Henry Howe — Head of Movement and Performance
Toward the end of Jan, when we were planning to talk about this topic come April, the new year fitness boom was just about coming to an end — a time when enthusiasm started to wean and we all reverted back to our norms. Well, since then, the world has descended into one of the most chaotic times in modern history, and the internet is suddenly brimming with new fitness routines and ideas. In fact, after coronavirus itself, I’d say home workouts are the most searched term on social media right now.
Whilst it’s anyone’s guess what happens next, I’d bet that the same lull we experience at the end of Jan will also hit once the novelty of home workouts runs out. This is why it’s important to establish habits and routine — a way to incorporate fitness into your life, rather than it just be fleeting motivation.
In my last blog, I proposed that the ‘best diet’ is the healthiest one that you can maintain long term — not the healthiest, most nutritious one ‘overall’. The idea is that changes to our health rarely happen overnight. To see real changes, we need to stay consistent. With this in mind, whatever you set out to do, you must see the opportunity for longevity. If you view positive changes as a temporary measure (such as working out at home) it’s unlikely you’ll stick to them.
You wouldn’t open a business without a business plan, so why would you start your fitness journey without one?
Very few people can simply decide to exercise and stick to it. But all of us can set goals. So this is where we begin. It’s understanding what your “why” is. Why exercise? To give yourself a challenge? To reduce your risk of hereditary disease? To set an example for your children? To stay energised? For mental clarity?
Your “why” is an important thing to establish for two key reasons.
The first. When times get tough you’re able to remind yourself about what it’s really about. Your “why” is rarely about finishing good workouts — it needs to be more than that.
The second is that your goal dictates your path. Once you know your “why” you can go about setting yourself weekly tasks that help you stay present and accountable in your journey.
When it comes to habit formation, I think the most current and popular author on the topic is James Clear. His book Atomic Habits is a deep dive into what makes things stick and what makes things fail, and some of his key ideas relevant to establishing a fitness routine are; the 2-minute rule, don’t miss twice and habit stacking.
Let’s unpack these.
When facing new tasks and challenges, it’s human nature to place too much pressure on ourselves to perform and succeed straightaway, with these definitions of success based on expectations we’ve set, based on how we’ve seen others do it. And when we inevitably fall short on the first day, or when we can’t finish that workout, our momentum and motivation suffer. James Clear points out that before we can be someone who hits great 60 minute workouts, we need to become someone who simply works out! That’s why the 2-minute rule works so well. Hit 2 minutes of your new habit — be it working out, reading more, practicing a language — whatever it is, make sure you’re completely 2 minutes, not 20. Of course, go for 20 if you can. But if the motivation isn’t there, don’t push it and make yourself hate it. Just try 2 minutes!
Don’t miss twice
Missing days are inevitable — but this is where the don’t miss twice rule comes in. Fairly self-explanatory this one, but essentially this rule gives you the slack you might need to pick and choose your battles. If you miss your workout one day, that’s fine, just try not to miss it a second day. Using this rule means that at the very minimum you’ll have delivered on your fitness goal more than half the week.
Many people will say they “don’t have time” to fit fitness into their day. So why not identify some things you do every day and tackle two birds with one stone. If you watch Netflix every evening, download it onto your phone and have it on whilst you exercise. If you have a daily call with your boss, why not suggest taking a walk? This rule stops us from using ‘time’ as an excuse and tricks your brain into layering habits together so that fitness easily slips into your everyday routine.
So, my personal tips?
During this social media fitness boom, it’s important to only follow maybe one or two fit pro’s whose advice, personality, methods all resonate with you. It’s like the wild west out there at the moment, with thousands of people trying to capitalise on a sudden surge in the online fitness industry. So don’t let the influx cloud your plan, and keep outside inputs to a minimum.
And lastly, perhaps predictably, Magic Mountain comes into its own at times like this. You can connect with friends digitally and use one another for motivation, for new ideas, for connectedness and community. As I wrote in January’s blog, we tend to gravitate to the behaviours of those around us. So, if you spend all day talking to people who are down on the current situation and unmotivated, then you’re unlikely to achieve much. Identify your friends who you know want to stay active and share the journey with them!
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