Until this past weekend, it had been a year and a half since I ran more than 17 miles at once. I had to look back at my training logs to confirm the date, mileage, and pace because I couldn’t remember if I had run that distance in the absence of a fall marathon goal race in 2019 (I knew I hadn’t run that distance in 2020).
Running is strange in that sometimes the experience is effortless and other times the experience is a struggle. Most times, a run is a run is a run. Enjoyable in the moment, and forgettable once it’s in the past.
Perhaps running isn’t so strange after all, as running mirrors life with our highs, lows, and all of the mundane experiences in between.
Looking at my training data, it’s clear that I am not the same. When it comes to general fitness and running specifically, I am improving even as I’m aging.
You can do a lot for your health in 18 months, especially if you take action on a regular basis.
A year and a half might seem like a long time to stay focused, though taking action on a daily or weekly basis becomes easier when you understand your why — the underlying reason(s) why you wish to be healthy and fit — and you can connect your regular actions with your long-term fitness goals. When you understand your why and use that information to make decisions that are aligned with your values, you begin to make changes that have the potential to become strong, sustainable habits. These habits are more likely to become lifestyle changes (as opposed to temporary behavior changes) because they are being built on a strong foundation.
For me, exercise is a non-negotiable activity. This means that I make time for exercise, just as I make time to eat and sleep. I know that I have a better chance of being at my best when I am taking care of myself with regular exercise, and that means that I exercise consistently, with very few exceptions (e.g., injury, illness, etc.).
If you haven’t already clarified for yourself why you wish to be healthy and fit, it’s worth taking some time to figure out why you value exercise. Here are some examples that may help you to create your own list of reasons why exercising regularly is important to you:
- To feel better, physically and mentally
- To increase your energy
- To reduce or manage your stress
- To set an example of what taking care of yourself looks like
- To achieve personal fitness goals (e.g., walking, running, spinning, swimming, strength, etc.)
- To sleep better at night
- To feel attractive in your clothes
- To live longer
- To be able to take care of others
- To be able to take care of yourself when others aren’t around
- To retain your [insert fitness activity here] friends by being fit enough to participate in [fitness activity]
- To improve your ability to learn and apply new information
- To reduce your risk of injury or illness
- To have fun! 🎉
Would you include any of the above on your list of reasons why? What would you add to your list?
You don’t have to create your list in one fell swoop, though you might be surprised at what you come up with if you brainstorm on this topic for 10 minutes or so.
I like to review my list periodically and add to it when I think of a new reason that speaks to me.
Though there is scientific evidence that exercising regularly is good for your health, having a personalized list of reasons why you value exercise can help you to stick to your fitness routine when you might be struggling to prioritize your health and wellness.
Consider treating exercise as a way to enhance your life as opposed to a chore. As much as you might want to do something (exercise or otherwise), having a defined reason that resonates with you is much more powerful than just feeling like you should do something.
Understanding your why will help you to create and maintain a strong fitness habit. Exercising regularly is an activity you get to do — and which will provide numerous benefits (some of which might be on your list of reasons why)!
So, what is your why?