home and workplace. If you can’t take this step, you will likely falter.
- Focus on just this one goal. If you’ve got other stuff going on, it’s hard to add a new habit while working on others. It’s hard, but it’s best to be patient and work on one goal at a time, if possible. Too many goals at once spread your focus too thin. The key is to focus yourself as much as possible on that one goal and maintain that focus for as long as possible.
- Do it for one month. You don’t need to start at the beginning of a month — you can start today. But do it for 30 days. Commit to that, and once you’re past that, it will get much more comfortable.
- Do it at the same time every day. If you tell yourself that you will exercise when you find the time, there will be many days when you don’t see the time. Set a time of day when you can exercise every day — in the morning, lunchtime after work is the three best times. Do it at that time every day, and it will become a stronger habit.
- Start small. We tend to do too much at first, primarily if we’re used to a certain level from our old exercise program. But in the beginning, it’s best to hold back, and do a little, and then progress slowly back to your old level. If you’re used to running 5 miles, run 3. If you’re used to swimming for an hour, do half an hour. If you’re used to lifting 12 reps of 200 lbs., do eight reps of 160 lbs. You get the idea. Start slowly, or you will have a harder time sticking with it. Once you’re back in the habit, you can increase your workload.
- Learn from your mistakes. There’s a reason you stopped your exercise program. Figure out what that was, and plan to beat it next time. If not, it will happen again.
- Celebrate every little success in the beginning. The first few days are the most crucial. Reward yourself often during this time, and celebrate everything you do! The first week is the next most important period. After that, it gets easier. But after about 2-3 weeks, you’ll face a crisis. Re-focus yourself during that crisis, and you’ll get through it. After a month, you’ll be golden.