Fitness Friday – How to make exercise a habit.

Allie and I on a walk for our exercise program
Allie and I during our regular Thursday walk. Today, it was at the golf course. A nice trudge through the snow and a great opportunity for Allie to make some friends 🙂

written by john c ashworth

How to Make Exercise a Habit

We are half way through January.

Are you fit yet?

Have you made any progress on all those aggressive new year fitness program goals you set for yourself? Or, maybe a better question would be this…

“Are you aware of the progress you’ve made? No matter how modest?”

This first question is a good one because it moves us straight to the first of five tips I have for you today about how to make your exercise program a habit.

#1: Track your progress

Instinctively, you are aware of the importance of tracking other aspects of your life – your finances, for example. Though, if you’re like me, you still need to improve on this. Fortunately, the government forces us to submit our tax report each year, and inevitably this forces you to gather the necessary data. An often painful process, but also an opportunity to clearly see your financial progress, or lack thereof.

A good example of what happens when you’re not tracking closely enough is this experience I had related to the revenue I generate in my personal training business each year. During the process of applying for a loan, I initially guessed at my income for the year so that the loan officer would have a number to work with until I could provide a more accurate figure. It turns out that in this case, my guess was more than three thousand dollars off (an error equivalent to 38%). Fortunately, in this case, an error in my favor.

My point?

My estimate was not even close.

The same holds true when you don’t track your fitness program progress. Most people will ultimately over report the actual amount of exercise they are performing and under report what they are eating. Call it human nature. More to the point, I call it a perfect example of NOT really knowing how much or how little progress you have actually made. Void of this information, it is impossible for you to accurately plot your progress and your exercise program from here. Additionally, tracking your progress, even if only for you to see is a great way to provide a personal level of accountability that will hopefully motivate you to do more when you see your progress slipping.

#2: Don’t just do it. Live it!

I had a conversation the other day with a co-worker who was reporting to me the hazy details of his workout progress thus far this year. Like many of you out there, he has made it a priority this year to get in shape and lose some weight. “I don’t want to make the same mistake I always make.” He said. “I always start out trying to do too much too soon and it derails my progress.”

While this is one of the top 10 reasons people fail to make exercise a habit and achieve their fitness goals, there was something much more profound coming through him. He sounded defeated, exhausted, and far less than excited or passionate about what he had set out to do. He was checking it off his list in the same way you might position other chores in your life like taking out the trash. Admittedly, he was not enjoying himself at all. His new routine has left him feeling flat.

Yes. You will NOT always feel totally excited about your exercise program and about going to the gym and about moving heavy stuff around when your get there. However, in my 20+ years of experience I can tell you emphatically that unless you find a way to at least like it, and more importantly live it, you will NOT be successful.

When I say “LIVE it” I mean setting out on a path that leads to your best self. Have you defined that yet? What is your vision of yourself at your peak level of health and fitness? What does it look like, feel like, act like? And what will this person be able to accomplish in life as a result? Get off the weight loss bus and instead buy a ticket to the bullet train to your best self. That way, you can start actually living your life in a way that will actually lead you there instead of going through the motions.

#3: Do something every day

I don’t care how small or insignificant you think it might be – walking up a few flights of stairs, for example, but it all counts. The more activity the better. More importantly, this is the first step toward living it. Let me give you a quick example…

In my work as a car salesman at Smart Motors of Madison, one of my jobs was to deliver the cars I took in on trade to our budget lot about 3/4 of a mile down the road. While most guys look for someone who can give them a ride back, I ALWAYS WALKED back. And since I track these walks I can tell you with accuracy that over a 6 month time period in June 2014, I walked an extra 11.62 miles performing this one activity alone. That’s the trifecta – Living it, tracking it, and doing something every day!

#4: Find some support

Research is mounting that shows you will do better when you surround yourself with like-minded individuals who are in pursuit of similar goals. Start a walking group with co-workers. Join an exercise class. Involve your kids and your wife. Hire an expert coach.  Whatever it takes.

#5: Hire a coach to guide you

Now, I’m NOT talking about hiring a personal trainer who you rely on forever to motivate you. Although, if you can afford it, I’m all for it.

What I’m really talking about here is hiring someone who is a true professional and who can help you get at the core obstacles standing between you and your peak self. Hire that person, and work with him or her on a periodic basis to help guide you. There is no substitute for this investment. There are an incredible number of nuances when it comes to your health and fitness program. The proof of this is in the fact that with an unlimited supply of health and fitness information available to us, most people still continue to struggle to reach and achieve their health and fitness goals. Why? First, you have to find programming that works for you personally in the context of all areas of your life. Second, a truly gifted coach can help you break through the resistance and the obstacles that continue to hold you back.

Good luck!

And, of course, if you’re looking for a good coach who can provide you the accountability and professional guidance you need to be successful, I continue to work with a small number of committed individuals both in-person at harbor Athletic Club, as well as online. You can find more information at:

Previous Fitness Friday Segment:

[fitness friday] My Top 5 Tips for Giving Your New Year Fitness Program a BIG Boost!


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Learning how to let go…

written by john c ashworth

NBC 15 news anchor Leigh Mills asked me a simple question following Friday’s fitness segment, “So how’s it going.?”

It seems funny to even decide to write about it today, except that when she asked me I realized that it had been a little while since a closer friend or colleague – someone I felt comfortable opening up to a little more – asked me this question. So I dove in.

“I’m re-inventing myself.” I said. “Completely.”

I read somewhere recently that in order to find your dreams and your gifts, and all of the things you are truly passionate about that though you might have to dig a little if you’ve been ignoring them, you might also find them on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Because it is on those precious mornings that you often find yourself doing what you love most.

I have to say that this hit me as profound and helped me a great deal. Because here I am, right now, on a Sunday morning with the birds racket outside my windows, the cool breezes of early summer, and all of the passion I have swirling in the living room air. Writing, creating my muse, and thinking thoughtfully and carefully about which steps to take next in this process of re-inventing myself, I feel free to do and be almost anything I want.

This is not an easy job, of course, and often wrought with fear, anxiety, frustration, and questions about whether or not the next step I’ve decided to take is the right one. And then I realized that this is the point of re-inventing yourself, and of life itself. No one has the answers. You simply take it one moment at a time. One step at a time, and in the end you get where you are going.

This reminds me of something else I read recently that might even strike more fear into the minds of those wondering what to do next…

“If you’re having trouble deciding what to focus on then just focus on nothing.”

Can you imagine? At a time in your life when you feel the dire need to really focus on the re-invention process, suddenly someone is telling you to completely let go and succomb to the will of the wind? How on earth could that possibly help me?

I think an old dream I had repeatedly as a kid explains the entire thing…

I’m hanging on for dear life it seems to a water ski rope that is attached to a helicopter that is pulling me through the sky. The feeling is complete fear, anxiety, and all I can think about is hanging on as tight as I can to that water ski rope handle. Until suddenly, out of the blue sky itself, I find the urge to let go and I do.

Floating through the air the feeling is no longer fearful, but exhilarating, and full of excitement. The fear disappearing into the clouds. I’m flying and nothing else matters anymore…


It's Time…

Enough is enough, it’s time to take back my life, my mission, my goals.  It’s time to undue the clutter that has accumulated in my basement and in the back seat of my car.  Time to clean out the lint trap in the furnace and breath fresher air.  Yes, it is time.

If you have read Deepak Chopra you will know that when you’re talking Quantum Physics, time does not exist.  If you don’t believe this try staring down your clock with the second hand for about a minute.   Then turn away for a few seconds and look back at it.  For a brief moment that second hand will stand still, and you will be living in that fiction in the space between moments where everything in life is happening.  That space we all forget about or never even knew existed.  That time and space in our life that has been gobbled up by PacMan, Dilbert, Wal-Mart and gasoline.

The great irony of life is that though in metaphysical theory time does not exist, in life on earth, time is our most precious asset.  Time spent at dinner with my kids attempting to explain the idea of financial education, inflation, and the benefits of saving for a condo they can live in when they go away to college is precious, fleeting, and unbelievably pure.  Like a golden nugget in the sand that washes up on the shore at your feet and greets you like an old friend.  And the time spent writing about it is even more divine.  The trick is in finding it, putting it in your pocket and holding it carefully until you can store it away and build your wealth.

Attention to this small and enormous detail in life is essential to your survival as a human being.  Living at attention cultivates the intention you need to prevent the thief from coming through your back door at night and steeling your existence, one precious minute at a time.  Leaving the door open to let the fresh cool summer night air in is important, but forgetting to lock that door at night while you’re sleeping is disastrous.  All of your valuable assets, including your time will evaporate in the dry night air.  Stars will shine a little brighter as a result, but they will be borrowing from the future, just as you do when you waste your time.  Just as you do when you let your attention slip and your intention fade away into the night one evening at a time until suddenly you realize that you have no time left to give.  Morning has arrived…

You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to be there.  To smell the scent of the freshly cut grass.  To hear the sounds of cars rushing by on the highway 3 miles away.  To hear, I mean really hear, the water as it trickles into the bathroom sink off your love’s sweet and succulent lips in her preparation for another good night’s rest with that back door shut tight.  You can’t pretend to hear your children dancing in their dreams as they describe to you their thoughts about what a dollar means to them and about how funny Ace Ventura, Pet Detective really is.  You can’t pretend to listen.  Your children and the people who are talking to you will know.  They will sense your distraction and turn away from you like a sunflower at dusk.

How often have you heard yourself say, “When I have the time, I’ll…”  How many more times do you need to hear yourself say it again before you can hear what is garbling out of your mouth?  A failed attempt to take back your life and manage this precious gold.  How many more times will you miss dinner, a baseball game, a piano recital, a spoonful of laughter at the dinner table?  A taste of heaven at the side of the bed, singing sweet hymns and basking in the shadows of your creation.

No one ever promised there would be no sacrifices.  In fact, sacrifice is religion.  A religion of the discipline it takes to honor this truth.  Gandhi said we must become “the change we want to see in the world.”  I have often looked at this quote with irritability because it sounds so corny when I’m not listening.  Tonight I’m listening so closely that I can hear the universe calling my name.  Asking me to step up and take on the responsibility of the change I want to see in the world.

To some extent, I’ve done that.  I’m a living example of what it means to be fit, healthy, and strong, built with plenty of muscle and plenty of vitality and an undying eagerness to share it with the world and inspire you to build the same.  Yet, suddenly I’ve been called to do more, because now I’m listening…

Suddenly my guides speak into my ears and I can hear them as if they were singing at the pulpit.  They are calling me to “be the change I want to see in the world.”  And that change is the challenge I see presented over and over again for not only myself, but for all of you who have come to do your work with me.  The great challenge of life that forces us to wrestle with that irony I mentioned earlier.  That force that puts us on the mat against an opponent that we would have never considered being strong enough to face and now we are.  That opponent who will only be defeated when we can wrestle him to the mat and ask him carefully how and what we each need to do to find the life balance we need to pin him to the ground and rise up in victory.  A victory that will grant us the freedom to claim everything that is ours.  Everything that belongs to us, especially our time and the balance that comes with this mastery, so that we can accomplish everything we need to to fill our own life’s unique mission.  We all have our own mission to fulfill and until tonight, mine was not yet completely clear.

Stay tuned for big changes that will be important for all of us in considering what we need to do to perform the work at hand, and at the same time, reclaim the work we almost left behind…