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Are You Sabotaging Your Plan to Exercise More?

Are You Sabotaging Your Plan to Exercise More?

    You know exercise is good for you, right? But regular exercise is like pushing water uphill. You do it for a couple of days – and then try and forget about it, because it’s just too hard. Sounds familiar?

    People who exercise regularly swear by it. They enjoy it. They can’t stop talking about it. But how did they manage to build a habit that sticks? Wouldn’t you like to know a painless and easy way of getting into the exercise habit? Read on to find out.

    The reason we often fail when trying to implement a regular exercise routine is because we work against our instincts, instead of with them. What we are trying to do when we establish an exercise routine is do reverse a trend.

    Imagine that you are a train driver driving at high speed. How are you going to do that? Are you going to simply crash your gear into reverse? If you did, the train would derail, passengers would get hurt or killed, and you would end up with a catastrophe.

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    There is a better way.

    You could gently apply the brakes until the train is at a standstill, and then slowly start reversing the direction. Easy!

    The example is very clear, isn’t it? And yet we do the opposite when trying to start exercising. We try and run for a mile, or go to the gym for an hour, or play a game of tennis – and then wonder why we feel so stiff and sore next day. Then we try it again, but the body hates it – and then we stop. Again.

    As In her book “This year I will…”, Andy Ryan, an expert in collaborative thinking, spells out why such a gung-ho approach doesn’t work:

    Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain….If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do.

    We need a different approach. We need an approach that eases the body into exercise so gradually, so that we don’t trigger the flight response.

    How do we create change so gently that we don’t take fright?

    There is a very interesting Japanese philosophy called Kaizen which can help us do that. Kaizen  focuses on continuous but small change.

    Andy Ryan explains:

    The small steps in Kaizen don’t set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness.

    Let’s take a look at how that could be applied to physical exercise. I’ll take running as an example. Could you run for 15 seconds? Most people can. With the philosophy of Kaizen, you could say that if can run for 15 seconds, you can learn to run for a minute – and even for an hour. How?

    Follow this simple running plan. Add 15 seconds each day.

    Day 1#  Run for 15 seconds
    Day 2#  Run for 30 seconds
    Day 3#  Run for 45 seconds
    And so on…

    It will seem ridiculously easy! Do this for a about forty days, and you’ll be running for 10 minutes. A month later, and you’ll be running for 20 minutes. By that time your running habit will be well established. But it will have happened naturally!

    You can apply the same principle to establishing any exercise. Whether it’s yoga, or swimming, or walking.

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    The important thing is keep to your plan. You may feel that you could easily do more than the prescribed amount of exercise, but please rein in your enthusiasm. Just do the requisite amount, and not more. This is the trick to establishing an exercise habit without stress or strain.

    Exercise really is a miracle pill. This is what it can do for you:

    1. Helps prevent or manage high blood pressure
    2. Lowers the build-up of plaque in the arteries
    3. Can help prevent type 2 diabetes
    4. Can help prevent osteoporosis
    5. Stimulates the immune response
    6. Can help prevent certain kinds of cancer
    7. Can help recover after illness.
    8. Builds muscle tissue
    9. Strengthens heart and lung function.
    10. Helps manage weight
    11. Promotes good sleep
    12. Helps revitalize sex life
    13. Improves mood
    14. Calms and centers the  mind
    15. Keeps the brain in shape

    You might want to stick this list on your fridge to remind you of the benefits of exercise.

    There are a some important guidelines for exercising. As a general rule, the intensity of exercise should not exceed certain limits. If monitoring heart rate use the simple equation – 200 minus your age (in years) to estimate the working heart rate you should remain under.

    If you don’t exercise, your fitness slips a little each day. The Keizan method of introducing exercise reverses that trend, little by little. Of course we want to feel the benefits of exercise all at once. However, we need to remember that the smaller the steps we take, the easier it is to establish an exercise habit. And that’s what this method is about: building a new exercise habit that sticks.

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    What’s your experience of exercising?

    More by this author

    Resilience: The Key to Surviving Anything Are You Sabotaging Your Plan to Exercise More? Know Your Strength for More Success: Are you a Connector, a Maven, or a Salesman? How to Use the Art of Positive Realism for Maximum Success How to Start Running – Without Feeling Like a Failure

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    Last Updated on September 16, 2019

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    More About Procrastination

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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