If you've ever attempted to make a routine out of exercising, here is a process I'm sure you're familiar with.
Getting off the couch or away from the computer is the first and hardest step.
There is a mental battle that erupts as every fiber of your being tries to persuade you that: working out isn't necessary, that you don't have time, that it will hurt, or that you'll do it later. etc.
The voice persists as you go to the closet to pick up your neglected runners and put them on.
You're aware that you can still change your mind at this point but, you stand up, open the front door, stare out at the sidewalks and imagine yourself running. panting for breath all the same.
This is it, the literal threshold of decision. Some close the door and return to their kitchen for a bag of chips just to reward themselves for even considering the idea of getting some exercise.
Others break out into a jog and fight past the blossoming cramps, aches, pains, and lack of oxygen until they've run their route and arrive home exhausted, yet triumphant.
Excuse the melodrama, but it's taken me about a year to muster up the discipline to exercise. Without a class to enforce any system of daily physical activity, it somehow completely slipped off my list of priorities.
Multiple times I experienced short-lived spurts of enthusiasm, before falling back to my regular schedule.
Last week was different. After an inspiring conversation with a friend, I sat down, drew a chart and decided that for an entire month I would run every single day.
I decided that, if I managed to colour-in every single box for a whole month, I would reward myself with something pretty from Lululemon.
Today, I completed Day 10. and I haven't missed a single day.
As funny as it will sound, the chart has been, and continues to be absolutely essential. When considering why that might be the case, I've come to two conclusions.
The first conclusion is that the chart shows that there is an end in sight.
There are only 31 boxes on my piece of paper. This has made the goal finite and manageable.
It's not abstract and immense. It's just a bite-sized goal with a little prize waiting for me at the end.
The second reason why the chart helps is because it changes my motivation from striving for a better body shape or becoming a healthier person, to simply keeping a promise. With the chart, I'm running merely because I told myself I would.
I've found that if I work out with the sole intention of losing a few extra pounds, I grow discouraged by day three, when I look in the mirror and see that there's no drastic proof of my efforts.
Now every time I'm tempted to skip a day, I visualize the chart and think how silly it would look with gaps like missing teeth.
Making the decision to get off the couch and away from the computer was the hardest part. Once you do that... the rest is pretty much a walk in the park.
Anna Toth is a J.N. Burnett graduate and currently attends UBC.
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