January 17, 2020
Exercise is a hugely important habit to form. I am a big believer in the mental benefits of exercise. The biggest goal of exercise for me is not any physical benefit, but the stress-relieving and productivity-increasing aspects of exercise. I have created my own exercise routines, and I keep trying every day to keep them up as best I can. I have found that if I exercise consistently, I develop a craving to exercise. The benefits of exercising spill over into my life increasing my creativity and productivity as well as giving me a sense of calmness and focus.
Take these three steps that I have tried and you will create a craving for exercise which will lead to a good habit of exercising. First, pick a small exercise set to do first thing every morning. Second, find your favorite exercise – mine is running. Third, balance your favorite exercise with yoga.
First, I listened to and was impressed by a news report a couple years ago presenting the concept of how early morning habits lead people to experience more success in their life. The journalist shared that he picked a random number of sit-ups and push-ups to do every morning after waking up, and how he does the exercise set every morning now. This led him to achieve greater productivity and overall success in his life.
I was inspired. I started by picking my numbers. 11 modified, knees-down push-ups and 21 bicycle sit-ups. I thought starting with low numbers would make this routine more attainable for me, and I could build up from there. I also wanted to do a stretch before starting so I added a yoga series – one sunrise salutation.
I started in October 2018. Month by month, as I felt ready, I increased my numbers. I’ve done my quick workout routine – stretch/sun salutation, sit-ups (now at 100) and push-ups (25) – somewhat consistently since then. Definitely not every, single morning, but a majority. Failing is part of the process, and I try not to beat myself up over missing a day.
When I do complete the set, it puts a smile on my face to start my day having already accomplished one healthy habit. On days when I don’t plan to go to the gym to do a full workout, it gives me the self-satisfaction to have done just that workout routine. It is a great habit to create for any person looking to exercise.
Second, I went back to my favorite exercise. During law school, I found running outside and at the school’s indoor track were both beneficial to reducing my stress. What I loved was the feeling after I ran of total exhaustion of my anxiousness and stress while at the same time a surge of good energy. I have been off and on with running since law school, but am now more dedicated to at least logging five miles a week divided into at least a few runs.
For me, running is better than any other cardio exercise. Running gets my heart rate going higher and really produces the greatest mental benefits for me. I find that even with participating in group exercise classes – weight-training circuit classes, boot camps, Les Mills body pump, etc. – nothing makes me feel better than running does.
This is an activity that some people hate, and I recognize this is an activity that may be out of the question for someone challenged by a disability or injury. There are alternatives available. Find what you love so that whatever you choose is something that you will be drawn back to do over and over.
You may find that a lower impact exercise is also a good idea – cycling or swimming or some other aerobic workout. I have introduced lower-impact exercise to save my knees from overuse in running. Walking, weight-lifting, light aerobics classes are all good exercises to try.
Third, I believe in the mind-body benefit of yoga. I have taken yoga classes for about twenty years, and I still find them beneficial physically and mentally. The breathing techniques that the teachers have shared over the years have brought me such a sense of calmness. Physically, I absolutely love the feeling when I walk out of class – most of the time I feel like I just had a full body massage. Not to mention, I work muscles that I may be neglecting in my other workouts. They are either strengthened or stretched, and I feel the benefits in the hours and days after I complete the class. Yoga also reduces stress like running does for me, but in a different way. I feel grounded, restored, and ready to face the day and sleep well that night.
To summarize, first, I recommend starting your exercise routine by picking a small, manageable exercise set to do first thing every morning. Second, find your favorite exercise – running outside or join a club that offers group exercise classes that appeal to you. Third, balance your favorite exercises with yoga. Go for it!
© 2020 Megan Davia Mikhail