Just doing it in month one can also be hard. Use these principles to follow during the start of your fitness journey.
Convenience. Wherever you are going to work out make it convenient for you. If you are like me and are going to work out before work, make it on your commute to work. After work, make it on the commute home. If it is on your lunch break, then make it somewhere close to work. Remember habits are easier to establish when they neatly fit into your current routine. Streamlining the location to the days you will be working out will help make it easier for you to get to the gym.
Think Quantity, not Quality. Don’t stress about the length of time you are at the gym this month. Don’t stress over the types of exercise you are doing. Don’t stress about keeping it simple. Remember this month is all about committing the routine, committing to however many days per week your goal is. It’s a win when you get to the gym and a loss when you don’t go on a day you were supposed to. This is especially true if you are going to exercise before work. Instead make short-term goals for each week just focused on getting to the exercise destination, the end goal.
Do not ‘All or Nothing’ it…. One of the biggest trends we see from people we talk to who have failed at getting the exercising habit is that they follow more of the all or nothing principle when they start. They decide in one fell swoop that they are going to wake up 1-2 hours earlier than normal, go to the gym for the 1-2 hours of lost sleep, drink protein, take their vitamins, start a strict diet, meal prep, buy a Vitamix to make green smoothies, start drinking their coffee black, treat alcohol like the plague, and generally crush their old life as they know it…..starting this coming Monday.
That is an astronomical amount of change at one time. No human should fundamentally change that much of their life like that. The All or Nothing people set themselves up immediately for failure. They never established any specific long or short term goals but attempt to immediately emulate whatever their vision of a healthy person is. They never consider their new actions in the context of their current habits and routines but immediately want to adopt their perception of a habitual exerciser’s habits. It’s a vague New Year’s Eve resolution action plan. No wonder 80% of them will fail by week 2. I know I have attempted it many times.
…Slow Play It. Brian Ireland said, “I finally figured out how to slow play the exercise habit when I finally figured out that exercising must become a lifelong thing and not a quick fix. I didn’t figure that out until I focused on writing down specific long-term goals for a couple of events next year….and the year after that.” Having those far-reaching long-term goals helped illustrate to him just how many short-term goals there were going to be between now and then. It helped him to realize that in 3 years no one, including the Owner of BeneFIT PT, will care that it took me almost three months to start waking up at 4:30 in the morning to go to the gym.
The best way to describe the Slow Play is create a new habit then build a new habit off of that habit. Once that new pattern becomes the norm then build another new habit off of it. This slow, methodical habit formation will take time but ensure more long-term success than the All of Nothing Hail Mary attempts.
Here is an example to illustrate just what we mean by the slow play. You want to exercise before work since you knew the only excuse to overcome was sleep, you have no family obligations when everyone else in the family is still sleeping, and the only limitation to the length of time exercising was predicated on how early you could wake up. You also knew that one of your eventual goals was to workout for about 1-2 hours each morning (some mix of Cardio, weights, core work, and stretching).
Before you could get there, you knew that you just had to get to the gym. You have to, in this case, calculate the timeframes required for getting out of the house (20 minutes), and to the gym (5 minutes) to figure out when you needed to wake up. For Ireland, he said, “I thought I could get everything done and get a 30-minute work out if I woke up an hour earlier than my usual time.”
“Some days I nailed it and got the full 30 minutes, but there were some days when I got to the gym only to ride a bike for 10 minutes. I didn’t care I had made it to the gym. Over the next week or two, I started not to feel so tired throughout the day, I was having an easier time waking up the hour earlier, and I was becoming more consistent with getting to the gym in time for my 30-minute workouts,” Ireland continued to tell us when discussing morning routines.
Now for the Slow Play part. Ireland developed this through his first habit. It was starting to form once he had strung together multiple days of getting to the gym when he was supposed to and felt good throughout the day doing so. His first goal to get to the gym consistently x number of days per week was met. Then he went to build off of this habit with a new one. He set his alarm for 15 minutes earlier. The first few days his body had to adjust a bit again, but the earlier alarm enabled him to be at the gym for 45 minutes instead of 30. Now by building habits on top of each other, He slowly progressed to another short-term goal, working out for 1-2 hours per session.
Over the course of the next few weeks whenever he felt that he was consistently getting up, got to the gym, and did not feel exhausted throughout the day, he bumped my alarm 15 minutes earlier. After almost two and a half months, he was consistently getting up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the gym when it opens at 5.
By building one habit off of another, he slow played his short-term goal of getting to the gym early enough to work out between 1-2 hours before work. It was surprisingly not as difficulty as it first had seemed nor anywhere close to those times he just woke up on the first Monday morning at 4:30.
The success of Ireland achieved slow playing his habit formation gave him the confidence to put the slow play towards other goals. Over the course of about 5-6 week, he slowly was able to build in a sixth exercise day by incorporating a Saturday morning work out.
Missing a Day. By keeping the goal of the first month as simple as going to the gym to exercise on the days, you said you were going to, you too will be able to slowly build mini accomplishments each day. Each day of achieved accomplishments should bring more confidence that the plan is working. However, life can get in the way.
There will be a day that you will not be able to get to workout when you were supposed too. The first thing is not to get frustrated and immediately bag the whole deal because you had a misstep. The second is not to let the one missed day become the new routine because it was so much easier than getting to the gym. If people behaved this way for everything there would be far fewer drivers on the road since I assume, not everyone nailed parallel parking the first time/every time when they were practicing for their driver’s license. But too often it is how we behave when it comes to our fitness goals.
If you miss a day, schedule it for another time that day, schedule it for a different day that week, schedule a different type of exercise that day, or if you realize that you are consistently having an issue making a certain day during the week you should really analyze your routine/goals to make sure you were really honest with yourself and that you could commit to that day.
In the next post, we will touch on probably the number one piece of equipment to help you stay focused and committed to your burgeoning exercise habit, at most it’s gonna cost you $2.50. Stay tuned!
Check back next week for our next blog post in our new BeneFIT PT’s Guide to Working Out Blog Series!