In 2015, I made two resolutions:
- Have a meaningful appointment (lunch, dinner, coffee, etc.) with someone at least once a week. This could be personal or professional – doesn’t matter.
- Do pushups and situps
I won’t talk much about #1 in this post. Let me just say, it was super beneficial. You meet lots of amazing people and hear some really cool stories. Although I may not have hit every week, on average I more than exceeded that goal.
But what this post is mostly about is the second thing. You see prior to 2015, I virtually never worked out. There were a couple times in my life where I did some time (usually a couple weeks) committing to run everyday or a couple times a week. And to be honest, I was miserable. I have nothing against running, but that “high” that runners claim to get, I’ve never felt it. Ever. And this was after going 3-4 miles.
So running was out for the time (although I’m considering getting back into it), so I needed something else. I decided that I’d rather be “buff” than skinny, so it should be a muscle workout as well.
Also, I HATE gyms. I mean, the pool, hot tub, and sauna are nice, but I don’t get a kick out of going to the gym. I’d rather work out by myself on my own time and focus on the workout. Plus, I didn’t want to pay for a gym membership. And then you have to get clean clothes, drive to the gym, check in, etc. Besides how embarrassing is it to join a gym and then NOT go? And this was something I WASN’T going to fail at.
The other requirement was that I needed to be able to do a simple workout without a gym and preferably without any outside equipment. After all, I spend a lot of time traveling and hauling around a bench press or a 50 lb. kettle bell wasn’t going to be an option.
So after some thought, I figured out a strategy to try. You see, I knew that my biggest problem was. For me, the resistance to workout was 100% mental. I knew I could workout, I just had to find the discipline to do it. And do it regardless of how I felt.
For most of us, the mental state is our problem. We have goals, but when the going gets tough, we bail. The pushback and exhaustion of life gets in our way. We get distracted. We genuinely forget. Or we remember when we can’t do anything – like when we travel or are home with the family.
Given these guidelines, I decided to go simple. I would start by doing 10 pushups and 10 sit-ups every day. Now before you start laughing (and many people actually did), let me fill you in on the rules. I had to do this every weekday night (I’d take weekends off). And I’d only do 10 reps for the month of January. Then in February, I’d do 20 pushups and 20 sit-ups every night. March was 30 and 30, etc.
And I committed to doing this every weekday for the entire year. There were a handful of days in January when I actually forgot (as I was forming the habit), but other than that I think I only missed one other weekday the rest of the year. I committed to myself that if I remembered, I HAD to do it. There were no options.
So now, as I close out December, I’m doing 120 pushups and 120 sit-ups every evening. Some days I still hate doing them. Ok, to be honest, most days I still hate doing them. But I love the results. And these exercises have taught me quite a bit about life and about me. Both good and bad. Here are some of the lessons.
- Create Habits – By starting small, I created a habit. I trained my body and mind. In those first days in January, there was no reason I couldn’t do the pushups. After all, 10 pushups and 10 sit-ups is pretty simple for most people. For me, it was a breeze. As it needed to be. I needed to make a habit of doing them before pushing myself into higher numbers. Somewhere between 30-40 is where it became a real challenge. By that point I was already committed.
- Systems > Goals – I could have a goal to get in shape, but without systems, everything is going to fall apart. I’m naturally a very unstructured person. I prefer to take life as it comes and don’t usually do hours and hours of planning. Yet spending a few minutes to put systems into place (in life, relationships, and business) allow you to put these areas of your life on “auto-pilot”. This means you don’t think, you just do. When you don’t feel like it, you don’t bother giving reasons not to do it, you just do it. I still do other workouts from time-to-time, but NO MATTER WHAT I do my pushups and sit-ups every night.
- Start Small – I literally had people laugh at me when I told them in January I was doing only 10 reps a night. Plus, a lot of people (some of whom are definitely not “in shape”) offered me their feedback on how I should do my workouts. They would suggest how many reps I should do and in what order. I would politely decline and stick to my routine. It’s the story of the tortoise and the hare all over again. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Remove Friction – When starting a new habit, you want to remove as much friction as possible. You want to make starting as easy as possible. By NOT joining a gym and picking simple workouts, I made sure that I could never argue myself into not doing the workouts. And let me tell you, I’m really, really good at convincing myself to do (or not do) something depending on how I feel. I could do my little workouts anywhere (bedroom, living room, after work, early in the morning, during the day). There was no reason NOT to do it. I removed every possible friction point I could.
- Discipline is Contagious – When I committed to be disciplined in one area of my life (simple fitness), it led me to be more disciplined in many other areas. It took away my stigma that I “can’t” do workouts or I needed to pay some overpriced gym membership to stay healthy. And it led me to be more curious about my health in general. I casually studied fitness and nutrition in an attempt to live a more healthy life. I also became more disciplined in other personal and professional areas of life. Discipline is contagious.
There were also a few things I learned about myself that I didn’t know:
- Nearly All of my Barriers (and Your Barriers) are Mental – I don’t mean to go all Tony Robbins on you here, but if you really want to do something (within reason), you can do it. Try something new, get out of your comfort zone. But more importantly make it a system and habit.
- I Love Procrastinating – There would literally be nights I would lay in my bed playing on Twitter or Facebook because I didn’t want to do the workout. I’m not going to lie, once October hit (doing 100 reps per night) things got tough. I did NOT want to do the workout. There was a night or two I’d lay there for hours at times (not even kidding) avoiding them. Finally, I’d do them and get it over with. Now that I’ve learned that about myself, I much more intentionally run toward things I don’t want to do. I tackle those things sooner rather than later. Because I’ll get them done one way or the other, so I might as well do them now. A friend of mine describes this as “swallowing the frog” – doing first what you want to do the least.
- I Actually Like Working Out – This sounds silly, but I love being active. I love doing things outside. I love activities and activity. And I even like exercise. Because of my small success in one area, I’ve taken up some other workouts as well.
- Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual States are Linked – This year, I’ve had more joy, felt better, and dealt with tough circumstances better than I’ve ever had before. That’s not to say it was perfect. In many ways it was a rough year, but at the end of everyday I did one meaningful thing to benefit my health. Sure, my health will deteriorate one day, but while I have it, I’m going to do my best to take care of it. Good physical health led to better health in my spiritual, emotional, and mental areas as well. In fact, I’m now moving the discipline and systems into a few of these other areas with huge success.
So if you’re trying to do something and just can’t seem to make it happen, here is what I’d tell you.
- Start small, then get gradually bigger
- Do something everyday (or at least every weekday)
That’s it. If you’re trying to blog, start by writing two sentences a day, then go to four or eight. If you’re wanting to make music, commit to writing one line to a song a day. If you’re doing a workout, do 10 pushups and work up from there. The point is JUST DO SOMETHING. It won’t be perfect. You don’t even have to share it with anyone. Just do it. And that’s the beauty of the process. I don’t claim to be a fitness expert and will never look like The Rock, but going from zero to 120 reps a day is something I’m proud of.
And if you’ve been letting your health go, please really consider making a change. It matters for you. It will matter for your spouse. And it will matter for your kids. Plus, you’ll just feel better. Your body is a resource and you need to be a good steward of it.
I wish you a wonderful 2016.