Friday, 20 January 2012

Making New Habits Stick

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Ah - a new year, accompanied by those ubiquitous resolutions. Now, myself, I'm at the age where strength and flexibility are at the use-it-or-lose-it stage. And since there are still a lot of items on my bucket list that require just those qualities, plus endurance, I certainly don't want to "lose it."

I already try for at least 30 minutes cardio workout, five times a week, usually by simply walking around my hilly neighborhood. I've found the best workout aid to be an eager and insistent dog, with an Ipod full of music a close second. Luckily, I live in an area that, while it can get cold in the winter has mostly clear skies, any snow on the streets is removed in a timely fashion, and any remaining ice melts off the dark pavement quickly. Then again, I lived above 10,000 feet for 10 years. I do believe there is no inclement weather, only inappropriate clothing.

That said, I do have a backup indoor cardio plan, with a few dance exercise CD's for when the wind is really ripping or those infrequent but totally impossible storms blow in for more than a day. And my living room decor now includes a cross-country ski machine, picked up cheap, secondhand, facing the tv.

But life gets in the way too sometimes - more often than not, it seems. Besides time devoted to family and friends, home and garden projects, I also have multiple volunteer commitments plus a part-time job. I can't just say I'll walk every day at this time, make it every week to this exercise class. My schedule is too erratic to plan so absolutely. As with any life-changing resolution, you have to make it a habit. It just gets a bit more difficult when you can't link the new action to a particular circumstance.

So I use my big decorative calendar, hanging there to disguise the ugly well tank, in my kitchen pantry. And stickers, just like back in kindergarten. I've used shiny star stickers for the cardio workouts for years now. It's such a simple little reward, but it works for me. When my life gets a bit too hectic, taking care of myself seems to be the easiest thing to discard. But too many empty days on that calendar nags me that I need to get things back on track. Use it or lose it!

As I said at the beginning, this year I want to add strength and flexibility workouts too. I picked up a little booklet of stickers at the grocery store. There are little smiley face stickers, that I'm using for a flexibility session. I found a $3 yoga class, that meets a few different times a week, or I also count a half-hour of stretches on my living room floor - and am aiming for two times a week. The little round star stickers are my reward for strength workouts - arm exercises with five-pound weights, squats and lunges, you know the drill - also aiming for two times a week. Now I just need to find some little musical stickers. I've picked up my childhood accordion again. I want to start practicing regularly - gotta have some stickers. There's still room on those calendar days. The stickers just remind me to make room in my life.