I've been traveling a lot this summer, with trips to Mexico and South Carolina, and I found myself feeling a bit gross. I had been feeling amazing after doing my second Whole30 in April, and by the end of July, I was not feeling my healthiest. Knowing myself, I knew I needed a kick in the pants and a challenge to live up to. So I chose to commit to some form of exercise every day for 21 days. Here are 5 things I learned from 21 days of exercise and how you can get a kick in your pants, too.
On a side note, this is not a program and I am not a coach. I'm not trying to sell you anything here other than the idea that you can get back on track by committing to a timeline. If you want to purchase some fancy kit after this, go on your Facebook timeline and post that. Someone you know will pop out of the woodwork and be able to help you out, I guarantee it. But you don't need to purchase anything to create a healthy habit in your life. You just need to find the time and commit.
Why 21 days? It's proven that a new habit takes 21 days to form and stick. That's why there are buyable programs built around that number. Three weeks, that's it. It's not even a whole month.
Personally, I love a good challenge. I knew to get back on track I needed to make a full commitment to a period of time, every day. Challenging myself, posting on social media, and having a timeline would help me get my fitness routine back on track. And it did! To help you get started or to get the inspiration you need to get back on the wagon, here are 5 things I learned from my 21 days of exercise:
1. Starting is the Hardest Part
Can I tell you a secret? I have the hardest time getting out of bed. Not just that I don't want to get up, but that I will literally do anything to stay in bed. Snooze 10 times, get up to just get back into bed four minutes later, sleeping until I absolutely have to get up. I'll even sleep to a point where I'm late sometimes. God, adulting sure is hard sometimes.
But to that point, I am an expert at avoiding the necessary. I can procrastinate until there isn't any other choice but to start or fail. I've even taken the fail route in the past instead of sucking it up and starting. Getting started with a new challenge, routine, or task will always be the hardest part. So go ahead and rip the band-aid off, do day one and get it out of the way.
The first week of exercise will probably be when you're most likely to quit. Just like with all routines, it's when it's not yet second nature and is still a choice. But know that if you've started, you've already done the hard part. Each day is getting you closer to the end, and the goal is really making exercise second nature and a part of your routine.
2. Exercise Can Happen Anywhere
I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm a gym rat, but I would say I'm a class rat if that's even a thing. I have a Sunday yoga class and a Friday Zumba class that I rarely miss. Every week like clockwork, I make it to these classes. It's the days in between that are hard. The group atmosphere of a class motivates me to keep going, these are normally my longest and most intense workouts.
During my 21 days of exercise, I realized I didn't need to make a trek to a class or even the gym to get my exercise in. I began by googling '15 minute cardio' to find a free YouTube video and doing short intense workouts in my living room on days between classes. By the time I was on vacation in San Diego (yes, more travel!) I was already in the swing of things, so I walked to the beach in the morning and did some yoga on the beach overlooking the ocean. I didn't need my regular class or my favorite elliptical at the gym to get my exercise in for the day.
This means bust out that set of home weights, move your furniture to roll out your yoga mat or watch an online video in that quick 30 minutes you have between one errand and another. When you realize that you can exercise anywhere it removes an obstacle between you and your workout.
My favorite workout video from my 21 days of exercise, which is deceivingly titled 15-minute Beginner's Low-Impact Cardio Workout:
3. Something is Better Than Nothing
On day 6 I wanted to quit. It was 10 pm and I hadn't exercised and I all I wanted to do was wash my face and turn out the lights. That's when I googled 'easy yoga.' I rolled out my mat and basically rolled around on the ground after a few sun salutations. I didn't sweat. I may have been in my pajamas.
Was this the most satisfying day of exercise, definitely not; was I able to keep my momentum and get in a more intense workout the next day, you betcha. Instead of throwing in the towel and giving up on 21 days of exercise in a row, I let myself find a less strenuous and shorter exercise to check my box for the day. Just because I didn't get a full 60 minutes with weights and pre-workout in, doesn't mean I didn't exercise. Something is always going to be better than nothing. And if you're working out for 21 days straight, you're going to have to make this work for you.
4. Routines Rub Off
Momentum is real. As exercising daily became less of a choice and more of a given, so did other tasks in my life. Chores came easier, tasks were in progress before I had time to question whether I wanted to do them or not, and I found motivation in areas of my life that had nothing to do with exercise.
I found that other routines in my life that had fallen to the wayside were easier to pick back up once I got into the swing of things. That saying, "the swing of things", it literally illustrates how once you take off and have momentum it will be easier. It's easy to for vacation, kids, or life to throw a wrench into your routine. Choosing to do one thing that you want to make a habit and doing until its easy will ripple throughout your life and rub off on your other habits and routines.
5. You Won't Want to Stop
I started with the goal of exercising for 21 consecutive days and I'm currently on day 33 of movement. I swear once you start, you won't want to stop. Eventually, after finishing my 21 days of exercise, I chose to change the challenge from exercise to movement so that I wouldn't feel like a gentle yoga class or a long evening walk didn't count. Those activities do count when you're working on your health because they make a routine manageable and realistic.
But on that note, I walk to work both ways each day and I chose not to count that daily movement. I wanted to make sure that my movement or exercise each day was something that I had set aside time to make happen. A conscious decision I made each day. Maybe you're at a different phase in your fitness journey than I am and walking to work would count for you. Perhaps you're training for something big and want to make sure you actually break a sweat each day. Make a challenge that fits into your life and helps you achieve your goals.