Here’s how I got off the couch and started exercising

Want to live a more active lifestyle? Yes, we know it can be hard. Take it one step at time! Here is how we did it.

You’re not the only one: that imaginary movie in which you put on your sneakers and go for a run at dawn while the sunlight begins to touch your worked and oiled muscles, it’s quite usual.

Here is the problem: it’s a movie. And like all movies, it has its corresponding editing, takes and post-production. The film does not show you the part where you lose your breath within the first two minutes of exercising, or in which your ankle hurts due to a wrong movement, nor that moment when you realize your sports bra was not so comfortable after all. Not to mention the soreness the next day and the desire to never leave your house… ever again.

The result of this contrast between film and reality, can be discouraging and give you that longed for excuse to sink even more into that sofa whose cushions have the shape of your body more and more each day.


What is the solution to get out of the movie? Enter reality.

Yes, I know: it is difficult to resist the temptation of making a mental schedule that shows how much you are going to exercise from now on and how your energy, mind, body and life will change from then. But if you are like most mortals, your body and mind need an adaptation period that even the most beautiful film can not ignore.

Deep changes in life involve short steps. The classic quotes say it, the experts say it, and now I say it to you because I did it. It is possible to get off the couch, but when you do, you should think about this: today will not be the day your imaginary movie comes true. Today, you will do only this (and nothing more than this, do not cheat):

  • You will leave the sofa. That is, you will get up from there.
  • You will put on a gym outfit. It does not matter that you do not have “the ideal”, just a pair of tennis shoes and comfortable clothes for now.
  • You will open the door of your house and take a step outside.

“But that’s not exercising!” You’ll tell me indignantly. “That’s very easy!” You exclaim. I’m sorry to say no, that those three previous steps are the most difficult and the only ones necessary to start moving. Not taking those three steps (and underestimating them) is the reason why you are still so far away from your imaginary movie.

Credit: iStock/jacoblund

What now?

If you managed to take those three steps, congratulations! Now it’s a matter of starting with a minute of any activity. If your goal is to walk, walk a minute. If your goal is to do crunches, do them for a minute, and the same if you want to run, lift some weights or swim in the pool.

It is important that when you do the three steps to not think about the exercise that you will do afterwards. It is essential that you focus only on fulfilling these three steps and that in themselves is an achievement, regardless if whether you return home.

Aim on doing this every day, at the same time if you can. Leo Babauta, a lifestyle coach who was excessively sedentary and had a bad diet, explains in his book Essential Zen Habits, that to form a habit you must repeat it for 6 weeks. Then, you will have it incorporated and it will be easier for you.

When you see that you have already mastered your “minute”, if you want you can add one, two, or ten more to your habit every week. Yes, moderation is key. If you add 20 minutes to your routine from one day to the next, there are many chances that the next day you are too tired to repeat it, Babauta explains in his blog. Go with short steps, enjoy the little victories, and you will go far.

As the old Italian saying goes: ‘Chi goes piano, goes lontano’. (“Who goes slowly, goes far”).

What are the habits that are most difficult for you to change? Physical exercise, diet, quitting tobacco or alcohol …? Tell me!

Translation from the original in Spanish: Vanessa Sirias

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