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Time to move…establishing a routine that works for YOU!

May is National Physical Fitness Month!

I started this blog with the intent to focus on helping you establish a consistent routine {even when you’re not motivated}. I’m still going to do that. But I also want to tell you about my own complicated relationship with exercise, because I’m sure some of you can relate.

Sports were a huge part of my life growing up and I continued my athletic career in college (go UCONN). Exercise has been good to me and I have a deep affection for it too. But there was a dark side too, where I used it and abused it over the years. Running the gamut from over-exercising as a way to offset stress, using calorie burn as a pawn for food, and parlaying athletic achievements for external validation. I’m grateful for having worked through those issues, at various phases of my life, and our relationship has evolved into a happy, lifelong marriage of sorts. A healthy balance of togetherness and time apart. Enjoying each other’s company and relishing in what’s familiar, but going on new adventures together when the mood strikes. It's been a long and winding road, but most healthy relationships evolve that way, no?

A few of the many lessons that I’ve learned over the years: 1) exercise is broad {which we tend to narrowly define}; 2) meet myself where I’m at TODAY {instead of comparing myself to others or a past version of myself}; and, 3) I don’t need to be motivated to exercise.

Redefine exercise

We all know that exercise is an important part of maintaining our physical and mental health, but often we associate exercise with going to the gym, running marathons, or doing intense workouts. This can be daunting and discouraging if you’re just getting started or getting back into exercise after a long break.

Here’s the reality: exercise doesn't have to be intimidating or difficult. That’s just our human brain doing its human brain thing…it wants to do what’s easy and familiar and it resists change. Our brain LOVES to overcomplicate it, but exercise can be as simple as moving your body in ways that feel good to you. Instead of defining exercise narrowly based on what you used to do or what you think you should do, redefine it and focus on what works for you and your body TODAY.

Meet yourself where you’re at today

Consider your season of life, your current fitness level and your goals.

Establish a consistent, sustainable routine. If you're just starting out, or returning to exercise after a hiatus, focus on small steps. Start with 10 minutes a day, and gradually increase the time and intensity as your body adapts. Avoid doing too much too soon to minimize injury risk and burnout.

Consider your health-related goals and the minimum effective dose of exercise needed to achieve those goals. I spent many years going “beast mode” all the time…if I wasn’t exhausted and sweaty after a workout it didn’t “count”. Been there, done that, not going back. Once I re-evaluated my goals {which I revisit regularly), and trusted the process, my body (and mind) was much happier.

If you're exercising for a mood boost, just 10 minutes spurts of physical activity each day can be enough. If you're looking to improve your cardiovascular health, the American College of Sports Medicine and U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, three days a week. If strong muscles and bones is the goal, incorporating strength training two to three days a week will do the trick. If weight loss is your goal, exercise is only part of the equation (a rather small part actually). What happens in the kitchen is far more important.

When you meet yourself where you’re at, you can maintain a sustainable routine that supports your physical and mental health.

Move your body even when you’re not motivated

Motivation will come and go, but we don’t need it to achieve our fitness related goals. Discipline, persistence and consistency are the key ingredients in creating any new habit a more reliable than motivation when it comes to long term success.

Here are five “habit hacks” to consider:

1. Get clear on your why: why do you want to be more active? Mood boost? Build muscle? Drop body fat? Improve cardiovascular health? Keep up with your toddlers? List many whys. They will keep you focused when obstacles get in the way, e.g., lack of motivation.

2. Start small: meet yourself where you’re at and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. Think minimum effective dose to avoid injury and burnout.

3. Make a specific plan: our brain needs direction. In the moment, our brain will always choose easy (e.g., staying in bed or laying on the couch scrolling socials). How many days a week will you move your body? Exactly what will you do on those days? It’s not enough to say “lift weights” for 20 minutes. Email me if you need suggestions- this is my jam.

4. Schedule your workouts: make exercise a priority by scheduling it into your daily routine. Add it to your calendar and stick to it. Treat it like an appointment and make it non-negotiable. For more on this, and other simple ways to create space in your day for what matters to you, download my free guide. Consider how you can make it easier to honor your plan. For example, if you’re exercising in the morning, lay your clothes out next to your bed and avoid distraction by not looking at your phone. Find an accountability partner…a friend, family member or like-minded acquaintance.

5. Build in rewards: our brain loves rewards! They help to reinforce positive habits and maintain momentum. It can be as simple as adding a checkmark on your calendar next to the activity or try one of the million “habit tracker apps” if that’s more your speed. Celebrate your progress too, e.g., when you perform your first “real” pushup or finish that 5K.

If you’re working to establish a more consistent fitness routine: broaden your definition of “exercise”, meet yourself where you’re at today and consider integrating the habit hacks I’ve shared here. Remember that consistency, discipline and persistence are far more important than motivation.

I talk a lot about ways us Moms can take better care of ourselves and moving our body is just one of many. For more ways you can feel better, to go from surviving to thriving, be sure to grab my free guide now if you haven’t already

Let me know what was most helpful here and reach out with any questions (!

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