Man running on treadmill with clock behind him

Exercise: How To Stay On Track

Exercising was like eating vegetables. I knew it was good for me, but I couldn’t seem to keep at it.

Casually walking for fun was great, but walking regularly was a whole different matter. My efforts to follow a plan were plagued with so many starts and stops I almost gave up.

But eventually, I found ways to break that cycle, and I wanted to share them with you:

Set goals... or, don't

If you're a natural achiever, setting goals is for you. Write them down. Then make a schedule and tape it to your mirror. For you, goal-setting is a motivator that drives success.

Perfection is a myth. But some, like myself, religiously believe we can attain it. If we have a stringent plan, we might make it for a few weeks, but if we miss a day, well, the whole thing is screwed up so what’s the point, right?

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

If this is you, just have weekly targets and focus on one day at a time. Then you won’t have a fragile long-term scheme that shatters if not completed in perfect fashion.

Win the internal argument

“Let’s do it,” says Brain. “Not today,” whines Body. “I’m too tired. Let’s watch Netflix instead.”

But Brain is smarter than Body. “Okay,” says Brain. “Let’s just step outside for a minute, then come right back in.”

“I can do that,” Body says.

Once outside, Brain says. “Let’s just walk to the mailbox and back, no more than that.” Body goes along, thinking he’s still won the argument. But once at the mailbox, Body suddenly wants to go further. Brain has won the day.

One step at a time

At the beginning of my walk, I look down the road, realizing I have thousands of steps ahead of me. But instead of focusing on that, I just take one step, then the next, and then the next.

Are you an early bird? A morning walk is perfect for you. Just remember to eat a snack and drink water first so you’ll have the energy.

Are you a sleeper-inner? If you are, then afternoons are best. Make it early afternoon though, if you wait too long you’ll be tired and less motivated.

Are you a night owl? Then maybe sunset is a good time. Just try not to exercise too close to bedtime or you might have problems getting to sleep.

Distract yourself

Listen to the sounds around you, or to music on your phone. Time your breathing in cadence with your steps. Two breaths in, two out, matching each step. This is a great distractor and oxygenates your body at the same time.

When you get home, proudly brag about your accomplishment. Self-righteous pride may annoy your partner, but it’s a great motivator.

If you try these things, exercise will soon become a habit, as common as brushing your teeth.

But you’ll still hate vegetables.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.