Here I am. Thirty-three years old. I ran cross country and track in high school. I enjoyed lifting weights during college. I always told myself that when I had kids, I wouldn’t be one of those out of shape parents.
But here I am. I have three kids. And I am one of those out of shape parents. Why is the habit of regular exercise so difficult? I know it’s good for my health. But for some reason, I can’t stick to it.
I have had spurts of consistent exercise. The season of going to the YMCA with Kara before we got married was one. We ran together to train for a 5K back in 2014. I’ve done some limited body weight and resistance band workouts at home. But that’s about it. Pretty unimpressive if you ask me.
And then the summer of 2018 arrived. Through a series of events, including getting lazy with good money management skills I had developed over the past few years, I was not in a good financial spot. And I think that triggered the intense, daily anxiety, I started experiencing. Now to be honest, I have always struggled with anxious thoughts but this was different.
I was constantly worrying about things that could or may go wrong in the future. How would we have the money to pay for those things. And then I would worry about my kids (who doesn’t). I would also compare myself to other men who were either wealthier than me, had nicer homes, or were skilled at fixing things.
Finally, in November, I told Kara I had been dealing with serious anxiety over the past few months. And through our discussion, I realized I needed to incorporate some new practices into my life to manage the anxiety. Two of these were mediation and exercise.
I was going to get back into exercising. My life depended on it. I had people counting on me to be there for them, and I was going to be there for them.
But then some practical questions arose. When would I exercise? Where would I exercise? Purchasing a gym membership wasn’t an option. And what would I do during the cold months?
Well, I was just going to work with what I had at my disposal. I decided I would run during my lunch break a few days a week. I could eat some food before and after my lunch break. Back in January and February, during cold days in the 20’s and 30’s, there I was. Wearing a ton of layers, a beanie, and gloves. Running down the streets of Carlisle.
At first, I would run a little. Then walk for a little bit. And then start running again. My first milestone was completing a 2-mile run where I actually ran the entire time. And sometimes, I would go to a nearby park, and just complete circuit workouts.
On days when I don’t work out over lunch, I can workout at home. After the kids go to bed, I can do some resistance training with exercise bands. I can do push-ups and sit ups. I can do jumping jacks. Maybe not the most ideal work out - but it is much better than no workout.
Now that the weather is warming up, the runs are getting more enjoyable. I just completed a 3-mile run under 30 minutes. A far cry from my 18:58 in high school. But maybe I’ll get back to that time… you never know.
I heard a podcast with Matt D’Avella and James Clear where they shared one of the greatest insights I’ve ever heard about sticking to a habit. You can skip a day. But never two. So as I plan each day, it is clear whether I can skip the workout or meditation.
Did I do it yesterday? If so, and I’ve got a lot on my plate, I can miss it. But if I didn’t do it yesterday, then I have to do it today. And what if I can’t skip the workout, and I still have a lot on my plate? Simple. I just do a shorter workout. Instead of running 2 miles, I do jumping jacks and push-ups for 15 minutes.
I’m learning how to get past the notion of an ideal workout. And simply pursue a workout. What about you? How do you approach exercise (or any other habit for that matter)? What are some tips you’d like to share?