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Staying Consistent with Exercise: Achieving Escape Velocity

Staying consistent with exercise is effortful...until it's not.

Key points

  • Staying consistent with exercise is challenging until it is incorporated into your identity.
  • Until then, you can stick to your routine by picking exercises you like and by making concrete plans to do them.
  • Sticking to your plan, regardless of how much you exercise, is vitally important.

On October 13th at 9:49 am Central Time, William Shatner launched into outer space at 2,235 mph. Weeks before, newscasters across the country announced that Captain Kirk was about to boldly go where no other 90-year-old has gone before.

2,235 mph is just 22,765 mph short of how fast a spacecraft would need to leave earth with no further propulsion, to not fall crashing back down. If that minimum velocity can be achieved, the gravitational forces of the earth will be overcome. This is the escape velocity necessary to leave the Earth.

To be honest, I don’t know much about astrophysics, but I do love a good metaphor. I do know that staying consistent with exercise is hard. I know that with our best efforts we can “get off the ground,” but that doesn’t mean that the force of our old habits and the effort needed to stay consistent can’t pull us crashing back to where we started.

What do you need to do to maintain an exercise habit? To make sure it doesn’t feel so effortful all the time. What do you need to do to achieve escape velocity? Follow along to learn how to “boldly go” through the processes that other successful maintainers have gone through.

The Steps to Maintain an Exercise Habit

Comparable to having an end destination on a trip, there is a road map to maintaining an exercise routine. A lot of people successfully take the first leg of the trip. They make the intention to start exercising. They get a gym membership. They go to group exercise classes and recruit friends to exercise with them.

But something happens along the way and they disengage. Why?

The end goal, your way to achieving escape velocity can only happen when these three things are in place:

  • You find some sort of enjoyment out of the exercise routine you have selected
  • You feel that exercise is a part of who you are, and…
  • You’ve found a way to have a consistent routine

Step 1: Find What Works for You

If you told me that I had to do distance running for exercise for the rest of my life, I would be doubtful that I would be able to maintain a semblance of consistency. Why? Because it’s not particularly enjoyable for me. There are dozens of different types of exercise out there which range from walking, to recreational sports, to weight training. You need to ask yourself two questions:

  • Do I enjoy it?
  • Does it fit in with everything else in my life?

For example, if you thought joining a boxing class would be incredible but the closest class was 45 minutes away it might not fit. One of the biggest derailers of good intentions is competing goals. Make sure what you pick can be prioritized.

Step 2: Focus on Becoming

Many people start exercising for some separate outcome. Most often, that separate outcome is to lose weight. While exercise may help, it is not directly tied to that outcome. Rather, a better idea would be to focus on the daily process of getting more activity. Make exercising more the goal in and of itself.

If you can get to the point where you can say “I am an exerciser” then this behavior has been integrated into your identity. You’re another step closer to escape velocity.

Step 3: Make it a Consistent Routine

The only way to integrate exercise into your identity is to actually do it. Sounds obvious but despite their best intentions many people fail to follow through on their goals.

Each morning create a plan for what you will do and when you will do it. Treat your exercise habit like an appointment. Maybe in the morning you block out 30 minutes to walk with the dog. After work you take 30 minutes to go to the gym, or before work you go for a 15-minute jog.

Regardless of the magnitude (i.e. 20 minutes of lifting weights vs 60 minutes) make sure you do it. Going for a 10-minute run, even if it seems minimal, engrains the good habit. Skipping your routine makes it easier to skip the next time, and the next time, making achieving escape velocity challenging.

Exercising more is a common goal that people hold. But it can be challenging to stay consistent. If you have setbacks, stay compassionate towards yourself and try to follow the steps in this post. If you can find a form of exercise that you enjoy, if you can focus on exercise as the outcome itself, and if you make plans and stick to them regardless of the magnitude of exercise, staying consistent won’t feel so effortful. You will have achieved your escape velocity because exercise will be a part of who you are.