How To Use The Power of Routine For Effective Fitness

I didn’t understand what I was feeling until I returned to Maryland for a week. One of the benefits of our recent move to South Carolina at the end of 2020 was an even more active life. The weather is warmer and our community is designed for walking, running, and biking.

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Ava was out of the wheelchair and able to navigate life without much assistance, so I headed to Maryland to direct our Spring Fundraiser. I stayed with our son’s family about ten minutes from our old home. Being that close to the old neighborhood allowed me to take three walks there while in Maryland.

The first walk surprised me. It felt oddly normal…like I had never left. It was the second walk that revealed the cause of something I’d been feeling after moving to South Carolina.

Ava’s accident changed life pretty significantly for almost two months. Obviously, she felt the bigger changes, but I was impacted too. As her recovery moved forward and her need for my help slowly lessened, I had more freedom to go for longer walks. And, it was during this time when I started feeling something I couldn’t remember feeling for a long, long time.

I didn’t want to.

And, it wasn’t just a rare feeling. Almost every time I would start thinking about taking a walk, I encountered this. Gratefully, it almost never kept me from going for a walk, but I wasn’t used to navigating through emotions like this.

For awhile, I simply attributed it to lingering effects from the disruption the accident caused. I figured it would eventually go away. Until then, I would simply have to get used to pushing through. 

Back in Maryland, I took three walks through the old neighborhood. It was during the second walk I discovered the cause of my “I don’t feel like it” emotions whenever I wanted to take a longer walk at our new home.

I was enjoying my second walk through the old neighborhood, marveling at how normal it felt. It also felt easy. And, that’s when it hit me.

Walking through our Maryland neighborhood had become routine over the years. Living in Maryland, I never had to think about my walk. I never had to figure anything out. I didn’t have to think about when I was going to walk. I didn’t have to figure out which direction to walk. I didn’t need to think about how long it was going to take. I didn’t have to figure out what I was going to wear. I didn’t even have to think about what I was going to think about while I walked.

All I ever had to do was open the door and go. 

My walking routine empowered me. Over the years, I had eliminated all the friction to my exercise. And, that made walking even more fun and pleasurable. It also compelled me to start this blog to help motivate others to discover the joys and benefits of walking as exercise. 

In that moment of realization, during my second walk through the old neighborhood, I saw clearly what I was struggling with at our new home in South Carolina. I did not yet have a routine. Every walk had to be figured out. When was I going to walk? How far? Which direction? Since I was still getting used to a new climate, what should I wear? What should I do while walking? Should I discover something new in the neighborhood, listen to a podcast, or solve a problem?

And, that’s what I was feeling whenever I wanted to go for a walk. I didn’t want to have to think about all of that. I just wanted to walk. But, I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave the house until I figured all that stuff out. And, I simply didn’t want to.

It’s also possible, I was mentally tired from all we had to do in 2020 to move which was immediately followed by the accident. In fact, I know that’s part of it because I had really been looking forward to finding new routines and different life rhythms. What I didn’t fully understand, was the power of a routine when life is mentally exhausting. It’s one less thing to think about. One less thing to figure out.

Steve Jobs famously wore the same thing every single day….jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, and sneakers. He NEVER had to figure it out. Steve’s routines gave him more brain space for other things…like creating the computer I’m using right now.

I know some people balk at the idea of routines. For them, routines feel like ruts. And, I get that. It’s one of the reasons we moved. Ava and I wanted to change things up and leave our comfort zones. That’s when we grow.

But, there’s also power in routines. Understanding that even more, I’m now in the process of creating a new walking routine so I don’t have to think about it. Here’s what I’m doing…and what you can do too. If you don’t have a regular walking routine, I want to challenge you to create one. 

FIND A WALKING ROUTE

At our new home in Myrtle Beach, I have a lot of options. I like that, but I also need to establish a regular route that I don’t have to figure out. Since returning from Maryland, I’ve begun to carve out a route. It’s what I walk most mornings. 

I’m also learning this is not easy to do. My walking route in Maryland was nearly perfect. It was just the right distance with enough hills to add some fitness challenge. Those two aspects made it take the right amount of time…about 45 minutes to walk. I also had a couple add-ons if I wanted to walk a little longer.

The route I’m creating in South Carolina needs to match some of what I had in Maryland. I’m also realizing how it’s very much a “feel thing.” Does it feel too long? Does it feel too short? Does it feel too easy? Too hard? Too boring? These are questions that take time to answer. I don’t remember how long it took to develop my route in Maryland, but I’m certain these questions were bubbling under the surface until they were answered and my walking route became my routine.

To be clear, I’m not locked into walking the same route every single time. I can, and do, spontaneously change direction in the middle of my walk. But, I also know I need a route to walk that’s already figured out so I don’t have to think about it.

FIND A TIME TO WALK

My routine in Maryland was pretty set. With established work hours I knew when I could walk and when I couldn’t. I didn’t have to figure that out. Now that I’m working remotely, and not part of a daily morning show, my work time has some flexibility. I love that, but it also means I have to figure out when to walk for exercise. 

Do I walk first thing in the morning? How about after I’ve been working for a few hours? Maybe a late afternoon walk is better. All of this takes time, and emotional energy, to figure out. And, I know how that sounds. Somewhat pathetic. But, during those early days when Ava didn’t need my help as much, this was not an easy question for me to answer. Work or walk right now?

I’m learning that having a set time as part of my walking for exercise routine is important. I’m slowly figuring that out and a walk before I work seems to be where I’m headed. Having a “set time” for exercise each day is a powerful routine that eliminates a lot of emotion from the equation. 

Routines are really pre-decisions. You’ve already decided to take a certain action at a pre-determined time. That removes how you’re feeling and having to “figure it out” from the equation. That’s what makes routines powerful.

FIND AN OUTFIT

One of the advantages, I’m discovering, to my Maryland walking routine was that I never had to figure out what I was going to wear. I didn’t need to spend time over-analyzing the weather and what clothes would work well for the conditions. I already knew. Granted, a good part of that came from having lived in Maryland my entire life. I had a pretty good idea how the weather was going to roll. 

The other part of that was I had already limited my clothing options. Much like Steve Jobs with his jeans and black turtleneck, I didn’t give myself choices. 

I’m still learning how the weather works here in Myrtle Beach which makes figuring out what I’m going to wear still a thing. How quickly will it warm up? What impact will the humidity have? And, how strong is the breeze off the ocean? Even though we’re a few miles from the water, we still get a pretty brisk wind, at times.

Bottom line, what I’m going to wear when I head out for an “exercise walk” is still a work in progress. I’ll get it figured out, but for now I have to spend time thinking about it. 

WHAT ABOUT BOREDOM?

I understand this is an issue for some. A walking routine could start to feel boring if it never changes. Honestly, walking is a way for me to tackle boredom. I don’t sit very well. When boredom happens, it’s much easier for me to get up and go for a walk.

That said, I use my walks as an opportunity to listen to podcasts. It’s a great way for me to learn or be entertained. (On a side note-I recently launched a new podcast for my radio station called Long Story Short. If you want to hear what I do during my day job you can check it out HERE)

If you get bored easily, I wouldn’t discard the power of establishing a walking routine. Instead, you could develop several different walking routes and choose the one that best suits your mood that day. If podcasts aren’t your thing, there’s always music. Some of my most fun moments walking are when I’m listening to music and my step cadence matches the rhythm of the song I’m listening to. I love when that happens.

ESTABLISH A NEW WALKING FOR EXERCISE ROUTINE

If you are looking to change your fitness health, but have struggled with making exercise stick, I believe walking is perfect for you. It’s flexible, sustainable, effective, and fun! 

Two things will help you transform your walking from functional to fitness. In addition to creating a routine, you’ll also need to establish a fitness habit. Eventually that becomes fitness momentum and that’s when things really take off.

The first 30 days are important. They can either make or break the habit. So many fitness journeys end in just a week or two after the surge of emotions driven motivation fades. It’s far better to start small and think long. 

To help you start your new fitness journey in a way that’ll last, I’ve created The 30 Day Fitness Challenge. This free guide will help you understand the power of setting the right goal for you and making a commitment to stick with it for 30 days. 

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress. This is also the Fitbit I use to track my steps every day!

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(By the way…if you use the link above to buy a Fitbit Inspire 2 this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

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