Get into the habit of being healthy!

"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."

This quote was printed on my old apartment complex's workout room wall, right in front of the treadmills. I spent a lot of hours staring at that quote as I became a runner in the winter of 2010. I usually didn't give the quote itself much thought, instead concentrating on the shape of one letter or another as I listened to music and ran. Today, out of the blue, this quote came to mind as I ran around my neighborhood, and I was struck how true it had turned out to be for me.

When I first started running in 2010, I had all the motivation in the world-- it was my New Year's Resolution to lose weight that year. I only had about 10 pounds to lose, but it was the same 10 pounds I had been telling myself I was going to lose for years. But this time was different. I was better educated on nutrition and exercise. I had the support of friends and family. And I was getting ready to graduate college in a few months and wanted to be ready for my new life.

I ended up having a lot of success that spring, losing over 15 pounds. However I never got to the point where exercise and proper nutrition seemed natural to me-- it never became a habit. To me, being healthy merely meant struggling to resist doing the unhealthy things I really wanted to be doing.  I only ran because it burned calories, and I only ate vegetables because they were low in calories.

Unfortunately motivation only carries you so far. Once I found myself at my goal weight, my motivation to continue running or have proper nutrition

Since a healthy lifestyle was only the means to an end, and since I had reached my endpoint, there was no reason any longer to struggle to maintain this lifestyle. And over the next couple of months, I backslid, starting 2011 the same as I had 2010, a little overweight and plenty discouraged.

This past spring, I was once again discouraged and motivated enough to start a diet and fitness regimen. To help give myself motivation, I signed up to run a half marathon in August (that's 13.1 miles for you non-runners). Throughout the spring and summer, I trained hard to complete what was, in the eyes of my friends and family, an unbelievable challenge. At times, training was fun. At other times, it was painful and tiring. For the last month of training, I struggled through a leg injury that at one point made me want to stop running for good. But I persevered, and somewhere in the process, running became a habit.

Now, almost 2 months post half-marathon (I did finish it by the way, in 2 hours and 34 minutes), I am still running, even though I have absolutely no motivation. Winter is coming up, so there no bikinis or shorts to fit into any time soon. I don't have any weight to lose. It's cold and dark and rainy outside a lot of the time. Some days I can find absolutely no reason to run, but yet I continue to do it-- and I actually enjoy it. In fact, if I'm too busy to get a run in, I get annoyed and upset. It's become part of my routine, something I expect and look forward to.

The ultimate lesson here is that it's going to take time to fully integrate proper nutrition and exercise into your life. Desire and motivation to change is only the starting point, and the journey from that point to your ultimate goal of being habituated to be healthy may take awhile. But, if you are persistent and open to learning and growing, a healthy lifestyle will eventually become a habit and seem as normal as your unhealthy habits now

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