In anticipation of the new year, I like many others was happy to put 2020 behind me with hope for a better year ahead. Full of motivation and aspirations to make it a great year, as well as compensating for life in lockdown, I wanted to challenge myself to improve my wellbeing.
Growing up I was the sporty one, on most sports teams and always competing, netball, tennis, rounders, and even athletics. I was that crazy friend that would run up the tube (subway) escalators or from one place to another. But as life got busy with working full-time, motherhood, travelling for work and managing a household, exercising and being active was less of a priority and gradually slipped away.
I made several attempts to bring back the love of exercising, but it always ended in failure and disappointment. I questioned myself, ‘if I can be successful at work and in other areas of my life, what was stopping me from looking after my wellbeing?’
A ton of excuses came to mind. Not having enough time, too busy at work, always travelling, being a full-time working single mother or being exhausted from the day. Those were just a few excuses that come to my mind, I was the Queen of procrastinating!
Deep down I knew that the excuses were not the problem. I was. I had become so consumed in my day to day life, that I was forgetting to live for myself. This very quickly became a competition between me and ME, as I was the only one holding myself back!
For things to change I had to change, and it all began with my mindset. To see positive results in my challenge and commitment of exercising more I needed to adopt small changes in my daily routine to create new habits.
I did not have to go ‘all big’ on day one. I started with changes I was comfortable with and could commit to consistently. I took one day at a time and gradually built it up. I visualized where I wanted to be and set small milestones and goals. I stopped thinking and started doing.
I started this journey on 1st January 2021, and as I write this, I have exercised consecutively for 86 days. Here is what I have learnt to help me achieve this.
1. Have a why
My why was simple, I wanted to improve my health by shifting the excess pounds that I had packed on over the past few years. I didn’t want to be afraid of looking into a mirror again. I wanted to take pictures with my children rather than hiding behind the camera because I was afraid of what I was going to see. I wanted the old me back!
Having a why and reminding myself of this daily helped me commit, especially when I felt like giving up or having a cheat day!
2. I have time for me
I have been guilty of not making time for my health and wellbeing, always prioritizing other commitments and people. I slowly realized that positioning myself first was not selfish, but crucial if I wanted to be of any use to the people I loved. It was like putting my gas mask on first. I can only help others once mine is on properly.
I learnt that carving out time during the day to focus on me was ok. Saying no to people to put myself first was ok too. If I couldn’t find time in the day, I would maximize my time by taking a work call whilst walking.
3. Start simple, make it fun and mix it up
I have wasted so much money on several apps and plans. I have invested in fancy equipment that gathered a lot of dust! Why? Because they were so daunting and intense, I feared the torture that came with using them. Instead I made my own routine, sometimes I would run, go on a 5k brisk walk, or create my own obstacle course in the garden. So far playing basketball with my teenage children has been my favourite!
4. Be prepared
There is nothing worse than falling into the old trap of excuses and procrastination again. Have a countermeasure to your excuses upfront. Thanks to lockdown I was always in my sweats and hoodies. If not, my workout clothes were always ready and my trainers at the door waiting for me to jump into. If it was too cold outside, I would take over the kitchen and follow a workout on YouTube.
5. Break it down
The thought of going from zero activity to being more active was daunting. I had a goal in mind, but I needed to break it down. First, I aimed for 7 days, then 28 days at which point I was challenged to get to 45. Since then exercising is a part of my daily routine – you can call it an obsession!
The next milestone is 90 days then 180. Then it will be all way to 365 days!
6. You need a cheerleader
Having people to cheer you on is a must. They need to understand why this is so important to you and always support you to commit to your new habit. I have 2 close friends that would regularly check in on my progress, encouraging me on the days I felt less motivated. I’ve also called them to get myself through a workout.
My digital cheerleader (smart watch) celebrates and reminds me of my daily progress, it helps to keep me accountable. As I said this has become a personal competition and knowing that I have completed my daily activity goals gives me a sense of achievement.
7. Positive affirmations
Words are so powerful and make a huge difference to your attitude. Telling myself ‘I have to do something’ turns me off as it sounds like a chore. Instead I thought of what I get to experience today when I exercise – I have seen some beautiful sunrise and sunset moments when running!
Telling yourself that ‘you can, you will, or you have’ is not arrogant or presumptuous, it helps you manifest your goals.
8. Reward yourself
Don’t forget to reward and celebrate your success when you achieve the milestones you set, whether it be something small or grand. It creates a sense of accomplishment and positivity to keep going. I rewarded myself on day 7 and 28. My next rewards are due when I get to day 90, 180 and 365.
Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins, such as beating a personal best or exceeding 10k steps!
This new way of thinking has led to new thought patterns and through repeating these everyday new habits have gradually developed.
I’m so excited to see where this journey will take me. I have already started to reap the benefits of a more active lifestyle. But just think, if I apply the same principles to other aspects of my life, what great adventures await ahead?
So, am I a believer that if you change your mindset that you can change your life? Yes, 100% yes! But remember, this can only come from you, you are the one in the driving seat to make that change!