Making change a reality: Tips that will help active habits stick

How many times have you wanted to make changes in your life only to revert back to old habits and routines? It can be difficult to make change stick, but if becoming more active was on your list of goals for this year, we’re here to help you make that change a reality.

The first step is identifying what you want to be different, but that alone won’t be enough to support change long-term. For that to occur, changes have to happen on several different levels.

Start with the person in the mirror

Making change begins with knowing yourself well enough to identify what will help you make new habits stick. Some ideas that have worked for others are:

Schedule it: Prioritize physical activity by including it in your calendar so you make sure it happens.

Think ahead: Remove barriers that might come up for you by thinking ahead about the things that could interfere with your goals and then making a contingency plan. For example, if you have a child sick at home and you have to miss your time at the gym, what is plan B?

Do something you enjoy: Most of you know that there are many ways to be active and that finding something you enjoy will make success more likely. But don’t confuse this with the idea that you have to love the feeling of being active all the time, especially right away. Focus on how you feel when you’re done. If you love the way you feel then it might be a good activity for you. In other words, you shouldn’t hate it, but you may not spend every second loving it either.

Set a goal for yourself: It could be to walk to work three days a week for the next month or to run a half-marathon in the spring. Choose something that is meaningful and interesting to you. Don’t forget to celebrate once you’ve reached your goal.

Find an accountability buddy: Who can hold your feet to the fire? I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t run with a girlfriend every Thursday morning I would have opted out of going on some of the cold, dark, and rainy days.

Join a program or a club: Take a class with a friend and try a new activity, or learn a new skill. Friends give us information, ideas, and emotional support.

When your child sees you having fun, feeling good, and enjoying your new active lifestyle, we promise they will be inspired.

Enlist family and friends

Sharing your desire to move more with your friends and family is an important step. You may be surprised at how many other people in your life share your goals and want to help you. The more you can weave your new lifestyle into your family and social life the better chance that your changes will take hold. Here are a few ideas about how to do that:

Include the kids: Hold a family brainstorm about what kinds of fun activities you can do together. Make an activity jar with all the ideas and pull them out whenever you need inspiration.

Keep it simple: Commit to 10 to 15 minutes of play per day. Go out in the backyard and build forts, kick a ball around, play a game of tag or hide and go seek, or choose any of these other fun and easy activities.

Create active traditions: Institute a family walk on Mother’s Day or decide to spend your birthday playing scrub baseball.

Find other families with the same goals: Going bowling, or hiking, or skating, or to the local pool with another like-minded family can make it more fun for everyone.

Make your community work for you

Depending on where you live and work, there may be existing resources that could make it easier for you to keep your new habits.

Are there bike lanes that make riding to work easier? Quality programs at the nearby community centre? Well-lit streets and accessible hiking trails? You may be surprised to find out that your community has a lot to offer.

Use what you’ve got: Put the resources available to you to work by finding programs, using local facilities, and enjoying trails and parks.

Be creative: To borrow a tip from AfL Role Model, Leigh Mitchell, be active when your kids are active. Look at your child’s schedule and see how you can fit in your own activity while they are busy in programs or lessons. Some gymnastics studios offer classes for parents, for example, so that while your child is in her program you can be doing your own workout. Other parents will run or walk laps around the soccer pitch. We even know of one mom who brought her mat and did yoga in the waiting room of her daughter’s dance studio.

Advocate for what you want: If you want something that doesn’t exist, ask for it! Go to your community centre and tell them you’d like to see more parent/tot multi-sport classes, for example. Gather together a group who all want the same thing and put out feelers to see if there is an interested instructor. If the resources don’t already exist, you can change that, too.

Of course, there is no “one size fits all” for strategies on how to make physical activity a habit. With trial and error and commitment to your goals, you will surely find a way to be more active.

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