• Ash Radford

Why planning really matters for making exercise habit

Getting exercise done regularly over a sustained period is a challenge. There wouldn't be the need, or interest, in reading this post if it wasn't. The focus is often on motivation or having the right program and doing the best form of exercise. Those things of course matter, but what's rarely mentioned is the importance of planning. As this study shows those who plan their exercise well are far more likely to do it consistently both over the short and long term. In my professional experience I think of a particular client who has made massive improvements to his fitness, while maintaining a high level job, along with family commitments. It's plain to see he plans often and plans well. His success in several areas of life in large part reflects his dedication to planning. Once something goes in his diary, there's more than a strong chance it'll happen. Here's a few tips and reminders around how (& why) to plan effectively to make exercise happen: * It's vital to plan when you're starting something new, which isn't habitual. As you know we are creatures of habit and largely live on automatic pilot. We typically don't like the mental strain associated with doing something new. Considering the when, where and how of that new exercise method will get you thinking around how to most likely make it happen.

*Taking time to plan creates the opportunity to consider potential barriers of conflicts. Many of us are busy. Potential conflicts need to be considered so you can come up with ways of still making exercise happen. Often though the barriers won't become apparent until you sit down and really think about how your week or day is going to pan out. Once identified you can obviously do something about them. *Planning reduces complexity, which is important. Modern life is complicated enough. It's clear why walking, jogging and cycling are the 3 most popular forms of exercise- they're simply the simplest! People usually find the actual exercise is hard enough. Add more challenge with things like transport, special equipment and a lengthy set up process and you reduce the likely it's going to be repeatable. However with some planning you can reduce some of those steps when it comes to getting on with your workout. Getting shoes, clothes, water and whatever else is needed the night before is one way to make exercise easier to get started on the next day. Plan to make it simpler and easier to start- which is often the hardest and most important part. * Make a plan for what your going to actually do during the workout. It's possible to wing it and make it up as you go, and you do need to be adaptable. However if you walk into the gym with a program detailing aspects such as weight, sets, reps and rest period you eliminate decision fatigue. (basically you've only got so much mental energy to make decisions in a day and the rest of your life probably involves plenty). You also save time and energy procrastinating and will likely boost your workout with some flow and momentum. When you have a plan or program you're far more likely to do an effective workout than if you just have a general intention to 'work hard'. * Well planned exercise means you'll more mental energy to work on other goals in life. Good planning has been shown to not just benefit the activity you plan for but also free up mental energy for other activities. Combine that with the mood and concentration boosting effects of exercises and you'll find exercise helps with just about every facet of life.

 

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