Want to start exercising? Take your time

Ed is like a lot of us. He wants to get started on an exercise routine he knows he’d feel better and look better if he did, but he just can’t make himself get going. He’s failed so often he just doesn’t have the energy to start again.

Ed, say hello to Jennifer James.

She’s an urban anthropologist who is sometimes called the Margaret Mead of modern business. And she’s the author of an interesting book called “Thinking in the Future Tense: A Workout for the Mind” (Touchstone, Simon and Schuster, N.Y.).

James makes the case for the effectiveness of incremental change, a strategy, she writes, “that is like building a wall one brick at a time, with rests in between. … The essence of incremental change is reducing the process to its least threatening increments.”

In Ed’s case, that means overcoming his resistance to exercise by sneaking up on it with slow, methodical steps that will, James says, eventually lower his resistance. Interested? Here’s the slow-to-change exercise plan that James lays out in her book:

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Day 1: Think about exercising.

Day 5: Look at pictures of people exercising.

Day 10: Watch other people exercising.

Day 15: Buy running shoes.

Day 20: Put them on and sit on the porch.

Day 25: Stroll to the corner and back.

Day 30: Walk to the park or drive to a track.

Day 35: Watch other people run around the track.

Day 40: Walk around the track.

Day 45: Run one lap.

Day 50: Buy a running outfit.

Day 55: Run a few laps.

Day 60: Run until you’re tired.

Day 65: Running becomes an intermittent habit.

Day 70: You feel good. You tell other people.

Keep in mind, James says, that incremental change takes a long time to become a regular part of your life. But so what? Remember, it’s not when you start, it’s how you finish that matters.

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