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One Small Change

30 Workouts in 30 Days

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I did it. I exercised for 30 consecutive days. (Click here to read why I started this streak in the first place.) Specifically, I rolled out my yoga mat and practiced for at least half an hour every day. To squeeze it in, I sometimes had to practice before dawn, after dark, and once in the unsteady wake of multiple martinis.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “My Nana does yoga, and it’s not a real sport.” But you’re wrong. Try doing a style called “ashtanga.” It’s a series of nearly 100 linked postures, so you never stop moving. It’ll not only kick your butt but it’ll also bring you face-to-face with it, which can spike heart rate in ways you never imagined.

Unlike most small changes I’ve made during the past year for this blog, I’m still learning about the nuances of this one. Maintaining an exercise streak involves you physically, mentally and emotionally. Nonetheless, I’ve learned a few important lessons about training more consistently—at anything:

1. Before every workout comes a “workup.” That’s how sports psychologist Douglas Newburg, Ph.D. describes “the conversation we have with ourselves whenever we’re choosing to exercise or not.” To win this inner debate consistently, Newburg says you first have to become aware it’s happening and then eliminate the excuses most often used. “Most people suck at this,” he says, but it’s the most important part of the exercise process. Unless you get past the workup, the workout won’t happen.

2. Convenience is a major factor. Being able to do your activity indoors or out, at the gym or in your basement, on the road or at home makes the workup much easier to win. All that’s required to do yoga is a 2x6-foot space, which made excuses tough to generate.

3. You gotta really love it. To become a regular part of your life, the activity must almost be life itself—at least to you. It’s not something you have to do, but something you want to do. This is the difference between a choice and a habit, a 15-minute workup and a 30-second one.

4. It gets easier the longer you do it. When graphed, an exercise streak has the same shape as a roller coaster. The initial climb is slow and tedious, but once you reach a certain point the momentum that’s been building sweeps you through. What surprised me most was how quickly this momentum developed. After just 3 or 4 days, I was over the hump.

5. You must alternate hard/easy. This is another key to exercise consistency, and it’s something I didn’t fully realize until my body started aching. I had originally committed to practicing yoga at least 60 minutes daily, but that was soon wearing me out. I eventually learned I could make bigger gains and remain more enthusiastic if I varied the time and intensity of my workouts.

6. Daily training is the only way to get really good at something. Although I’m still a long way from being a yoga expert, I can now stand on my head unassisted, and I’ve gotten farther into some poses than I ever thought possible. In fact, some days my practice seems incredibly smooth as newfound muscle memory carries me through.

7. If you’re not careful, the activity can start doing you. I heard this once from a glassy-eyed yogini who had changed her name to Mountain Dove, or something like that. “You start out doing yoga,” she said, “but if you’re not careful it’ll start doing you.” I laughed it off at the time, but now I understand—and I can see that it applies to all things done with consistency and fervor. When you get so deep into something that it becomes a daily habit—a daily need—it begins to transform more than your percentage of body fat. It can grow into your mind like bamboo roots. Part of the challenge is keeping yourself balanced.

8. I will continue. No matter how sluggish I felt some days or how difficult it was to get on the mat, I always felt better in the end for having practiced. We make ourselves do so many things every day that produce the opposite effect it seems foolish not to continue with this. I enjoy the discipline, the progress and, most important, the knowledge that no matter how hectic or frustrating the day has been there is one small thing that's capable of making me feel more positive again.

This is Day 31 for me. If it’s Day 1 for you, good luck!

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Attitude, Planning, Health

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