By Leo Babauta
With a month of working on the Get Active habit (no matter what your consistency has been), there are two final questions to answer:
- What are the most important techniques to keep consistent with the habit?
- Where do you go from here?
So I’m going to start by giving my top Get Active habit tips — the things that have proven to keep me consistently active over the years.
Then I’ll share some ideas for where you can take the habit going forward.
Top Get Active Tips
So I’ve been active fairly consistently for the last 9+ years (after failing to do so for a decade before that), and I’ve tried a lot of different things to keep the habit going.
Here are the absolute best techniques:
- Have a play partner. This has been my absolute best method of consistently being active. I’ve used it when training for a race, for going to the gym (for years), for doing Crossfit, working out at home, and more. Have someone you’re going to meet on a regular basis at the gym, on a run, go for a hike or bike ride, have fun outside, whatever. If you know they’ll be waiting for you, you won’t stand them up. If you can’t find a good workout partner, use an online accountability partner or team.
- Do an accountability challenge. This also works extremely well for me — I’ll do a 1-on-1 challenge with someone else (burpees in a month, for example), or a group exercise challenge (make it through a 6-week pushup challenge, for example). It doesn’t have to be a competition, but just a challenge to stick to a plan for a certain amount of time, preferably with consequences (no TV or coffee for a week, for example).
- Use activity as meditation. When I don’t make my active life social, I turn inward and use it as mindfulness practice. So a run can be a way to be mindful of my body, of my surroundings. Lifting a barbell can be an extremely good way to be present as I’m trying to move the barbell and some heavy weights. Any kind of movement can be a form of meditation, if you practice being present with the movement. For me, this turns something I might not have wanted to do (exercise) into an amazing activity that I look forward to practicing.
- Focus on enjoying the process, not the results. Many people fail with the Get Active habit because they’ll do it for a few weeks and not get the results they were hoping for. That’s because physical activity is a long-term thing, and short-term results don’t always come when you want them to. However, physical activity is pretty much always better in the long term (as long as you’re not overdoing it). But a much better way to stick to the habit is to forget about what results you’re going to get … and just focus on the movement itself. Enjoy it. Find ways to be grateful for what you’re doing, right now, rather than hoping to be happy with your results in the future.
- Just get out the door. When all else fails, I just tell myself to lace up my shoes and get out the door. I don’t think about all the running or lifting or whatever I’m going to do, but just think about that one act: getting out the door. That’s actually really easy if you think of nothing else. Once I’ve done that, the rest is easy.
Whenever my Get Active habit starts to falter, I go back to one of these techniques.
Where to Go From Here
So let’s say you’ve done fairly well with the Get Active Habit this month … maybe not perfect, maybe not really close to perfect, but you’ve moved more than you have in the recent past.
Well, there’s no single path from here, but I highly recommend keeping some focus on maintaining your exercise habit, getting it to be more and more consistent. For me, there were a number of times in the first few years when I’d falter a bit. That’s OK … you don’t have to be “perfect”, but just need to keep going.
So here’s what I recommend:
- Keep some kind of accountability next month with your Get Active habit. This can be with your group on Sea Change, or with a workout partner, or find a few friends to do an activity challenge with.
- Put a recurring reminder for the end of each month to assess your Get Active habit. This is very simple, and takes just a few minutes: how consistent have you been in the last month? Do you need improvement? What obstacles have gotten in the way? Which of the above 5 techniques can you use to reinvigorate your habit?
- Every now and then, try something new. If you haven’t done strength training, learn that. Learn bodyweight exercises. Take up a sport or a class. Learn yoga or work on your flexibility. Try pilates or martial arts. This keeps the Get Active habit interesting, and helps you to find new ways to take your fitness to a new level.
I recommend working in some rest days once you’ve gotten pretty consistent about it and start to extend your activity habit beyond 5-10 minutes. If you’re up to 20 minutes, you can do it 5-6 days a week, but once you get to 30-40 minutes, don’t do more than 5 days.
Don’t let yourself get sidetracked by little bumps in the road, by travel or sickness or visitors that might stop you from doing your routine. Find ways to move even while traveling or having visitors (but rest when you’re sick).
Most of all, enjoy the habit. Yes, it’s good for you, but it’s a great way to learn more about yourself, be present, and enjoy the active parts of life.