The Habit of Exercise

January 27, 2008

I hate winter.  For someone who was born and grew up in Montreal, that is a heretical statement.  But I’ve never been athletic, I get cold easily, I don’t have the greatest sense of balance (not exactly a plus when you’re navigating ice-laden sidewalks while holding the leash of a frisky, determined dog in each hand), and so winter makes me grumpy.  Grumpy, and lazy.

During the snowy months, I have to be vigilant not to let my exercise routine slide somewhat.  I mean, who wants to take the extra twenty minutes to pile on an additional pair of wooly socks, long underwear, scarf, insulated hat, dexterity-diminishing gloves, earmuffs and galoshes, drive through snow and sleet at 15 km./hour to unwrap for another twenty minutes on the other side before changing into workout gear, just to push some weights around for 40 minutes or so? Not I. 

And so, I often end up missing my otherwise quite enjoyable workouts during this cold season (“So long, Septuagenarian Couple with the Matching T-Shirts!  Sorry to miss ya, Burly Guy Who Stares at Women’s Breasts Between Sets!  Catch you next time, Personal Trainer with the Gigantoid Biceps!).  Feeling compelled to make it there this morning, however, (after all, how could I let down the legions of fans interested in my Progress Tracker?), I forced myself to go.  And then, had a very lovely time. And was truly glad I went. 

 Keeping motivated can be problematic at any time of the year, but winter presents its own unique challenges.  For me, a change in routine tends to help (as starting a new set of machines, for example, or a different activity entirely), but it’s still difficult to keep up that kind of momentum. 

I recently came across an interesting article from Lifehack.org that provided some help in this area.  The article is actually about tricks for making new habits stick, but I think many of these apply to the habit of exercise as well.  One that struck a chord with me in particular was using a “but” statement.  As in, “I’m no good at sewing, but if I work at it, I might get better.”  There are seventeen other tips as well, including items such as “commit to 30 days” or “form a trigger” (something else you do right before the desired habit, to create a pattern). 

For me, changes might include setting out my workout gear the night before I plan to go to the club (the trigger) or asking a friend to commit along with me so that we can be accountable to each other. 

I may be having trouble keeping up with my workouts during the winter, BUT I’m working at it.  And I guess that means it can only get easier.  (And I think moving to Florida might help, too.)

snowchaser.jpg

(“Mum, we love the winter.  It must be that Scottish heritage in us.  So why not make walking US your trigger??”)

4 Responses to “The Habit of Exercise”


  1. I’m the same way about gym exercise, which is why I finally gave in to creating an at-home set of exercises to do for my upper body and core. I just use a stretch band with handless, a stability ball, and my body weight for the work-out, but I kick my butt doing it. And I lose all my excuses about not wanting to travel, having difficulty parking, etc.

  2. Ricki Says:

    Sally,

    That does seem like the way to go. . . though I wonder if I’d still find some reason not to go into the exercise room! I must admit that having a treadmill in front of my TV has made a difference, and I’m much more likely to walk on it now.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I am a lover of winter – love wrapping up in winter woollens and snowy streetscapes. But I know it is easy to be romantic about it when I don’t have to walk up icy steep pavements nor stomp about trying to get my toes warm! I never appreciated how cold it can be in Canada til someone told me about their eyes freezing shut as they walked out the door!

    In Melbourne I am lucky enough that the weather is kind enough to allow me to ride my bike to and from work all winter which is my exercise of choice (although unfortunately this has not been easy for me lately, but am trying to get back into my bikeriding) – but don’t think it doesn’t get cold – just ask my darwin colleagues who freeze in Melbourne because they are used to 32 c days through winter (if you want someone to feel jealous of!) Thanks for the link to the article – v interesting!

  4. Ricki Says:

    Johanna,

    You almost got me re-thinking winter (almost). I’m guessing the person whose eyes froze lived in Alberta or Saskatchewan, where people leave their cars in the garage at night PLUGGED IN TO THE HOUSE so that they’ll be warm enough to start in the mornings!! We don’t get quite that cold here in the Toronto area (at least, I’ve never heard of anything like the eye-freeze here), but it’s just, well, cold and damp and basically ugly (the snow stays white for all of one or two hours before turning a slushy grey from all the cars’ exhaust).

    Yes, riding one’s bike to work even in winter does sound appealing! And glad you found the article of some use.


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