At some point in my mid-twenties, I recognized that exercise would always be an integral part of my life. I had been consistently working out for years and enjoyed the physiological and psychological benefits of my fitness routine. I couldn't imagine my life without it, and I knew that despite life's ever-changing circumstances, fitness would always be a priority for me. I had become what I call a ''highly effective exerciser,'' or a Lifetime Effective Exerciser (LTEE).
Why is it that some of us LTEEs can’t imagine not exercising, while others can’t imagine how to begin and keep exercising? Motivation and the psychology of exercise were, and still are, my favorite subjects. After more than 30 years in this profession and working with thousands of individuals, I have noticed that those that get ''hooked'' and stay consistent year after year share some common habits and mindsets. Here are some of the key differences that separate LTEEs from those who have not yet adopted exercise as a part of everyday life.
- For LTEEs, exercise is non-negotiable. It is a high priority, and there are no excuses good enough to keep them from working out. Those who exercise several days a week, week after week after week, recognize that the benefits they get from exercise far exceed the inconvenience of fitting it into their schedules. It is not about having enough time to work out; it's about making the time to work out.
- LTEEs don't necessarily love exercise, but they do it anyway. Some people are lucky enough to enjoy and look forward to their workouts, but many people don't—including LTEEs. However, LTEEs value consistent exercise and know it's just something they have to do no matter what. For them, the benefits of fitness tend to trump any discomfort or inconvenience they experience from their workouts.
- LTEE’s don't just exercise to look better; they also exercise for their health. According to research, regular exercise can reduce around two dozen physical and mental health conditions and slow down how quickly the body ages. That knowledge is never far from the minds of LTEEs. These folks have the mindset that regular physical activity is one of the most important things they can do to protect their mental and physical health. This is a major driving force that keeps fitness a consistent part of their life.
- LTEEs understand that to truly enjoy and maintain fitness benefits, they need to be consistent in their efforts. They do not take long, extended breaks because they are on vacation, traveling for business, or tending to a sick relative. They creatively figure out how to fit exercise into their days when life attempts to get in the way. LTEEs often choose active vacations, only stay at hotels with fitness centers, or ask family members to pitch in and give them a break from care-giving. They generally only allow themselves to skip workouts if they are recovering from illness or injury.
- LTEEs have the right workout gear, clothing and accessories. Feeling comfortable and safe while participating in their sports and/or workouts is important to them. They make it a priority to make sure their sports bras, footwear and weight-lifting gloves fit well to help them avoid chafing, blisters and irritations that might prevent or dissuade them from going back for the next scheduled workout. Keeping their exercise wardrobe and accessories up to date is as much a priority as having appropriate clothing for work.
- LTEEs make exercise something to look forward to. They might go for a hike to savor the outdoors, meet a friend for a tennis match, or walk with their spouse after dinner. Others might attach a reoccurring reward to exercise, like a relaxing visit to the gym sauna after a tough workout. Coupling exercise with another enjoyable event makes it easier (and more fun) to stay consistent with a routine.
- LTEEs engage in exercise that suits their personality type. They don't let anyone tell them how and when to exercise; instead, they figure out what's best for them. Many people who struggle with exercise motivation simply haven't found the right workout to suit their personality. For example, social people might thrive in a running group, while more introverted exercisers might enjoy jogging solo. LTEEs never give up on finding a type of exercise format that clicks for them.
- LTEEs periodically reward themselves for their efforts. This is one of the ''tricks'' that helps to solidify a lifelong exercise habit. Most of the health payoffs that make people want to exercise are not experienced instantly, so initially, pairing consistent exercise with a reward is highly motivating. Whether they buy themselves a new workout outfit, upgrade to a titanium bike or book a massage, every once in a while LTEEs say, ''Hey, I deserve this!''
- LTEEs aren't afraid to try new activities or challenge themselves. Let's face it: exercise can eventually get boring. Constantly doing the same activity or sport will lead to a fitness plateau, not to mention boredom and apathy. It's good to shake things up every so often, and LTEEs know this. When exercise boredom strikes, they might try a new class at the gym, hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to ramp up their routine, learn a new sport, or decide to train for a race. Adding novelty to the mix keeps it interesting and fun.
- LTEEs are flexible. All or nothing is not their approach. Although they are dedicated and consistent with their fitness routine, LTEEs still recognize that there are times in life when exercise has to come second. When they have to miss a workout, LTEEs don't get bent out of shape; they simply pick back up where they left off at the next workout. If they don't have a full hour to devote to a workout, thirty minutes is good enough for them. Consistency over time is key!