I don`t say often say what I`m about to say but the truth is, I don`t like exercising that much. Yes, I`m a certified personal trainer who`s been working with clients for almost a decade. But if someone told me there`s a magic pill —a REAL magic pill— that can make stay in shape while eating ice cream all day and without breaking a sweat, I`d say, ‘’Shut up and take my money.’’
But that won`t happen. Reality says, no pill will shrink four inches off your waist in a week. There`s also no such thing as falling 100 percent in love with exercising. Even giants like Schwarzenegger and Muhammad Ali hated working out at some point. It`s because our minds are programmed to keep away from pain, and all we can do is find ways to do the right thing and enjoy the process regardless of that pain —big it was or small. It`s all about how good are you at tricking your mind, the better you are, the bigger the rewards.
So, today I`m presenting you my favorite four ‘leave the couch and bust your ass’ mental tricks that I`ve been using for over a decade to exercise nonstop. Here they are:
Trick #1: When in Rome…
Basic human psychology says that your environment —and the ones in it— dictate your behavior to some degree, whether you`re aware of it or not. I.e., if you stay long enough with the Romans, you`ll do what they do even if it doesn`t seem familiar, or doesn`t agree with your moral code. This means all you have to do when you feel lazy is to get dressed and hit the gym, and the new environment will take care of the rest.
Don`t focus on all the hardships and how annoying it is to leave the bed and do some unattractive back exercises —seriously; no one likes ‘back’ days. Instead, make your goal as simple as walking past the gym door. Once you`re there, the atmosphere and people will pump your state, and you`ll find yourself automatically doing the one thing you`ll have to do which is; work-da-hell-out.
Trick #2: The 3S Method
The longer you wait before doing a hard activity, the more dreadful it will appear to you. I no longer do cardio or back exercises at night because my mind spends the whole day coming up with a hundred excuses to why I shouldn`t work out. In 2011, the Journal of Health Psychology published a study saying that people significantly underestimated how much they would enjoy exercising and they place disproportionate weight on the beginning of a workout, which is typically unpleasant. I believe it makes lots of sense…
The good news? There`s a process I`ve been using for so long to exercise without feeling like someone is grabbing me out of bed and throwing me on a treadmill. I call it the 3S process, Schedule, Start and Sing —yes, Sing. It`s the trick one of my coaches taught me years ago, and it`s still working till today.
Scheduling your workout on a calendar to delays all sorts of negative thinking till later —you just schedule it, and leave it till the alarm goes on. Scheduling also puts time constraints over procrastination, according to Cal Newport, the Georgetown University Professor, bestselling author and one of the most productive men alive. Newport schedules everything, every day, even during his leisure time. In an interview, he said:
Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made. It`s that simple. Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you have and how long things will take.
Start. Just take one step —any step— towards exercising. Move one leg off the couch, go to the bathroom and wash your face, open your closet, put on your gym shoes…etc.
Ever broken up with somebody? It gets easier at the beginnings before you`ve emotionally and physically invested in all the kissing, sex, and dates. So, do anything that makes you invested in working out. A study on more than 2,000 gym-goers found that 90 percent — that`s 1,800 out of 2,000— felt motivated once they wore their gym attire. So, do what I told you and focus only on leaving home with your gym attire on. Once you`re hooked, there will be no turning back.
Sing. Remember that episode from Friends when Chandler talked Monica out of her morning run and made her go to bed with just a few words? Your mind will often do the same if you let it. That`s why I sing or say anything out loud to disrupt any conflicting thoughts as I`m getting ready for the gym. And, it works like magic.
Trick #3: Don’t Get a Gym Buddy, Do This Instead
I say no to having gym buddies. They talk more than they exercise, and in many times they are so busy for you so you`ll either have to reschedule or leave the gym early.
What you should do instead is find an accountability group of like-minded people and share your fitness goals with them. There are so many gym forums and Facebook groups where you can log your progress, share your results and share your journey with people with the same goal. You`ll be using the power of public commitment to motivate you and at the same time save any precious time a gym buddy may waste.
Trick #4: The Chain-Keeper Method
Early before he became famous, and to commit himself to writing, Jerry Seinfeld used a little trick to train his discipline muscles. Seinfeld bought a wall calendar and marked an X on it whenever he finished his writing routine for that day. As he told the software developer Brad Isaac, “A few days of doing that will get you a nice chain of ‘X’s, and your goal is never to break that chain.”
So you too can get the same world-class consistency with a marker and wall calendar. It will work cause it will remind you of how far you`ve gone, and what`s at stake if you miss a workout.
I sometimes catch some of my clients calling themselves losers just cause they`ve binged on a Friday night or missed two gym sessions in a row. These are people who have lost +40 pounds and have been performing pretty well for many weeks or months. But —like all people— they forgot about what they have achieved. So, they need a reminder so they can keep doing the right things. And in Seinfeld`s case —and hopefully you too—, that wall calendar was the solution.
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