I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can self-monitor our fitness activities, especially in the absence of group accountability, an exercise partner, or a traditional one-on-one coaching relationship.
When I was first aiming to build a consistent exercise habit, I spent time exploring different ways to work out and I was meticulous about logging activities into a paper calendar. Sometimes I’d sign up for a class and other times I’d schedule exercise dates with K, my sister, or my stepdad. When I was on my own, I’d pop in an exercise DVD or play Dance Dance Revolution in exercise mode.
Tracking my exercise sessions provided solid data, giving me insight into how often I was actually moving and what I was choosing to do. Now we have fitness trackers, smartphones, and apps, and tracking our movement throughout a given day or week is much easier.
However you choose to track your activities, the act of tracking (and reviewing) will likely cause you to alter your behavior.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself three questions at the end of each day:
- Did I exercise today?
- Did I want to exercise today?
- Did I plan to exercise today?
These questions may help you to monitor your own fitness habits and make adjustments if and how you choose.
You will also begin to see patterns emerge. For example, maybe you are excellent at working out when you plan to exercise (even if you don’t feel like it), but you don’t typically spend time exercising when you haven’t planned something specific to do.
For some, it’s easier to commit to a class or an appointment with others than it is to hold appointments for yourself. This works well if you are able to connect with others and have common interests. (If you feel like the pandemic is really cramping your style, you are not alone.)
If you struggle to make and keep appointments with yourself, giving yourself some options may help you to keep your personal commitments while allowing for some flexibility — either in scheduling or with the selected activities (or both). For example, consider having a short list of options to choose from, rather than selecting one activity…and either completing that exact activity or skipping the workout.
I’m much better at keeping appointments with myself now than I was back in the days of that paper calendar, but it’s an ongoing practice. I have found that I do a better job of sustaining my fitness activities when I’m patient with myself and do things on my own time schedule (e.g., I commit to myself that I will get an activity done before the end of the day, but I don’t commit to doing specific activities at specific times).
You may find that sticking to a specific time works better for you, or you may find that planning the fitness activity you are going to do on a given day provides enough structure for you to get it done.
Learning to self-monitor objectively can help you to change your behavior or confirm that you are doing what you intend to do. As you understand more about yourself and your existing habits, you can use your tendencies to strengthen or change your habits, depending on your goals and preferences.