Establishing an exercise habit for your whole family can be quite a challenge. In this blog I reflect on the bad habits I’ve fallen into over the years, barriers that have prevented regular exercise and share how we’ve finally found the exercise habit.
For 15 years I’ve participated in exercise in cycles, pretty much all or nothing! During that time I knew it wasn’t a good pattern to be in but the reasons for it seemed too great to do anything else. Long hours at work, hours commuting each day, medical problems and having young children have all contributed to my perceived lack of time to exercise regularly.
Strangely this habit of doing loads of exercise and then none also seemed to be linked to the seasons. I would come out of my exercise hibernation in the spring and then go back into it in the autumn!
A Sport England research project highlights some other factors that result in 2 million fewer women than men playing sport.
At the start of 2017 I decided that the breaks from exercise needed to stop if my family was really going to get fit and stay fit. The first stage was to set a goal that I felt would take me a year to achieve, so no hibernation permitted! Next was to identify the barriers that might stop me achieving this goal and finally, a plan of how I’d put an end to my all or nothing behaviour.
Identifying the barriers was interesting, guilt was definitely the main culprit! I felt guilty if I exercised after work when I should be spending precious time with my children. I felt guilt if I exercised when my children were in bed because I wasn’t getting prepared for my next day at work. And perhaps the worst feelings of guilt came from knowing I wasn’t looking after myself.
In my action plan, removing all forms of guilt was number one priority. Below are the few simple steps we went through to create the exercise habit for all of us.
- Prioritise physical activity. I am the best version of me when I exercise regularly, and so is each member of my family! Acknowledging this made me prioritise exercise, it’s no longer something to do if we feel like it or can find the time, it is a necessity.
- Create the dream schedule. This involved a weekly planner where I plotted the physical activity of each family member. It highlighted times when our children were at clubs in the evenings and therefore guilt free opportunities to exercise. Part of this process was also identifying a minimum number of sessions for each of us to do in a week to ensure the effort we put in would be beneficial for our fitness and long term health.
- Encouraging others. This was a really important element of the plan. When my husband is training it really motivates me to do the same. I wanted to encourage other members of our family and friends to exercise too, forming a support network that would stop all of us making excuses and help the people I care about the most be happy and fit too. I believe this also includes your children, if they have always gone to sport clubs or taken part in physical activity, this becomes their norm, with you as a role model this will become their norm for life.
- Finding safe forms of exercise. The fear of running alone in the dark prompted me to look for a running group. Joining Getfit.run has not only given me with a safe environment to run and supported me in achieving my fitness goal ahead of schedule, it has also provided a wonderful opportunity to meet new people. If running isn’t your thing, I can highly recommend the back to netball sessions. I’ve found similar benefits from attending these as I have the running sessions.
There isn’t a quick fix to creating the exercise habit, after 15 years of trying I can confidently say that! Even with the best intentions, unexpected hurdles can stop us in our tracks. However, by prioritising exercise, surrounding yourself with motivated people and creating a schedule that works for your family, you may fall nicely into the exercise habit.