Monday, June 09, 2008


So I'm a personal trainer, bla bla BLA, so what's my advice on setting up a training habit?

Aim low.

If you're not currently active and want to be more active, get your gym membership up and running - and commit to performing one set of one exercise. Or if walkings your thing, commit to walking a 100 meters a day. Or if you want to set up a pilates or yoga or a yogalates habit at home, commit one pose every other day.

Thing is, most people fail before they even start by setting their goals too high, and if you're not in the habit of creating opportunities for activity in your life, doing more than a LITTLE more than you're currently doing is generally aiming WAY high.

People will inevitably be all fired up about their new gym membership, or they're going to do a class a day, or weight train five days a week at home, or walk for an hour a day, every day, or fire up their new elliptical trainer, or ride their bike, or swim, or practise yoga every day after work, or WHATEVER.

POINT BEING is people tend to set themselves unreasonable short term goals, and it's those goals that get in the way of them achieving their long term goals, regardless of whether those goals are to run the Boston Marathon, or to maintain a regular workout schedule by toddling around the block three times a week.

It's easy to be plan on doing the more grandiose things, but actually and really committing to making activity a habit requires a reasonable plan, and it could also do with a good amount of willingness to be moderate in your actions.

Think of it this way: if you do LESS than you planned on doing, you feel like you've failed, right? Like, if you told yourself you were going to workout for an hour a day and "only" managed forty five minutes before collapsing in a heap, you've not met the goal you set yourself so even though you've worked hard for an entire FORTY FIVE MINUTES, it's still less than your goal. And, if you do workout for the whole hour, chances are you'll eitehr feel like shit the entire time, or will wake up feeling like shit the next day because you're unable to MOVE for the sore muscles, and in both cases what you're doing is NOT setting up a regular habit, it's laying the foundations of workouts = NOT FUN. You don't want that. YOU don't want your habit to start out a) not liking the workout you've chosen because it HURTS and it reminds you of how UNFIT you've become, and b) physically and emotionally perpetuating that idea because who can enjoy the next workout when they're limping around in pain from the one prior?

So it is, in my opinion and experience, better to plan on doing LESS than you believe is optimal, because when you do that you are a) constantly achieving each time you meet that lesser goal, b) totally WINNING if you happen to do more than that goal, which c) you're more likely to do if your goal is a lesser one, and are d) more likely to end your workout with thoughts of "man, I am SO FIT and SO STRONG I could have done MORE!" and "I really AM that amount of AWESOME!", and you're more likely to feel all "My GOD, I can't wait to work out AGAIN because, AWESOME = ME!!".

So setting up a regular habit is more about mind games than it is the execution of a game plan, and the point of a regular habit is NOT to do an entire SHITLOAD more than you did yesterday, it's to do a little more. Even if it's only a single step more.

All those little bits add up, so what you're doing is taking little nibbles at the big CHUNK of lifestyle change you're after.

And if you feel good about yourself, you're more likely to still be doing what makes you feel good six weeks from now, and if you're still doing it six weeks from now, you're statistically much more likely to still be doing in several months.

Don't be scared of increasing your challenge, but do be aware of not making that challenge a subsequent, unrealistic short term goal.

Which brings us to the paradox of working "hard". It's easier to do a hard work out and to and do too much, so it's actually harder to moderate yourself into doing "enough".

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