The fastest way to develop good exercise habits
I recently started training with a personal trainer.
I didn’t plan it, which I’ve discovered is a great way to “just do it.” Impulsiveness can work in your favour. Some people even call it decisiveness.
Famed motivational speaker Tony Robbins tells people that it’s best not to think too much once you make a decision to act. Do it before you talk yourself out of it, he says.
Not acting can become a debilitating habit. You can (and most of us regularly do) talk yourself out of doing anything that requires even a modicum of time, money and energy. So maybe it’s best to stop before you can think of excuses.
A Hindu priest named Dandapani put it another way… Yes, something you should know about me is that I occasionally hang out with Hindu priests. He said, “People act like they are going to live forever, but they aren’t.” We waste time doing things we don’t want to do and not doing things we want to do, he said. We make excuses, put things off, do things that deplete us instead of building us up. We act as if we have all time in the world. As if there will be time to do those good things on our list later, instead of figuring out the best way to spend our time right now.
In Charles Duhigg’s 2012 bestseller The Power of Habit, he explains the nuance of habits, saying that our routines are much more pliable than we give ourselves credit for. Often people become obsessed with destroying bad habits or developing new habits, instead of focusing attention on swapping out old habits for improved habits. Take old cues for behaviours you don’t like and use those cues to make better choices. It’s a subtle shift and not as easy as it sounds, but it can produce groundbreaking results.
You want to start working out after work but you usually go home to watch bad TV and sit on the couch. Instead go watch bad TV from the treadmill at the gym. We can swap out that bad TV habit later.
Fake yourself out
But how do you do that? Pack your clothes in the morning, put them on before you leave the office, drive past the gym on your way home. It may not work every day, but it may work enough days to create a habit loop that feels good.
If you start acting on a decision immediately, you dramatically increase your chance of doing it. Sounds logical, right.
See doughnut, eat doughnut … BUT … if you walk past the doughnut and start doing something else, you’re significantly less likely to go back. Less likely is key.
Once you stop to think about the consequences or stop to think about something else, you’re less likely to act even in the face of a tasty doughnut.
So I had a snap decision to make as I used the last session of my Groupon for personal training. I’d spent a few hours over the last week being ordered around by someone half my age. Yes, apparently they are making adults younger than they used to.
When it was time to make a decision about whether or not I’d continue, a barrage of excuses flooded my brain. It’s expensive, it’s too far to drive, it’s wasteful, I should learn to work out on my own, I should go to the gym near my house, I should find a workout buddy and skip a trainer … but I illogically signed up for a package of 30 sessions that cost more than a month of my combined household bills.
And I went.
Commit to not quitting
I didn’t just go because it would be a waste of money not to. I didn’t just go because I enjoyed the feeling of having gone (but I did). I went because I’d made a commitment and I had an appointment.
Dentists know what they are doing when they schedule your next appointment six months in advance. If you have a commitment, you’re exponentially more likely to show up even if you dread it.
Studies show that just writing down your plan to do something on a calendar helps keep you on task.
“I hold people accountable,” said my trainer Adelaide Summers, whose long brown locks were dyed bright pink at the tips and clipped at the sides with colourful barrettes. She’s a bubbly ball of good cheer, not the typical no-pain-no-gain, give-me-five-more type of trainer.
If you like a drill sergeant type, you can find your fill, or maybe you prefer Pilates or yoga or whatever.
The most effective workout is the one you show up for, so if you don’t have a Summers, find someone or some strategy to hold yourself accountable.
There’s no good excuse
Katie Mackenzie of Gymguyz jokes that “we take away all the excuses.” Trainers with the firm will literally come to your front door, office, neighbourhood park, coffee shop, you name it, in a van with more than 300 pieces of equipment.
“We come to you with the equipment and the motivation so you can’t say, ‘I don’t have the time,’ ‘I don’t know what to do,’ ‘I don’t have the discipline,’ ” she said.
You can still say, I don’t have the money (you probably spent your vacation money). A session with any trainer will run you $35 to $85 an hour depending on how many sessions you buy in bulk. That’s out of reach for many. Recruit a buddy, spouse, co-worker and you can drop that price by half.
No buddy? Try an app. I like Sworkit because you can customise the time and type of workout. It plays videos in order with a timer for each exercise. No equipment needed. It’s free for Apple and Android devices.
No device? Maybe an impetuous walk to the library’s health and fitness section could be a good start.
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