Want an exercise routine you'll stick to? Ask yourself these eleven questions.
"Exercise more regularly" is a common resolution for people building their own Happiness Projects. Exercise is important for health and mood, and everyone knows this—and yet it's often tough for people to stick to an exercise routine.
One mistake is to choose a form of exercise based on a) what your friend recommends, b) what kind of change to your body you want to see, or c) what’s in fashion. It's helpful to consider these factors, but in the end, we're far more likely to stick with an exercise routine that suits our nature and our schedule. If you're struggling to exercise regularly, this is not the place to fight your nature! If you've been a night person all your life, vowing to get up at 6am to run may not be realistic.
Ask yourself these questions, and when you're done, think about what kind of exercise routine would suit you best:
1. Are you a morning person or a night person?
2. Would you like to spend more time in nature?
3. Would you like more time in solitude; or more time with friends; or more time to meet new people?
4. Are you motivated by competition?
5. Do you enjoy loud music?
6. Do you do better with some form of external accountability, or does that just annoy you?
7. Would you like to challenge yourself with exercise (whether by learning a new skill or pushing yourself physically)—or not?
8. Do you like sports and games?
9. Would you like more meditative time, or more time to watch TV, read newspapers, etc?
10. Do you have a lot of control over your time?
11. Are you sensitive to weather?
Your answers should guide your thinking about exercise. Work out with a trainer? Take a class? Be inside or outside? etc.
For instance, if you're a morning person who craves solitude and time alone with your thoughts, but has little control over your schedule and hates feeling accountable to anyone, you might enjoy walking in a park alone every morning before you leave for work.
If you're a night person who loves music and meeting new people, and is also motivated by accountability, you might like to take a dance-based exercise class after work.
Often, people will say, "Go for a twenty minute walk at lunch? That's not enough. I really need to get in shape." Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The twenty-minute walk you take is much better for you than the three-mile run you never do. You get the biggest health boost going from no exercise to some exercise.
Just a little tweak in a routine sometimes makes a big difference. One of Gretchen Rubin's Twelve Personal Commandments is to identify the problem. For example, if you find yourself getting bored on long walks—and so find excuses to skip them—you might get an audiobook or download a podcast to listen to while you walk.
The Strategy of Convenience can also be helpful when it comes to exercise. For instance, keep your walking shoes at your office or choose a gym that's close to home.
What aspects of your nature and your schedule make it easier—or harder—to stick to an exercise routine? What works for you? Learn more about how self-knowledge can help you stick your other resolutions.