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Encouraging the Habit

posted on October 21, 2021

A few weeks ago, a cardio class member asked me a question that I have recently been reminded of as I have been returning to the basics myself.  Prior to my surgery I didn’t think about this as often, so I was happy to have the question come up.  This came from a very consistent member to both cardio and powerful classes and an individual that prioritizes health outside of the gym as well.  He enjoys exercise and he was searching for advice to help encourage someone in his life to begin exercising.    


More than likely, if you are reading this blog, you also like to exercise.  Whether you enjoy doing a specific activity, the feeling after accomplishing an intense workout, or both, the habit of exercise comes very natural to you.  Not to say that all days are easy, but a lack of some form of exercise makes you feel like your day is not complete.  Because the urge to move is within us, it can make us feel a bit unrelatable and makes encouraging them more challenging.  


Growing up I saw my Dad exercising daily and watched him enjoy it.  He prioritized it early every morning and made it happen no matter what else was going on in life.  For the most part he would go out biking or bike inside and then follow that with some weights and movements like pushups, pullups, and situps.  I loved hanging out with my Dad and this became part of our daddy/daughter time.  I would hear him wake up and I would follow him downstairs, still in pajamas.  I would watch him bike and then I would do pushups and situps beside him.  At family dinners or out with friends my Dad would say, “My girl has been working out! Show them your bicep!”  I grew up seeing health as a priority and feeling proud when I was strong. I believe this foundation has helped me to always crave some form of exercise, but over the years and within my profession, I have thought about how others may feel encouraged if they did not have this lifestyle portrayed daily or even if they did but still struggle with finding enjoyment.  


I have found three things that have helped people in my life, but depending on the person it can unfortunately still be very difficult.  


First of all, they have to enjoy it.  Whether they dislike exercise due to a lack of motivation or an insecurity, starting and continuing are unlikely to happen if they hate the activity or feel like the environment brings more judgment (by others or themselves).  Finishing the night with family walks can provide time together, conversations, and support.  Exploring new places to hike, bike, swim, or kayak can excite someone that enjoys being outside and seeing new places.  Putting together healthy weekly or monthly competitions in the home or workplace can encourage those that work harder with competition.  Planning projects around the house or buying active games/video games can help those that will do better with exercise that is disguised as productive housework or play.    You are close to them and knowing what they enjoy or makes them tick can be used to your advantage.   


The second thing that I have found is helping them to feel better daily.  This is by no means less important – in fact, I think it may even be more valuable to their life.  When they feel better and move better, they will naturally want to do more than remain sedentary.  If you need any recommendations with stretches, feel free to ask any of us for help.   


This final point should seem obvious, but I think it’s worth mentioning.  Make sure they feel supported! You can use knowing them to your advantage for this as well.  What makes them feel acknowledged and proud? Do they need verbal affirmation, time together doing the activity, physical cues through movements? No matter what type of encouragement helps them, remember to incorporate that as they start to build this new habit.  


Although this is something that you and I enjoy very much, many others do not.  Remember this as you embark on this journey with them.   


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