Sticking with Something New

By Ines Quandel

We talked about starting new habits/routines last night in book club, acknowledging that even if we’re feeling motivated it can be hard to do.

We know that starting our new routine, whether it be morning meditations, daily workouts or a regular (reasonable) bedtime are good for us. These new habits will be beneficial to our mental and physical health, and they will even make us feel better. So why is it so hard to get started and stay committed?

Several years ago I quit one of my main physical activities due to injury. I had been rock climbing for 16 years, but my elbows weren’t happy with me and I needed a break. That left me trying to figure out what else to do for exercise. I’ve always been active and had tried, and enjoyed, plenty of sports from swimming and horseback riding as a kid, to track and field in high school, and on to Ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing and skiing after university. There were also the occasional sporadic attempts to become a yogi that never lasted more than a few months.

I tried getting back into swimming, and rollerblading, and even cycling, but turns out I was much more enthusiastic about the idea of those sports than actually going out and doing them. There were always plenty of reasons not to go out on the bike or head to the pool. So obviously the trick was finding something I really enjoyed and then the excuses would vanish. At that point I tried a ballet class for grown-ups. The class was a lot of fun, with an awesome instructor and great fellow ballerinas. I lasted about six months before other commitments, aka staying home on the couch, got in the way again.

Finally, I decided that I need to look at the problem from a different angle. I had tried various sports that I enjoyed, but that obviously wasn’t enough to keep me motivated and committed. My new approach was to identify my obstacles and find a sport or exercise that avoided all of those obstacles.

My Obstacle List:

1. Getting off the couch and the logistics of getting there.

2. Timing, not too early, not too late, not at lunch...

3. Not weather dependent.

4. Enough variety to keep me interested. (An odd one I know.)

Turns out the gym in my office building solved all of those problems. They offered a variety of classes from 4:30 to 5:30 Monday to Thursday. No worries about getting off the couch if I never got near it; I was still home in time to make and eat dinner at a reasonable time; Weather was never an issue; and the classes and instructors offered variety. I was all set and regularly started attending a couple of fitness classes a week. My obstacles were all conquered. Or maybe not.

I switched to one of the mega gyms a while later, to save some money on a family membership. The gym was barely 2 blocks from my office and offered a variety of classes Monday through Thursday at either 4:30pm or 5:00pm. Really not much different than what I was already doing, right? But I went to maybe 10 classes the entire year at the mega gym. Once that membership expired, I returned to FRESH Fitness and was back into 2 to 3 classes a week right away.

What was the difference and what was the real obstacle? Personal accountability, and the fact that I have none, at least not to myself.

At FRESH the classes are small and the instructors all provide feedback on the correct form for each exercise. I have built a relationship with the instructors and feel that they care about my progress, and that has made me want to show up.

Talking about all of this with my book club peeps last night I realized that, for all of my various sports, I showed up if I went with a friend or was part of a team. It’s taken me a good 5 years or so to get to that realization. So I guess if at first you don’t succeed, keep digging into all of the reasons why, and keep trying. Eventually you’ll figure out how to succeed, I just hope you learn a little faster than I did.

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