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Developing the workout habit
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Vladimir Poontang Offline
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Developing the workout habit
Scroll down, this is a long one. I hope what I'm about to say will motive anyone who has a hard time exercising. If I can do this, anyone can.

For a long time I've wanted to build muscle, get fitter, stronger and lose some belly fat. There were a couple of times when I bought weights and then proceeded to do what I imagine a lot of people do, which is to use them for a while and then quit. A few years ago bought a cross trainer and I used it every day for a few weeks, but then I stopped. I bought a bike but I hardly used it.

It's not that I was weak or didn't have any willpower. My problem was consistency. I heard somewhere that many people join a gym and then don't go, except for a few times soon after they join. But then the enthusiasm fades away. I'm sure the gyms know this all too well.

Until recently I didn't think of myself as someone who could consistently exercise. I remember telling this to a couple of people in a mastermind group. They were into fitness but I wasn't. One of them said I should start off by just doing a couple of push ups every day. I said no way, because I knew that I wouldn't keep it up so what was the point of getting my hopes up.

But then one day I had a brainwave, based on two principles : starting small, and consistency, which was my main problem. At the beginning of August 2017 I started working out every day. And I started small. I decided to start so small that each day, by the time I would have thought about whether or not I felt like doing it, I would have finished it already. 2 minutes. That's it. 1 minute on the cross trainer, then 1 minute of moving around. But just as importantly, I decided to do this for 3 months without any thought of doing more, or any guilt about how little I was doing, in order to build the habit. I didn't even bother researching exercises, I just got on with it.

I had it all more or less planned from the start. After 3 months of this, I would add 1 second each day. So by the end of 6 months, I was doing 3.30 mins per day. Not much, but it didn't matter. All that mattered was building the habit.

After 6 months, I had a rethink about how to progress the whole thing (i.e. adding more exercises), and I added 1 second per day for 3 months. So by the end of month 9 I was on 5 mins per day.

After that, I added 2 seconds per day for 3 months. So by the end of 1 year I was on 8 mins per day.

And then again, I added 2 seconds per day for 3 months, so by the end of 15 months I was doing 11 mins per day.

And so on.

My workout changes every day, but based on what I did today, here's where I'm at :

- Cross trainer : 2 mins

- Aerobics (or whatever you call it...general moving around) : 2.30 mins
- Stretches : 2.30 mins

- 50 push ups (however long it takes)
- 50 sit ups
- 50 lying down, lift legs up, then down to a couple of inches above the ground
- 50 lying down, lift hips up and down

- 50 reps of weight exercise 1
- 50 reps of weight exercise 2
- 34 reps of weight exercise 3 (eventually 50)
- 14 reps of weight exercise 4 (eventually 50)
- 14 reps of weight exercise 5 (eventually 50)

I do 5 different weight exercises one day, then 5 different ones the day after.

When I'm on 50 of each of the weight exercises, I'll add a couple of minutes of Qi Gong, as I've heard that it's very beneficial.

For a few months I was also doing face yoga but I stopped. Not sure why. I should start that again.

By the time my workout if fully developed, which will be by the end of July, it will be 2 years. Then I'll focus on making everything harder (i.e. doing situps in a more challenging way, using heavier weights, etc), and faster. I might also add more exercises.

The idea was to do a thorough workout in about 30 mins. Right now everything I'm doing should take about 16 minutes, however it's so tough that I'm already taking 35 or so minutes, so by the time I'm doing everything it will be longer. But I hope to get better and shorten that time to 30 mins. Listening to podcasts helps. I recommend Bold & Determined, but there are plenty more than can help you get through it, because when you're mind is engaged, the time goes quicker.

As you can see, I don't know the terminology, but it doesn't matter. And I didn't spend very much time researching what kinds of exercises to do, I mostly just made it up as I went on. Also, I only have 1 dumbbell and no bench, so whatever I would need a bench for, I use my sofa and do one arm at a time. And if one day I no longer have my cross trainer, I'll replace those 2 minutes with something else.

There's no way that I'd be able to do what I do now if I hadn't developed the habit. Sometimes, when I'm in pain, I think back to the times when I was doing far less and the pain that I felt then, and how much I've progressed.

I'm telling you now that consistency is the key. You have to build the habit. Don't be preoccupied about what you'll do or how much you want to do. None of that matters. First focus on building the habit. Without the habit, you will quit sooner or later. Just do something, anything, and develop it as time goes on.

I started with 2 minutes, which obviously isn't enough to get results, but it doesn't matter because the point is to get used to doing some exercise each day. I just did it then got on with my day without thinking about it. You'll be amazed at what you'll be able, or should I say willing to do, once you've overcome the inertia of going from nothing to something.

Another thing you'll find is that pain is largely psychological. I dread doing 50 push ups each day, but I'm so used to it that it's not an issue, and I just endure it because I'm used to enduring it. I suffer, then it's over and forgotten about. I could never have done that before because I didn't develop the habit. But the point is that I'm now capable of putting myself through it, more willing to do so. Whenever I don't particularly look forward to push ups, I remind myself of the time when I was on 33 and how bad I thought that was, and how far I've progressed.

Like I said, I planned this from the start, and one of the things I considered was that there would be 3 levels of progress, psychologically speaking :

Level 1 : (if I was to skip a day) : "Hmmm...it's weird not working out"
Level 2 : (if I was to skip a day) : "Hmmm...it's weird not working out, and I feel bad"
Level 3 : (if I was to skip a day) : "No workout today? Unthinkable! This is what I do now"

I'm now somewhere between Level 2 and 3. I haven't skipped a single day. I haven't allowed anything to stop me, and I've managed that because I've worked on creating the habit. I've been doing this from the start of August 2017. I've never been as consistent with anything in my life as I am with this, and I never ever thought I'd be able to say that. And all because I first worked on developing the habit. For a long time it's the only thing that has kept me going, but now there are 2 other factors that keep me going even more.

The first is that on the 11th of October last year I bought some scales and weighed myself. About 10 years ago I weighed 62 kg. When I weighed myself again it was 71 kg. In other words, after 14 1/2 months of exercising every day, I was 71 kg, which means that I would have weighed more if I never started exercising. How much, I guess I'll never quite know.

But what I do know is that after weighing myself every day I've noticed that for quite some time I have been losing 1 kg per 18 days, which is roughly the weight of a can of coke per week, which is roughly the weight of a tennis ball per day. I say that to remind myself that I'm always making progress. But lately the weight loss has considerably slowed down, and the only explanation is that I must also be gaining muscle weight.

For the last 39 days the scales have been saying 64 kg. I should have been on 63 kg by now but I think I'm gaining muscle, which is slowing down the overall weight loss. Muscle weighs a bit more than fat, so it wouldn't take as much muscle gain to slow down any fat weight. And this is related to the second additional factor that now keeps me going.

I'm convinced that I'm gaining muscle also because my abs feel firmer. I've had a bit of a belly for years but it's starting to look unmistakably smaller and I can even see the top part of my abs at times, especially when I'm sitting down and tense slightly. I've noticed that my pecs are firmer and I can even move them. And today I flexed my biceps and there's definitely something happening there. They feel firmer, and flick into tension more. When I walk past a window, no longer do I see a bump. By the way it's not that I've ever been fat, it's just that I've had somewhat of a belly for years. And people have noticed the belly going down, so I'm not imagining it.

So now I have 3 things keeping me going : the habit, the number on the scales going down, and actually seeing and feeling the results. There's no way I can stop now. I'd be mad if I did.

Another thing that's happened is that I used to feel tired (just my eyes, not physically) and need a nap every day for quite a long time, but one day a few months ago that suddenly stopped. Also, I feel like I have more energy in general. Not that I didn't feel energetic before, but now it's more.

The lightest that I can be for my height without being underweight is 57 kg. On paper that's my goal, but I know it will take longer than I have calculated because of the muscle weight gain, and that's fine by me.

I still have some way to go but it's such a good feeling knowing that tomorrow I absolutely will exercise. No debate, no hesitation. It will happen. And I want to do this for the rest of my life. Right now it's every single day, but once I'm in really good shape I'll gradually start reducing it to 3 days per week, although I'll just do a quick warm up on the off days.

The reason for reducing it to 3 days per week is because, based on some very rough calculations, I believe that what I'm doing is causing me to lose fat weight 30 to 50 times faster than the time that it would take to put the weight on, therefore 3 days a week is still way more than enough to keep that fat off, and maintain a good physique. Plus I don't really think it's necessary to do it every single day forever. But I'll do it every day for now.

You don't need to join a gym, you don't need fancy equipment, you don't need to know the terminology, and you don't need to overthink or over research this. All you need is yourself, 2 minutes a day to start with, a bit of space, and at least one dumbbell. If you don't have a dumbbell, pick up a fucking rock. If you don't have a rock, just stick to bodyweight exercises.

If you have trouble getting into exercise, it's extremely unlikely to be due to laziness, or lack of energy, or even lack of time. I think it's a lack of consistency. It's very easy to quit when what you're trying to do is not something that is a part of you or at least a strong habit. But when it is a habit, verily I say unto you, you will be so surprised at what you can do.

If I can do this, so can you. I never thought I'd be posting this, but here I am.

It's all about consistency, and starting very small. That's the key that will get you through this without having to suffer. Build the habit first, and you'll be amazed at what you'll eventually be able to happily endure. And when you start seeing results, and when those scales start to show and confirm to you what's happening, it will motivate you even more. Working out is hard, but if you start very small and easy and increase it very slowly, so slowly that you barely notice it, you won't suffer. You'll love it. You won't mind the physical pain. You'll feel pain, sure, but it won't be horrible or even unpleasant. You'll feel quite neutral about it. You'll have more important things to dwell on, as the scales and mirror will confirm.

Go, do it. 120 seconds per day for 3 months, then add 1 second per day and take it from there. Or make up your own version what I've described.

That's not how we do things in Russia, comrade.

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(This post was last modified: 03-10-2019 05:41 PM by Vladimir Poontang.)
03-10-2019 05:25 PM
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scorpion Offline
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Post: #2
RE: Developing the workout habit
If you put half as much effort into learning how to lift weights as you did hamstering up this nonsensical routine you'd be jacked by now. And you'd probably actually enjoy it instead of dreading exercise so much you literally count your workouts down to the second. I don't mean to hate on you, and perhaps someone will find this post useful, but this is basically the perfect example of what not to do if you want to get in shape. You invested years and a lot of time and energy into a half-baked routine that gave you pretty terrible results ("I think I can see my bicep!"). Even assuming you have no access to a gym, you could have achieved much better results with a simple kettlebell/bodyweight routine that would take 10 minutes a day. The fact that you've been working out on this program for years now and still "dread doing 50 pushups" basically says it all.

Again, I apologize if this comes across as harsh, and I'm glad you achieved some results you're happy with (it sounds like you were starting from a very low level of fitness) but I wouldn't encourage others to copy this routine. There are far more simple and effective routines available even for unmotivated beginners.

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” - Romans 8:18
03-10-2019 07:19 PM
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Donfitz007 Offline
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Post: #3
RE: Developing the workout habit
Even as a beginner you could do this twice a day and be in decent to even good shape

03-10-2019 08:39 PM
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benopolis Offline
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Post: #4
RE: Developing the workout habit
(03-10-2019 07:19 PM)scorpion Wrote:  If you put half as much effort into learning how to lift weights as you did hamstering up this nonsensical routine you'd be jacked by now. And you'd probably actually enjoy it instead of dreading exercise so much you literally count your workouts down to the second. I don't mean to hate on you, and perhaps someone will find this post useful, but this is basically the perfect example of what not to do if you want to get in shape. You invested years and a lot of time and energy into a half-baked routine that gave you pretty terrible results ("I think I can see my bicep!"). Even assuming you have no access to a gym, you could have achieved much better results with a simple kettlebell/bodyweight routine that would take 10 minutes a day. The fact that you've been working out on this program for years now and still "dread doing 50 pushups" basically says it all.

Again, I apologize if this comes across as harsh, and I'm glad you achieved some results you're happy with (it sounds like you were starting from a very low level of fitness) but I wouldn't encourage others to copy this routine. There are far more simple and effective routines available even for unmotivated beginners.

I dont necessarily think hes recommending the workout routine. Hes recommending starting small and building things by 1 second at a time.

I deluded myself with this shit for years. Heres the reality I learnt: theres no way to bypass hard work.

Theres no way to create a 'habit' thatll have you effortlessly jumping out of your bed and doing the kind of routine thatll get you real results (ie. an intense 1hr at the gym / a long focused work session)

Focus on becoming the kind of person who can handle doing hard shit and can work despite being unmotivated... not on trying to hack things by creating habits.
(This post was last modified: 03-10-2019 08:56 PM by benopolis.)
03-10-2019 08:54 PM
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Post: #5
RE: Developing the workout habit
Starting Small = Starting Strength program

Literally three lifts 3x a week.

Takes 45 minutes when you first start, can be done in 30 or so after a month or two.

Don't even have to do the nonsensical GOMAD (gallon of milk a day) bullshit. Just compound lifts 3x a week.

Any beginner to the gym without any major physical disabilities looking for a program should do it.

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03-11-2019 05:42 AM
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heavy Offline
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Post: #6
RE: Developing the workout habit
Good stuff OP. I've written a few very similar posts on various threads where I basically made it so I enjoyed going to the gym. Dead of winter 4 years ago I decided I'd go enjoy the sauna and work out. No energy or hungover on a Saturday morning? Still go down to the gym, get a nice sauna sweat and a coffee, and maybe lift a little. Of course this led to lifting a lot more.

Then I started Arnold's lifting routine (I can still feel the biceps burning years later). I didn't keep up Arnold's routine for long (I didn't think I could sustain that level of motivation long-term at that time), but for the next two years lifting was my thing. I was doing 3-5 times per week. I had increased my basketball playing, started playing a lot of volleyball (beach or indoor), and simply being more active. After two years of that, I wanted to actually learn something and get better at something.

So I joined a BJJ gym end of 2016. Then jiu jitsu became my thing, with lifting being my break from jiu jitsu. I still recall talking to people trying to discipline themselves into the gym for a little workout, and me thinking, I have to discipline myself into the jiu jitsu gym...lifting is my break from discipline.

More recently I'd been looking for a more profitable outlet for my time and energy. I mean I love getting better at a martial art, but I'd like to broaden my career/productive skill set and maybe put some more money in my account. So I started doing side work, and boy has 2019 been a boon for me. Now I have a busy schedule working my regular job, then 15-20 hours extra on side business (actually making money this time and building skills), still managing to get into jiu jitsu 2-3 times per week, and lifting 1-2 times per week.

I, like OP, look back at every step and think, if you told me 5 years ago I'd be gym-guy, or jiu jitsu and gym guy, or who I am now with the side business, I wouldn't believe it. There's no way I have the discipline for that. Now I realize it's not discipline. It's just a slow building of habitual behavior you get used to.

What helped me was recording it on my calendar. Not planning it ahead more than a day or two. Rather, simply record it after the fact, that I worked out. It gave me a little dopamine rush saying "I did that". I still record all my productive time on my calendar, but now I use it more for planning my week/month out a bit.

To scorpion's post, I shrug...whatever works. I get what scorpion is saying, and it's obviously true. But for OP, I guess what he's doing worked for him and his mindset, so good for him.

I can relate a lot to his psychological building of workout routine.

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(This post was last modified: 03-11-2019 08:56 AM by heavy.)
03-11-2019 08:54 AM
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Vladimir Poontang Offline
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Post: #7
RE: Developing the workout habit
(03-11-2019 08:54 AM)heavy Wrote:  Good stuff OP. I've written a few very similar posts on various threads where I basically made it so I enjoyed going to the gym. Dead of winter 4 years ago I decided I'd go enjoy the sauna and work out. No energy or hungover on a Saturday morning? Still go down to the gym, get a nice sauna sweat and a coffee, and maybe lift a little. Of course this led to lifting a lot more.

Then I started Arnold's lifting routine (I can still feel the biceps burning years later). I didn't keep up Arnold's routine for long (I didn't think I could sustain that level of motivation long-term at that time), but for the next two years lifting was my thing. I was doing 3-5 times per week. I had increased my basketball playing, started playing a lot of volleyball (beach or indoor), and simply being more active. After two years of that, I wanted to actually learn something and get better at something.

So I joined a BJJ gym end of 2016. Then jiu jitsu became my thing, with lifting being my break from jiu jitsu. I still recall talking to people trying to discipline themselves into the gym for a little workout, and me thinking, I have to discipline myself into the jiu jitsu gym...lifting is my break from discipline.

More recently I'd been looking for a more profitable outlet for my time and energy. I mean I love getting better at a martial art, but I'd like to broaden my career/productive skill set and maybe put some more money in my account. So I started doing side work, and boy has 2019 been a boon for me. Now I have a busy schedule working my regular job, then 15-20 hours extra on side business (actually making money this time and building skills), still managing to get into jiu jitsu 2-3 times per week, and lifting 1-2 times per week.

I, like OP, look back at every step and think, if you told me 5 years ago I'd be gym-guy, or jiu jitsu and gym guy, or who I am now with the side business, I wouldn't believe it. There's no way I have the discipline for that. Now I realize it's not discipline. It's just a slow building of habitual behavior you get used to.

What helped me was recording it on my calendar. Not planning it ahead more than a day or two. Rather, simply record it after the fact, that I worked out. It gave me a little dopamine rush saying "I did that". I still record all my productive time on my calendar, but now I use it more for planning my week/month out a bit.

To scorpion's post, I shrug...whatever works. I get what scorpion is saying, and it's obviously true. But for OP, I guess what he's doing worked for him and his mindset, so good for him.

I can relate a lot to his psychological building of workout routine.

Yes it's all about doing whatever works to get you doing it. It doesn't matter how good your plan is and how great things will be if you follow through with it, if it's a plan that isn't going to actually happen, it's as good as no plan at all.

I've worked out every day without fail for 19 months and as of today I weigh 63 kg (as opposed to probably well over 71 if I had never done this). The only reason I can say that sentence is because of what I did. I get demoralized when I don't see progress, and so I came up with a solution and a method that took progress out of the equation and focused only on building the habit. And now I'm really starting to notice results. Taking 1 and a half years out of my entire life to build this habit is a tiny price to pay. I want this to be very long term, but at the same time I don't want to get obsessed, hence just 30 mins per day, albeit very thorough.

That's not how we do things in Russia, comrade.

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(This post was last modified: 03-11-2019 09:18 AM by Vladimir Poontang.)
03-11-2019 09:12 AM
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General Stalin Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Developing the workout habit
I get the idea of "starting small" but man it took you 2 years to get to a 15 minute aimless workout routine that barely yields results?

If I were in your shoes and had a real hard time starting a good habit, I think instead I would just get a cheapo gym membership and make myself go there after work everyday for 30min-1hr. If you're at the gym and not with people you know then there is really only one thing you can do. No distractions, no TV and couch in the next room, etc. From my experience it's much harder to get someone do develop a good habit while at home because there are far too many familiar distractions and scapegoats. You need to remove yourself from familiar territory and go somewhere where working out or doing whatever activity you are trying to get yourself into is the only real option to pass the time. Do that for a couple months and it will be a habit.
03-11-2019 10:02 AM
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Post: #9
RE: Developing the workout habit
To me it seems as though the routine was far from aimless - the guy dropped 8kg, built a little muscle and a healthy routine, didn't injure himself and is essentially looking and feeling better as a result of his work.

Questions about what's optimal are academic if one isn't actually going to stick the optimal thing. We have different characters and different barriers to action we need to cross: for some it is the gym, for some it is approaching girls, for some it is learning new stuff academically.

This guy found it hard to be a gym guy. Bit by bit he built a healthier lifestyle that he continues to reap the rewards of. It's a pretty focused and useful routine if the alternative is not doing anything in this domain.
03-11-2019 10:17 AM
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Post: #10
RE: Developing the workout habit
Good read. Honestly it's better to get something in then do nothing at all.

Honestly, consistency isn't my issue. Once that monthly gym due went in, I was there. I hate wasting money and not going to the gym I'm paying for is precisely that .

I restarted strength training after a 2 year hiatus. Already onto week 3.

Might just be me. I hate wasting money.
03-11-2019 10:29 AM
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