Exercise habit: Lowering the barrier and embracing humility

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I may have a breakthrough with building up an exercise habit.

I've gotten on our Horizon 7.4 AT Treadmill ten out the past eleven days and put in at least five minutes on those days:

DateTime (min)Distance (mi)
2023-11-1110
2023-11-1215
2023-11-1315
2023-11-14160.75
2023-11-15160.72
2023-11-1616
2023-11-1716
2023-11-180
2023-11-195
2023-11-2010
2023-11-21190.83
10 out of 11 days on the treadmill. I'll take it!

For the longest time, I would have had any excuse not to exercise. I wasn't feeling well, it was too late in the day, I didn't want to sweat up my regular clothes, I didn't want to change into workout clothes, bending down to turn the treadmill on is soooooo hard and I don't want to struggle getting up.

It was getting really silly how hard I would rationalize not exercising.

This month (I don't know why I get motivated to exercise in November, of all things) I did a couple of things. First, I made the barrier to getting on the treadmill super-low, like incredibly low. And second, I embraced some humility and just did something most every day, even if it was next to nothing, just to build up the habit.

Removing all barriers so I had close to no excuse

Like I said, I would picture myself struggling to get down on the ground to turn on the machine (the switch is in the back at the base) and that was enough to talk myself out of doing it.

But once the machine is turned on, it will go to sleep after a few minutes of inactivity and there would be no flashing lights or other indication that it was on. To wake the machine up, it's just a matter of pulling the safety key out and putting it back in. No more bending over.

The other barrier that I removed was the need to get into workout clothes. I'm just walking, for goodness sake. I can break a sweat after I've eased into it for a bit. I need the habit more than I need the sweat right now.

So for now I just walk on the treadmill in my work clothes (a polo, jeans, and sneakers), get off of the machine, leave it on, and let it go to sleep.

One time it was getting late and I didn't have my shoes on. Fine. I walked on it barefoot for five minutes.

Don't know how to make it any easier than that.

Being fine with not breaking a sweat until I've made a habit

Then I listened to a TikTok video and it changed my view of myself and exercise.

I can take some comfort in what Dr. Jordan B. Peterson observed in an interview: “There's a humility in determining what it is that the wretched creature that you are can actually manage. Aim low.”

This is in line with the framework James Clear outlines in Atomic Habits, which is to “make it easy.” By starting so easy that it's silly not to do it and removing the barriers, it encourages me just to start doing it. Who cares if others think I'm slacking off or not pushing hard enough? I've already started to do that, and I'm doing it in a way that doesn't injure or discourage myself.

Breaking a sweat will come later, I'm confident.

Sharing progress without sharing goals

My wife knows I'm doing this, but no one else that I know in my current in-person life (work colleagues, church people, etc.) does. And that's fine.

This is something I'm undecided on: Share goals with the world as motivation, or share the journey and celebrate the goal once it's arrived? I know there are pros/cons to both but for now I'll leave things a mystery as goals.

Not everyone has to know everything, but I'm glad that you stopped by to find this out!

(Cover photo by Andrea Piacquadio)

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