Exercise: A quiz — Are you a likely exercise drop-out?

Every Wednesday is Tip Day (or Quiz Day).
This Wednesday – A quiz: Are you a likely exercise drop-out?

I discovered THE KEY to my Happiness Project. What is it? Resolutions. It has been the ability to make and keep my innumerable resolutions that has allowed me make real changes in my life, and therefore in my happiness. (As always, if you’d like to get a copy of my Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the “AT” sign, then gretchenrubin “DOT COM.” Just write “resolutions chart” in the subject line).

One resolution that many people make and break is the resolution to EXERCISE. Exercise is a key to good health, and for me, has always been essential to feeling calm and cheerful. In fact, when I’m feeling blue, one of the best ways to shake the mood is to exercise. The Big Man is exactly the same way. On Sunday, he was feeling low, and a trip to the gym chirked him up considerably.

And even if I don’t feel better, at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I exercised.

I’m fascinated by the question of why sometimes people are able to stick to resolutions, and some people aren’t – and what steps people can take to help themselves stick to their resolutions. There are a lot of factors, of course, in each individual’s case.

I have a friend who is a yoga instructor and a friend who is a strength-training trainer. I asked them if they recognized any warning signs in people who are likely NOT to stick to a resolution to start exercising.

They both agreed that there are warning signs. So take this quiz. If you recognize yourself in the statements below, beware. You may need to make a special effort to stick to a program. Check off any statement that sounds like it could have come out of your mouth:

“This time, I’m really going to stick to it! I mean it, I’m totally, 100% committed!”
This person sounds like he’s trying to convince himself but not really succeeding.

“I’m potentially thinking that maybe I might join this class.”
This person hasn’t really made up his mind. He’s not committed. Although he sounds very different, he’s actually an awful lot like the person who says…

“I have to start TOMORROW. No delay!”
This person is afraid that she’s going to lose her resolve. It’s probably happened to her before.

“Well, afternoons don’t work. And I can’t do mornings. I can come Tuesdays at noon, but not this Tuesday. Or next Tuesday…”
The President of the United States works out almost every day! If people really want to exercise, they find the time.

“I’ll squeeze it in at lunchtime. I can just run out between meetings.”
This person hasn’t acknowledged to himself that exercise must be its own priority, and if he doesn’t do that, it’ll always get shoved to the bottom of the to-do list. Which means it won’t happen.

“I can’t wait to start. But first, I need to buy some new clothes. And some new shoes. And a mat. And I want to read up on it, too.”
I had a roommate like this. She loved shopping and everything involved in the preparation stage. But once she had all the stuff she needed for yoga or roller-blading or whatever, she lost interest.

If any of these statements remind you of yourself, use it as a warning sign to re-commit yourself to sticking to your exercise plan.

Sometimes it helps to tell yourself that you’re just going to do it for six months. That doesn’t sound too onerous. Both instructors agreed that once people have kept up a program for six months, the exercise has become part of their routine, and it becomes much less likely that they’ll drop out. Also, if you really just can’t fit it in, or make yourself do it, try to go for a twenty-minute walk each day. Or two ten-minute walks. Even that much exercise is so much better than nothing.

I always find interesting material on LifeTwo.

I’ve started sending out short monthly newsletters that will highlight the best of the previous month’s posts. If you’d like to sign up, click on the link in the upper-right-hand corner of my blog. Or just email me at grubin, then the “at” sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. No need to write anything more than “newsletter” in the subject line. I’ll add your name to the list.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • I’ve found one of the biggest hurdles for my clients is getting to the point where they feel like they have some “traction” or “momentum.” When you don’t feel like you’ve made any progress yet towards your goal / resolution, it is easy to justify eating “just one croissant” or skipping “just one training session.”
    Goals can seem big and distant sometimes. It’s important to break them up and have micro-plans to get to that big thing that you have resolved to achieve. This empowers you by making the path a bit more clear, and gives you smaller milestones to gain traction on. There is a handy tool called the Training Hierarchy Pyramid that was designed by coach Scott Sonnon for just this purpose. I posted about it a few months ago here… http://coachsteer.typepad.com/coachsteer/2008/07/csts-training-hierarchy-pyramid I have a better post about it somewhere but can’t find it (I really need to catalog my posts…).

  • I found the better post (mentioned in the comment above). Here it is:

  • Baba Yaga

    “Also, if you really just can’t fit it in, or make yourself do it, try to go for a twenty-minute walk each day. Or two ten-minute walks. Even that much exercise is so much better than nothing.”
    Given that the WHO recommendation is for 30 minutes of moderate (i.e,, just breath-quickening) exercise, 5 days per week, it’s not just better than nothing, it’s pretty close. And 10-minute chunks are manageable for most people.
    The other trick is to combine exercise with something else one enjoys – listening to audiobooks, spending time with a friend, so on and so forth. (Or, reversing the principle, to turn chores one hates into exercise – if I scrub the bath hard and fast, it might even means the job gets done faster.) I have been known to knit while on an exercise bike – there’s bonus exercise in periodically chasing after a dropped ball before it wraps itself around the pedals.

  • Sarah

    This has nothing to do with today’s post, but I just watched your one-minute movie for the first time and I am crying at my desk at work!!
    It’s fantastic–thanks for the reminder that even the things that sometimes feel mundane or even annoying are life. I’ll try to remember that tonight when my daughter is throwing her food on the floor.
    Thanks for the resolution chart too!

  • Paul

    My biggest problem is actually taking breaks (voluntary or otherwise) from my routine. I work hundreds of miles from home, and stay near work 4 days a week. If I take a break, say a couple of weeks over Christmas at home, it completely breaks my routine and I find it takes weeks or months to get back into the flow where I have set times for exercise and ‘just do it’.
    The other thing which really messes me up is illness – it creates a break in the routine, but also makes you weaker and it’s harder to get back into regular exercise. This year has been a nightmare for me – it took until March to re-establish the routine after the Christmas break, then in April I was taken ill and found it very difficult for a few months; then another bout in August, from which the routine is still disrupted. And this is with an established routine which I’ve been following for 4-5 years now, of exercise 4 or 5 days out of 7.
    If you’re recovering from illness, the boundary between “I’m tired but I know I’ll feel better after I get some exercise” and “I don’t feel well enough to do anything” is quite a fine line, and forcing things can actually set you back further.

  • For me there is no resolve, only habits. I keep my gym gear in the car all the time, so I am always ready to go to the gym. And I go before I go home, because if I get home, I’m not going out.

  • beth_nc

    I am one of those who get caught up in the preparation stage, wanting to read, think, research the topic. Reading an article about exercise is easier than exercising – and somehow it feels like making progress. It’s easy to kid myself.

  • Annette

    For me, I think that exercise (where possible) should be an organic part of my day. Like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or cycling instead of driving, etc.
    I also think it helps to find a form of exercise that is enjoyable for the sake of it (not necessarily for the enjoyment of the payoff of exercising, which was never compelling enough to me), and then it doesn’t feel like “exercising”, it just feels like fun. For me, that’s dancing. 🙂

  • Very interesting post

  • This is a great post! I know people who fit every one of these categories! haha I tried going to the gym for quite some time, but eventually seemed to stop going every 4 months- and that isn’t really an option with weight training. I decided to move my exercise routine outdoors, and now I hike, ski, jog, climb, and bike around the colorado mountains. I think sometimes if you are having trouble keeping up with your exercise routine, it can’t hurt to sweeten the deal a bit! 😉 Meaning, do something that is fun- and gets you outside moving and sweating. 🙂

  • My Yoga instructor used to say if you’re talking about it, you’re not doing it. Just do it!
    I practice an hour and a half yoga every day and it is scheduled into every day at the same time (like brushing my teeth) & everything else goes around it. But It’s all or nothing for me. I lose interest & momentum if I exercise only a few days a week.