Do New Habits Die Hard Too?
I’ve never struggled to work exercise into my schedule. Each January, when friends and co-workers are setting New Year’s Resolutions to work out more, I just keep my mouth shut. No one needs to hear from the eager beaver in corner.
What’s my secret? Well, for most of my life, it was that I was a competitive athlete. I had coaches, gyms, practices, teammates, and competitions built in my daily routine. I loved sweating and pushing my body to its limits. After college, I ran marathons. It was a good way to get off of competitive athletics. Races gave me the structure and goals I needed to move my body every day, and honestly, twenty-six miles was scary enough that I never skipped runs. Then, I slowly transitions to things like yoga and recreational jogging that aren’t competitive at all. There is no destination or external motivation. By then, however, I didn’t need it. I didn’t know life without movement, and I had fallen in love with it. I never exercise to lose weight. I exercise because I enjoy it in the moment as well as afterward. I know it is good for my mind, body and spirit. It was easy and joyful to carve out time to stay active.
Then I stopped.
I ran through my sixth month of pregnancy and did yoga through my eighth and have not done any significant exercise since. That was about fifteen months ago. First, being nine months pregnant felt like exercise enough. Then, breastfeeding felt like exercise. Now, I’m just used to not working out. It’s habit. I can’t get started again.
I’m trying to remain calm about all of this. I’m trying to be tender with this new, couch-ridden me. It’s winter. I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night. But I want to get back to it not only because I know it is good, but because I know I enjoy it. How long of a hiatus is enough?
At first, I turned to my calendar. I have long believed that my calendar is a a moral document. How I spend my day is how I spend my life. Usually if I put something on my calendar, I do it. So I tried to write down times to exercise, but I easily and blatantly disregarded the notes. I didn’t even fell bad about it. This is all very new to me folks. Then, I tried to get my spouse to join me, so on my bad days he would talk me into it. We tried to do a seven-minute circuit together each night after our son went down to sleep. Seven minutes. That’s nothing. That’s embarrassingly short. No excuses. We lasted maybe a week. I even considered setting a New Year’s Resolution about working out, but I knew it wouldn’t help. I have less time. I have less energy. I’m struggling to get my professional work done in the slots when I have child care. I enjoy how I am spending my days.
I’m trying to live into the tension between being at peace with this less active season of my life and the desire to be strong and healthy. I’m trying to view this phase as just that: a short phase cast in contrast of my prior days and my days to come. I’m trying to trust that the day will come when I will have the time, energy and desire to joyfully embrace my old habits around exercise. Here’s to hoping new habits don’t die hard.