I never feel quite myself if I don't go outside at least once a day. I was fortunate enough to spend my childhood outside in both Connecticut and Indiana. I have distinct memories of 4 year old me going on a "save the earthworm" quest under our backyard pine trees because I was convinced birds were evil and worms were good.
I truly feel fortunate to grow up in the final era of limited technology. We didn't have internet or home computers. Our television for a long time had a tuner on it to change the channel and my "screen time" was Friday night movie night of the Disney classics on VHS.
Unknowingly, those days outside in the sun and the snow and sometimes rain and warm shaped me to be the adult I am today. My habits I have now started back when I was a toddler and placed in a backpack on a frozen pond to watch the skaters in the local park.
But just because habits are formed young doesn't mean it's easy or convenient to keep them when you're a 30 year old adult with more technology at your fingertips than ever, more things that could keep you busy, and seemingly less time.
So how to you develop and sustain habits as an adult? I'm surely not the only one who's written on this topic before - so many people much smarter than I have written books and documents and essays extensively on the subject - but I wanted to share my experience with a particular habit that my husband and I started almost 2 years ago during the start of Covid and have maintained ever since.
30 Minutes and Two Miles
Like I mentioned at the start of this post, I don't feel myself when I'm inside for the entire day. So, back in early 2020 when the pandemic was just beginning Lee and I decided to set the intention of going for a walk every day. We had been doing it sporadically before but had just come off a very busy year of buying and renovating a house so it wasn't much of a habit. But then the world stilled. Commutes stopped. Lives slowed. We had the time and mental space to dedicate (at least) 30 minutes of intentional outdoor time while walking 2 miles.
Basically we didn't give ourselves a choice not to. We determined that for our mental and physical health this was just as much a part of our routine as drinking water or eating dinner. And, almost 2 years later we've continued with the habit - making a point to be outside everyday for 30 minutes while walking 2 miles.
Believe Me, If We Can Do It, You Can Too
Why 30 minutes and 2 miles? No particular reason, honestly. It started by just us dedicating the time right before dinner to going on a walk and there's a section of a paved walking/biking trail near our house that is about a 2 mile stretch down and back. By not giving ourselves the option not to or making the goal of "walking 4 days a week, because who really keeps those?" we very quickly fell into the routine. And when I say we were busy in 2021, we definitely were. Lee was working basically 2 full-time jobs through the whole year but we still kept at it.
How to Start and Stay Motivated
Maybe for you 30 minutes and 2 miles isn't on your list of habits to embrace this year. Maybe it's 30 minutes of just being active, maybe it's a full-on gym routine, maybe it's just drinking more water or eating better. Whatever your health-based goals are this year (and I do think you should strive to add a health-based goal into your list for the year) here are a few things I've learned over the past 2 years of habit-forming work.
- external accountability is key. There would have been so many times I would not have done 30 minutes and 2 miles for the day without Lee. And vice versa. It's so easy to be mentally weak and convince yourself on a cloudy day that it might rain or a dimming evening that it's too dark. Without another person for motivation it's much harder to stay disciplined.
- you don't need to prep anything - just do it. I'm the type of person who likes to have all their ducks in a row before starting something new. But most of the time that's just a time-wasting excuse. Want to start journaling, don't wait to find the perfect notebook. Dedicated to drinking more water, don't wait for your time-stamped gallon water bottle to arrive. Now, you may find that after you get started there are a few things that would make it easier, that's awesome. But don't wait for those things
- it doesn't have to be a perfectly laid out plan. Start with something attainable - especially if it's related to fitness - like walking the length of your driveway 3 times a day or taking the stairs at work not the elevator. If you're not super fitness-orientated start small, stay consistent, and gradually increase your goal.
Fitness Gear That's Made It Easier to Keep Going
I walked with a pair of Adidas NMDs for about a year until I realized they were giving me sores on my feet and making my back hurt. So, I decided it was time for an update. Same with my workout gear. It's so lovely to pull on a pair of well-fitting leggings a cozy sweatshirt and comfy shoes for our 2 miles rather than paint-splattered shorts and painful sneakers. But again, if you wait to build out the perfect workout wardrobe, you may never start. But, if it's helpful, here are my essentials for a good workout or walk.
A Note About Everlane's New Perform 24/7 Leggings
Just launched on their site, I was kindly gifted the Perform 24/7 Leggings from Everlane to try out and post about if I liked them. Well, I like them.
I'm wearing the Perform 24/7 Legging in Black. Size Small Ankle Length.
(I'm 5'1" for reference and these leggings hit me perfectly without any bunching)
I've never really been into super nice workout gear (like Lululemon) before and Aerie leggings have always worked just fine for me, but wow! Do these leggings take it to the next level! They're so incredibly soft and pliable which makes me feel lightweight and very agile.
I was so pleasantly surprised and have been wearing them for our walks for the past week with nothing bad to say! I already added another black pair and the Burnt Sugar color into my cart.