Forget the 34-point lists on how to conquer your workout goals. All you really need are these two proven tactics to get your butt to the gym on the regular.
There are fewer things more frustrating and agonizing than the resistance we experience in the lead-up to a big workout, going for a run, or doing anything else that requires, you know, physical effort.
Whether it is strapping on our workout gear, getting our butts to the gym, or simply heading out the door the moments of true mental struggle where we angle for every last drop of workout motivation always seems to take place right before it is set to kick off.
With all of the information out there on creating awesome workout habits and behavior change it is easy to fall into an abyss of too much information.
You know the frustration that comes with trying to implement too many changes at once. No matter how good our intentions and well-planned our goals we inevitably experience the sense of being overwhelmed and discouraged.
Instead, keep things simple and straightforward with this powerful and proven 1-2 combo that will get your butt in gear, no matter how tough or how challenging your goal workout routine may seem.
1. The Power of a Specific Schedule.
Intentions and goals are just wishful thinking until the moment that we start planning them out. And as it turns out, the way that we plan our goals and habits make a powerful difference on whether or not we execute them.
In a fascinating piece of research, the designers of this study sought out to see how effective prompting (a.k.a. scheduling) was at getting employees at a large firm to get their yearly flu shot.
All employees (some 3,000 of them) received a mailing to remind them of their nearest vaccination clinics. Researchers further broke down the questionnaire into two additional versions that required the employees to fill out specific prompts:
- The first included specific dates and times that they planned to go get their shot. For example, September 10, at 4:30pm.
- The second included a request for a specific date (but no time) when they would get their flu shot.
- The third was simply issued the reminder to get the shot.
As it turned out, the ones who wrote down the date and time of their planned vaccination were way more likely to go through with actually doing it. Perhaps more surprisingly was that when it came to those who picked a day and who were simply reminded there was no statistical difference.
The determining factor was the specificity of the scheduling.
How is this helpful with your goals?
It means that you should be creating a schedule for the things you want to accomplish. Like many, I have succumbed to “someday” syndrome more times than I care to admit.
- Someday I will start working out more.
- Someday I will start eating better.
- Someday I will start adding wind sprints to my training regimen.
Schedule the things you want to accomplish in your life.
Get specific, and plan them out ahead of time instead of letting yourself fall prey to the whimsical and flakey nature of our “motivation.”
We covered the jab–now here comes the upper cut…
2. Make Starting the Primary Goal.
Ever heard of an instigation habit? Sounds tough doesn’t it? Like it’s the provocateur of the habits? You’d be right—instigation habits absolutely love to start shit.
How many times have you drained every last ounce of willpower to get yourself to the gym, dreading the workout ahead, only to experience that sense of “this ain’t so bad” once you got rolling under the bar? Often, I would imagine.
Research on habit formation backs the power of focusing on starting versus the execution of a goal.
When a group of 120+ healthy adults were tasked with tracking their workouts over the course of a month, the only predictor of whether they executed their workouts was the strength of their instigation habits.
Think of your instigation habits in this manner—it’s the thing that initiates the desired behavioral sequence you desire.
- Instead of thinking about the big workout you have to do that day, focus only on completing your warm-up.
- Rather than thinking about the 10k run you scheduled for yourself to do at 5:15am (see, you’re getting the hang of this!) focus only on running down the block.
Starting is all that really matters.
Something funny happens when we start. Things don’t seem so rough anymore. You gather some momentum from those first few steps.
And two things especially are happening that allow us to complete the things we want to do, but might not necessarily want to at first:
1. We always overestimate the pain to come. We have a tendency to think that things will be far more agonizing than they turn out to be. So once we get started, and hey, it ain’t so bad, we experience a sense of relief and optimism at being able to face the workout at hand.
2. Our brain, being the order-loving little nugget that it is, really likes to finish stuff. By focusing only on starting and starting alone we perform a nifty little piece of mental judo. For once we start it usually becomes harder to break away and walk away from the task unfinished than it is to complete it.
When you understand that conquering starting something is the true predictor of results it is oddly freeing. You can focus your efforts on doing the thing before the thing instead of getting stressed out and demoralized about thinking about the full depth of the workout ahead.
Try scheduling some instigation goals. Make starting at a specific time the only thing you do. You’ll always find that it’s harder to stop once you begin.
Arnold Schwarz–however-you-spell-his-name and the Power of Habit. The Terminator talks about the importance of routine and habit, and how it helped him get to where he is today.
A Trick to Help Make Your Exercise Habit Stick. You like tricks? (Not magic ones, sorry.) How about being more consistent with your workout habits? In that case, you’ll give this post at least a lukewarm reception.
The Ultimate List of Workout Routines. Our ever-growing list of workouts, sets and training ideas from some of the top trainers and strength coaches on the planet.