“In every forest, on every farm, in every orchard on earth, it’s what’s under the ground that creates what’s above the ground. That’s why placing your attention on the fruits that you have already grown is futile. You cannot change the fruits that are already hanging on the tree. You can, however, change tomorrow’s fruits. But to do so, you will have to dig below the ground and strengthen the roots.” – 

T. Harv Eker, author of “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind”

How has the coronavirus shelter-at-home mandate impacted a cornerstone of your healthy lifestyle, physical activity? In a very recent study of nearly 13,000 people from 139 countries looking at how the coronavirus outbreak impacted exercise, the researchers found that folks are exercising at a greater frequency than before this pandemic. 

From layoffs to work furloughs, gymnasium closures, kids at home, financial and emotional strain, it seems that these external obstacles aren’t stopping, but instead invigorating people to maintain their adherence to physical activity. Indeed, according to the study, people who were normally working out 1-2 times a week increased their exercise schedule by 88%, while those who were working out 3 times a week increased their exercising by 38%. Even those who were working out 4 or more times a week increased their activity by 14%.

If that’s not you, what’s in your way? Do you need to get WIT GRIT, to “dig below the ground and strengthen the roots”? Here’s how to do just that.

WIT Whatever It Takes. This is an attitude anchored in positive psychology, a self-directed mantra that those who aren’t ever stopped by obstacles carry with them. Always. The link is what you think. If you don’t start with this, not much else is likely to happen. Remember, your body achieves the mental toughness that your mind believes you have. Those with WIT  understand “per aspera ad astra,” meaning, “through adversity to the stars.”

Let’s move on to GRIT, a concept developed by Angela Lee Duckworth, Ph.D. that is built on the notion that passion and persistence, not talent, is what underscores outstanding achievement, including devotion to a healthy lifestyle in the face of seeming adversity. Duckworth defines grit as “self-discipline, combined with a passionate commitment to a task and a burning desire to see it through.” Of course, traits of integrity, excellence, courage, optimism, resilience, confidence and endurance all go into building grit. Some say it’s that extra 5% after you are totally tapped out. Want to know if you have grit? Take Duckworth’s 12 question test here.

I find the elements of GRIT inside the word itself:

Goals help guide you to where you are headed. The windshield is always larger than the rear-view mirror, front-runners never look back. Every winner has actionable forward, upward ambitions—what are yours when it comes to maintaining an active lifestyle while sheltered-at-home?

Relax and reward yourself. Physiological relaxation, slowed breathing, and the internal sense of reward that accompanies reaching attainable goals all move people forward in life, whether it be in a career or in a walk around the block.

Implementation intention. I’d urge you to establish “if-then” rules in advance to prepare for likely obstacles, especially when anchored to home during COVID-19. “If this happens, then I’ll pivot and do it that way instead.”

Thinking truthfully. This means insuring that you have several mindset powers: a) the “I won’t” power to resist derailing temptations, b) the “I will” power to do what needs to be done, WIT, and c) the “I want” power to stay aware and mindful of your goals and desires. 

While the famed World Health Organization urges at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, including muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days a week, according to data from the C.D.C., only 23% of U.S. adults meet these federal guidelines.

What’s the real secret of getting past obstacles, hindrances, roadblocks and endless excuses that keep so many from getting enough exercise and living a healthier lifestyle? “Dig below the ground and strengthen the roots” to find the answer.

Every pretext, defense, justification and excuse, begins with your own erroneous thinking, blaming, damning and demanding that something be different for you to be more active.

If you search Google for “the most common excuses to avoid exercise,” you’ll find 34,900,000 hits in .53 seconds. Examine those 34,900,000 sites on Google, and you’ll see the same self-created barriers over and over again. Worse, you might even see a picture of yourself actually setting up these roadblocks to a better, healthier, fitter and happier life.  Let me save you the time.

Four common excuses people use to avoid exercise and activity programs, dating back to 1994, when the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports did a survey on the topic, are as follows:

1.  Not enough time? We’re all at home right now, with time on our hands that we’re filling with kids, social distancing digital activities, TV, and oh yeah, work related responsibilities. Got a chair at home? Sit down and then stand up. Then sit down again and then stand up. Those are called squats. You can do it while watching TV. Take a walk around the block, take the baby in a stroller, and break up the day into three 10-minute activity sessions.  Telling yourself “I must have one hour to workout, or it’s not worth doing,” is inaccurate and irrational.  It’s a form of “all or nothing” thinking. You see things in only two categories, when there’s really a middle ground. The rational response to “I have no time,” is logically, “I will find the time.”

Plan your workouts around your schedule, take the stairs whenever possible, remember that walking around your neighborhood vigorously IS exercise (100 steps a minute, please), and remember that TV time is great time for sit-ups, push-ups, squats, jumping rope, and other home-oriented activities. Here’s the “Oh by the way.” Research shows that women who walk one hour per week at one mile in 20 minutes, reduce their heart disease risk by half! Only one hour!

2.  Health problems or lack of energy got you off your exercise routine? Here’s the old, “If I’m sick, then I can’t exercise.”  “If-then” thinking gets people into a lot of trouble and out of a lot of exercise. How about following that up with, “Just because-doesn’t mean.”  “Just because I have an injured shoulder, doesn’t mean I can’t walk.”  “Just because I feel tired doesn’t mean I won’t feel more energy when I start exercising.”  Energy begets energy and exercise begets that energy. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, exercise IS the answer to many health issues. Not only does exercise increase your energy, but it helps prevent further injuries when done properly.  People who are generally fit feel worse when they don’t exercise. If you have a fever, can’t lift your head off the pillow, or have symptoms of COVID-19, then that’s a different story. A sniffle? Get moving! 

3.  Bored by the same routine? Duh. Change it up! Play actively with your children and remember those couples who sweat together stay together. So, experiment with other physical activities you and your spouse might enjoy. Create a new music playlist, bring in some new home-based exercise equipment. My favorites are TRX, Marc Lebert FitnessTotal Gym and all sorts of easy to use home equipment from SPRI. Remember, if you stick with it you’ll get less bored and more creative as you feel more energy and improved health.

4.  Money woes keeping you from joining that gymnasium around the corner? Here’s the good news: there is NO gymnasium around the corner anymore. It’s been shut down. You don’t have to belong to any gymnasium to become fit, healthy and happy. “If I can’t join a gym, then I won’t exercise,” is wisely countered with “Just because all of the gyms are properly closed now, doesn’t mean I can’t exercise.” Start taking advantage of opportunities in your everyday life that have always been there, and you’ll come to be a part of that significant group that’s actually INCREASED their exercise during this time. Walk or bike in your neighborhood if possible, turn your housework into aerobic conditioning (sweeping, vacuuming, washing your car and doing the dishes can all be turned way up and get muscles moving), and finally, remember playing with the kids? Lifting water bottles, sitting down twice whenever you sit down (sit down, stand up and then sit down again), and the same when you stand up, will get your heart pumping. The largest gym on the planet has no membership fee and provides you with opportunities to run, jump, climb, crawl, sweat – it’s called the world around you.

Remember that in the end, it’s how you talk with yourself, think of yourself and define yourself.  If you think you are not the type to exercise, unable to, don’t deserve to, you need to bring more accurate and rational response counters for these erroneous beliefs along with your towel and water bottle with you when you do get moving!

Common strategies that improve adherence to exercise programs

Signed agreements with yourself or a buddy

Keep your eye on your perceived rewards

Post your action plan where you can easily see it

Self-monitoring signs, posters, reminders, journals of food, mood, activity

Telephone/mail contact with a friend or neighborhood, socially distant, workout group

Spouse/partner/co-worker workout buddy support

Calendar it

Exercise prescription from your physician

Frequent short periods of activity during the day

Convenient home exercise equipment