How I did it: How two chronic procrastinator sisters started to like exercise.

Exercise Success Stories: These two sisters stopped procrastinating and started to like exercise!
The French Canadian sisters who started to like exercise: Cassandra on the left, Louise on the right.

In their 50s and 60s, they thought they’d never change. They felt doomed.

They’d serially try to start exercise, only to quit a few days or weeks later. Overweight and faced with health issues, they knew they had to change something. Little did they know that this era of feeling guilty, lazy, and ashamed would be soon over.

I’m so excited as this is the first time I’m sharing with you success stories of real people from our community! The two women featured today, Louise and Cassandra, are French Canadian sisters who defied the odds that “you cannot change” after 50.

They too thought they’d never like exercise enough to do it daily. But then they read “Surprisingly…Unstuck“. They both put the teachings of the book to practice.

From walking more, to taking deep breaths, to drinking more water, both sisters got started with “Ridiculously Small Change” and they made it!

Also, notice how the sisters build on top of their “Ridiculously Small Steps”, so that they became bigger steps. And that’s how 2 daily push-ups became 5 minutes of daily exercise that then became 2 km of walking, etc. All in two months!

They are now both exercising daily – without feeling they’re struggling to do it. They no longer feel guilty or like a failure. They also feel they have control of what to do next, instead of feeling disempowered and that they “can never change”.

I’m proud for Cassandra for making all this happen while waiting for knee surgery, and I’m excited to share with you the ingenious way Louise uses to encourage herself to keep going, and remind herself that yes, she’s awesome!

Now let’s hear it directly from the two action-takers!

 1. What type of exercise had you tried in the past? What happened?

Louise: It all started in Sept. 2012. I stopped smoking because I could hardly walk up stairs,  I was really, really out of shape with about 20 pounds too heavy. I started with one thing in mind, get better, get healthier, so I started strong:

  • I walked 2 km daily
  • 1 hour Pilates 3 times/week
  • Gunnar Peterson exercises on a ball with weights 1 hour 3 to 5 times/week

I did this steady for about 3 months but every month after that I started cutting back here and there to finally end up only walking 15 min a day.

A couple months passed by and I restarted all over again out of guilt, the hour of Pilates, the exercises on a ball, and it was summer so I added 20km bike rides a couple times a week too LOL…just to quit again.

I loved the feeling of it all, better sleep, strength, losing weight, feeling alive, but at the time I was mad because I couldn’t keep doing it on a regularly basis.

Cassandra: I’ve tried going to the gym, yoga, aerobics, pool exercise, biking, walking.

I could not do most of them because of arthritis in the knees. Some of them like biking(stationary) I could do but was too lazy and felt discouraged because of the small amount of time I was doing on it, so I quit that too.

2. How did that make you feel?

Louise: I felt a lot of guilt and ashamed. My dialogue was “what is the use of all this? my mind is not strong enough”  I felt like I had no willpower.

I was beating myself up very harshly and started eating unhealthy to punish myself and prove to myself I wasn’t worth it. I gained all the weight back and felt bad.

Cassandra: I felt really lazy, I felt I would never get there. I felt unmotivated, lazy and somewhat of  a loser! My internal dialogue was not on the kind side. Although I’m loving my life, that did not make me exercise nonetheless.

3. What was the turning point when you decided to take control of your health?

Louise: I kept remembering how great I felt doing exercises, you know the feeling inside?
I wanted to sleep better, be energetic, run up stairs,  feel better all over again. I remember that exercising gave me a lot of power and hope for the future – I just couldn’t get my head around how to do it on a regular basis for the rest of my life.

It seemed like a struggle and something too hard to do. I kept having this picture of an old fat lady in slippers and I did not want to end up like her.

Cassandra: I have gained 50 pounds. I’m diabetic, hypothyroid and have hypertension. Something had to be done! That was my wake up call, I’m going down the hill and fast.

4. How did “Surprisingly…Unstuck” help you start over? What insights did you find in there that you’d never found before?

Louise: Well the day I saw your Fitness Reloaded blog on lifehack.org was a turning point for me. I swear the Universe was working on my case that day. I felt that every word written was written directly for me….Could this be the answer? Could it be that Maria has the answers…?

And I kept digging, went to see your videos (you are so energetic and love your smile and accent by the way) read your blog, looked at your facebook page, wrote you an email and you answered!! Eureka…right then and there! I wanted to read the book before making a commitment with you.

What did “Surprisingly…Unstuck” exactly do for me…..IT GAVE ME PERMISSION!!! this book demistifies the ‘no pain no gain’ mentality that floats around, it explains the power of easy and it’s a valuable guide to start well ANYTHING you want in life!

Surprisingly...Unstuck getting some love
Cassandra is loving the book!

Cassandra: My sister Louise phoned me to tell me she was reading this amazing book: Surprisingly….Unstuck!
Bravo!!!! I could not believe this, what a perfect timing. Sent from heaven.  I quickly downloaded it on my computer. I started reading it right away.

Alleluia! Maria in her own knowledgeable and kind way explain how the brain forms habits. The more I read the more I wanted to try HER WAY. I loved it so much that I ordered 2 extras copies. This book is life changing. I love the part that says “pick the level of change that is right for you”, and the new approach of “ridiculously small steps”.

5. What steps have you taken since your first read the book? Please be specific.

Louise: First I read the book all over again. Following the book I got organized and made a plan where I would try the exercises for 30 days. In detail I have to do EVERY DAY:

  • 2 push-up (right after my shower)
  • Walk to the mailbox and back (10 min)
  • Drink 4 glasses of water

I started on April 1st. By April 16th I was doing:

  • 7 to 10 push-up every day after shower
  • Walk 1.5 km
  • Drink 4 glasses of water

Now May came and I prepared another plan…I kept the items of last month and added two 5 minute exercises twice a week so it looks like this.

  • 2 push-up (but I really do 7 to 10) 7 days a week
  • Walk to the mailbox and back (but I’m doing 2 km now) 7 days a week
  • Drink 4 glasses of water (actually drinking 6 to 8 a day) 7 days a week
  • Wednesdays and Saturdays  I add 5 min burpees + 5 min. sit ups (the burpeeds are very hard but fun to do!they are my personal challenge and I give myself extra praise for doing them after all if I can do 5 min of burpees I can do anything)

To sum it up, I’ve been doing push ups and 15 min walks every day for the last 56 days, 80 minutes of burpees and sit ups and been hydrated to the max….all this without questioning it!

I just do it because this is what my plan says and I just have to follow it no question asked I am well prepare so nothing changes when I have days where I don’t feel like doing anything.

My exercise calendar is filled with words of encouragement and reward stickers! (see below)

exercise calendar
Louise’s Ridiculously Small Step (RSS) Calendar

[Note from Maria: Notice at the stars, “great”, “yes!”, “way to go girl!” markings! Also, look at this amazing organization! Staying on track is ridiculously easy when your execution is that good – even if you used to be the laziest person in the world just a couple of months ago!]

[To get Louise’s RSS Template and use it for yourself, click here.]

Aside from exercising I wanted to start a hobby and I’m giving sewing a fair trial too…I take every steps as an experiment now and I love it! if it doesn’t work after the 30 or 60 days trial…I just change it!

Cassandra: The steps I do since I read and reread this amazing book:

  • 2 wall push up after bathroom in the morning for 3 weeks.


I am now up to 10 wall push up after every bathroom break! A new habit is formed!

  • At 11AM I do 5 minutes of stationary bike and I do feel good about it.
  • I also take 5 deep breaths outside everytime I open the door.

6. Did anything happen that was unexpected? Any insights?

Louise: I’m amazed at how fast a habit can be created. For example, I’m doing my push ups without thinking about doing them – just like making coffee in the morning…

The other day I had a day off and got lazy and did not take a shower that morning….and you know what? I did not do my push ups because I usually do them right after my shower!!! This proved to me that it is now a habit with a trigger (shower) and it’s easy.

[Note from Maria: Habits, i.e., behavior you do without thinking, get activated by triggers. E.g., you can in the car->wear seatbelt. For Louise, it’s finish shower-> do push-ups. So when she skipped the shower and the trigger was absent, she didn’t do the push-ups, which confirms that daily push-ups are now an established habit.]
Cassandra: Something unexpected happen:  The negative self talking disappeared and got replaced by ridiculously small exercise steps. These in turn gave me the habit that I need to get to success one day at a time.

You see, I was thinking at 62 years old there was no more hope for change. I embraced Maria ‘s secret that I can do it, crushing the barrier that I couldn’t achieve long lasting results. Since I got started I have not regressed, slowed down or quit.

How amazing is that I’m sticking to it for more than 2 months, when I’m usually calling it quits by day 3!

7. What are your healthy living aspirations right now? How do you see the future?

Louise: I feel peaceful and don’t feel guilty anymore. On the contrary I allow myself to celebrate EACH AND EVERY accomplishment (small and big).  I truly ENJOY every moment of NOW and every step I take today is a blessing…

I deeply feel your book saved me from a lot of trouble. I now am confident that I am doing everything TODAY to assure myself of a better future.

Louise reading the book!

 Cassandra: My healthy aspirations:

  • Keep up with my exercise working my way up to 15 minutes stationary bike 5 days a week.
  • Cook vegies 7 days a week or salad.
  • Learn a new recipe by heart [Maria’s Note: Check out my instructions on how to get started with cooking at home]
  • And my ultimate is to walk 30 minutes 5 days a week after knee surgery. I know I can do it, one ridiculously small step at a time.

Thank you Maria for you so freely inspired someone who needed this book so badly. I thank you and I am very grateful that we are travelling the earth at the same time!
Many blessing your way my friend! My future is bright and easy because now I know what to do…..Follow the instructions in Surprisingly…..Unstuck.

So here’s the proof you needed. If these sisters started exercising regularly, then so can you. You too can like exercise and do it daily! Surprisingly..Unstuck can help, Exercise Bliss can help, and this blog will also help. The information is there, it’s now up to you to make it happen.

So let me know, how are you getting started with exercise this summer?

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