Changing your lifestyle and building a fitness habit is difficult.
You can do all the “right” things, like buy a new program, get the perfect gear, and write an accountability post on Facebook.
But for some reason, just like last time, Week One comes and goes, and you’ve worked out just once or twice (or not at all)! What happened? And how can you finally ensure you stick with the changes you want to make in your life?
Well just like everything on the internet, you need “hacks”! 😉
Below are 6 actually useful hacks you can use to ensure that the next time you embark on a new life of fitness, you’ll stick with it.
Hack #1: Tell yourself you are only going to do it for three weeks
Why? Because forever is a long time.
One of the reasons many people never get started in exercising (or watching what they eat, or cleaning out the garage, or whatever), is because it all seems so daunting.
Everyone talks about being consistent and making it a “lifestyle”, and you’re just thinking “Man, I’d rather be catching a movie and eating some popcorn.”
Yes, it’s best to keep exercising and taking care of yourself for the rest of your life and you totally should!
But the best intentions haven’t gotten you where you need to be, so go ahead and trick yourself.
A friend of mine was a champion wrestler in high school and the training and conditioning he needed for wrestling was ridiculous. He hated running, especially those long daily miles he had to do.
He told me that instead of thinking about the 6 miles he had to finish, he’d tell himself “I’ll stop at the next telephone pole.” And so on at every pole until he was done.
So, make three weeks your telephone pole.
Because four weeks sounds too long, and two weeks is just silly. Three weeks is doable. You can do three weeks. We believe in you.
And at the end of that three weeks, I bet you’ll say “that wasn’t too bad, I can do another three weeks.”
Hack #2: Establish a habit
Whether good or bad, habits persist and once you get one started it’s hard to get out of it.
In the case of your fitness regimen, this is a good thing. Get going with Hack #1 above and gather up that momentum to the point where you never stop.
One of my favorite things I’ve read from Dan John is when he quoted Dan Gable:
“If it’s important, do it every day, if it’s not, don’t do it at all.”
Now, I don’t interpret this literally as daily hard exercise, though I suppose you could, but more as a maxim for consistent training.
Everyday, three days a week, twice a week… it doesn’t really matter, as long as you keep at your plan, it all adds up.
It’s a no-brainer that exercise is important, and regular consistent exercise is the key to all the benefits you want out of training. Repetition, even at its bare minimum, creates progress. As we’ve talked about above, find a way to keep yourself going and eventually it’ll be no big deal.
Exercise should be like brushing your teeth, you just do it and don’t think twice about it.
Of course, if you’re working with a program that’s simple to follow and helps you work at an appropriate level for you, you’ll have an easier time making a habit of it.
Hack #3: Don’t be afraid to do the bare minimum
Being consistent and working on your plan as regularly as possible is the key to success. But there are many things that can derail this success, and a primary culprit is a quest for perfection.
I’ve been guilty of this in the past. I’ve always been passionate about physical training and worked hard to do everything just right. And most of the time, it’s a good thing, as it helps me get the most out of a session.
But sometimes if I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to give 100% to a training session, I’d scrap it.
Perfect is the enemy of the good
It took me a long time to get over that.
There’s no way that every training session will be perfect. A poor night’s sleep, stressful day at work, favorite pair of shorts still in the hamper… these are all pretty common occurrences.
A perfect training session feels awesome, and stringing a bunch of those together leads to great progress for sure, but sometimes “good enough” is all you’ll get.
And that’s fine.
Everyday you’re at it adds up, so get in there on those bad days and just do the warm-up and the first couple of planned exercises. Keep on going if you can, and if not, pack it up.
Hack #4: Don’t get hyped up to train
This perhaps applies more to strength training or intense conditioning than normal endurance training.
It’s common to see guys in the gym hyperventilating and blasting heavy metal music to get all hyped for each set of an exercise.
It’s as if they feel that if every set isn’t the hardest they’ve ever done then it’s a waste. But this naturally leads to quick burnouts. It just makes sense:
You can’t run your car at max acceleration every time you drive it, so how do you think your body is going to take it?
Matt Perryman had a great post talking about the myth of “frying your CNS”. It’s a wonderful piece and well worth the read.
He makes note that it’s not really the case of your “body” burning out from the physical stress, rather it’s an emotional burnout. In another discussion he remarks:
The emotional response, when you get in there and dump all your energy into your work sets and spend 16 hours stressing over it before and after, that’s what will floor you.
This might be a fundamental change for a lot of you, but try chilling out a bit in your exercise training. It will certainly keep you more consistent and stop you from dreading your workouts.
Hack #5: Keep it as simple as possible and don’t change anything
Decide on your exercise program and commit to it.
Resist the urge to change it up after a week because you read about some amazing new breakthrough program on the internets. In fact, don’t get online at all for a few weeks!
Just kidding, you should visit our site daily, it’s good for you.
Just like trying to achieve a perfect workout session, it’s really easy to get caught up looking for the perfect program. Even when you’ve chosen one, there’s always another out there that looks even better.
Don’t shortchange yourself hopping from program to program, you’re just going to be spinning your wheels and get nowhere.
Find a good program (if you’re just getting started, I recommend taking a look at our introductory program, Elements), and stick with it.
Hack #6: Forget about your past attempts
Everybody has their failed New Year’s resolution or pre-Summer promise to finally get in shape.
It’s a very common thing. So much so, that your prior experiences can definitely affect your decision to start up again.
But avoid the trap of using these missteps as motivation to “be better this time.” Just let it go, and pretend like you’ve never tried before.
It seems counterintuitive but having some emotional detachment from your goals can get you further along towards them. Much like we talked about above (with not getting hyped up for a training session), there’s a fine line between a healthy motivation to train and burning yourself out.
Yes, a strong desire for change is great, but be careful that these feelings don’t lead to emotional ups and downs. You’re in this for the long haul now.
Set Yourself Up for Success
These hacks aren’t magical or anything, but if you work on them and keep at it, you’ll be amazed by your progress.
Of course, none of this stuff is going to help if you just read this post and then go back to doing the same things you always do. You have to apply it.
One of the best ways to apply these hacks and ensure your success with a new commitment to fitness, is by starting with a program designed for your success.
If you take on something too complicated, or beyond your capabilities, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Our introductory program, Elements, was created as an entry point to building strength, flexibility, and motor control in a directed manner, so you’re working on the things you need the most work on at the level that’s appropriate for you.
Plus, it only takes a few minutes every day, so it’s great for making fitness a regular habit in your life.
Don’t let excuses get in your way. You can get to the level you want by following these tips.