Fact:    Regular exercise is beneficial for physical, emotional and mental health.  

Fact:    Despite our knowledge and good intentions, we do not always engage in behaviors that support this intent. 

Why is that?  As a clinical psychologist, I have often addressed the age-old question, “How do we get ourselves to do the things we know we should do, and that we even want to do, but can’t seem to make ourselves do?”  Experience has shown me that some, or all, of the following five tips will help you be successful in establishing your exercise program:

  1. Small, Reasonable Goals. In the psychological world we talk about the concept of “building mastery” to improve mood.  Mood is not only enhanced just by having fun – we get a surge of positive emotion from setting small, reasonable goals and achieving them.  For me, I was excited when all those “farmer carries” at the gym allowed me to carry in a bag of water softener salt in each hand.  This satisfaction motivated me to continue my exercise program.

 

  1. Habit.  Habit.  Set a time and place and go exercise because it is on your schedule.  The challenge is to not think about what else you could be doing during that time.  Remind yourself that this is the time earmarked by you, for you, to take care of you.  It makes all the other things on your To Do list easier – you feel better, your mood is better, and you have more energy.

 

  1. Maintain a good balance of activities in life.  Exercise is important, but too much of a good thing is still too much.  It is important to include other enjoyable and meaningful activities along with your weekly exercise routine.

 

  1. Support and Accountability. It feels great to exercise in a supportive environment.  In my gym, the community of members, staff and trainers makes me feel important and successful.  They expect me to show up and may even feel a little disappointed if I don’t.  They call if I don’t show up, or better yet, text before and say “Hey, I’ll be there, are you coming?”  In short, they care about my success.

 

  1. Many of us don’t actually like to exercise.  What can we do about that?  We can find an environment that we like, with people that we like, and go there.  We can find exercise that doesn’t actually feel a whole lot like exercise because it is fun.  Laughing a little, or a lot, while groaning, sweating and moving our bodies just feels good.  It dumps stress and puts a smile on our faces.   

 

Behaviorism 101 suggests that the things we get reinforced for, we do more often.  With self-care as my goal, I have a great reinforcer —  walking into Motion 4 Life Fitness, meeting up with people I enjoy, working out hard, laughing and goofing around.  I leave feeling better than when I walked in. 

My suggestion for you — find the place, the people and the activity that works for you.

 

Valerie J. Weesner, PhD, HSPP

Motion 4 Life Fitness

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