A Silver Bullet for Getting Fit
Silver bullets are great. They have magical powers. When nothing else works, you can count on a silver bullet to get it done. They get right to the heart.
In my last post, I talked about how your body is a machine, and it has to be challenged. I talked about all the reasons you don’t want to become a fitless human. Your body, and how you feel, is the foundation for everything. In fact, it’s one of the Three Pillars of a Good Life.
Yet, despite knowing the benefits of consistent exercise, most of us don’t do it. Like me, perhaps you’ve noticed there’s a bit of a distance between knowing and doing. Knowing things is easy. We have endless information resources. Information is not the problem. Derek Sivers said it best:
If more information were the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.
Knowing is necessary but not sufficient. You must combine knowing AND doing. But, here’s the rub . . . Doing can be hard. Doing takes some planning. Doing requires effort. You have to know both what to do and how to do it. And that’s where things break down.
Lots of people know information about exercise, but few people actually do it. The reasons for this are numerous, and most of them are buried in the tricky ways our brains work. Getting yourself to actually DO what you want is surprisingly difficult. Our brains are hard to tame. We all struggle with this.
The good news is, there are ways to stack the deck in your favor. There are ways to ‘hack’ the system for your benefit. You can create routines that make it easy to succeed.
When you find an idea that solves a complex issue with one simple approach, you might call that a “silver bullet.”
After years of off and on exercise, I’ve found a silver bullet.
Just push play
That’s it. That’s the silver bullet. Get a workout video and just push play. Skeptical? Hang with me here.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. When I was a high school student, I wanted good grades, but I disliked homework. One day, I realized that opening my backpack and pulling out the textbook was the hardest part. After that, the momentum kept me going, and I realized it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating (most of what we fear and procrastinate is like that). So, I started to tell myself that all I needed to do was pull out the book and read for 5 minutes, and then I could quit if I wanted. That felt much better. Of course, I knew it was a game, but it worked. Once I had been reading for 5 minutes, it was easy to just keep going.
The lesson is that you need to give yourself a tiny goal (like opening the backpack and pulling out the book) that you are guaranteed to succeed at. Tell yourself that if you do that one thing, you have succeeded. There is no perfect way to do it. Like I’ve written about before, if you’re doing it wrong, you’re doing it right (because you’re doing it).
So, let’s get back to how one tiny behavior can have a huge impact on your fitness. In this case, just pushing play is the tiny goal, then follow the program for at least 5 minutes. Tell yourself if you want to quit after that, then you can. However, I bet that once your are going, you will stick it out longer, and that’s when the magic happens. That one act of pushing play can help you in ways you never thought possible. In my experience, it’s much more effective than going for jog. Here’s why: A workout series by a good physical trainer solves a huge number of exercise ‘hangups’ in one fell swoop.
It eliminates excuses:
- “I don’t have time.” You can get a stellar workout in 25–30 minutes tops. And since it’s in your own home, there’s practically zero transition time from wake up, to workout, to shower. Everyone has 25 minutes. Plus, since you’ve decided to invest yourself daily (The First Habit), this is not a problem, right?
- “I don’t have equipment.” Your body is your equipment. It’s enough. Seriously, you can get great results just using your own body weight.
- “I don’t have an exercise room.” Do it anywhere you have 10′ x 10′ space. No fancy exercise room needed.
- “I’m traveling.” You can take it with you anywhere. I’ve done workout routines in hotel rooms and on the deck of a cruise ship.
- “It’s too dark.” or “It’s bad weather.” No problem, since you are not leaving the confines of your house.
It gives you access to the latest fitness expertise:
- Provide maximal benefits for minimal input (i.e. minimum effective dose). With the right approach, you can get in top notch condition in less time than you think. Exercise science has come a long way in the last few years in showing the most efficient ways to build fitness (more on this to come).
- Benefit from a coach: All top performers have coaches. If you could have a personal trainer like movie stars, I bet you’d consider it. In a video, the coach is not really with you, but I think it gives you 80–90% of the benefit of having someone to train you. This person has spent the time to figure out what works.
- Involve strength training. It’s not just for body builders. The importance of building muscle mass can’t be underestimated. It helps you reduce body fat and burn calories more efficiently, which can result in healthy weight loss. Also, strength training helps preserve and build your muscle mass and bone mass, regardless of your age. It keeps you from getting injured as easily. Women especially need to understand this since strength training has been thought to be mostly a male thing in the past.
It works with your psychology
- Make it easy. Like I said above, when you are working on a new behavior, you need to smooth the path ahead. You need to start with a tiny habit. Just push play. Consider that a ‘win.’ Then just try to follow along. It’s like flipping one domino. The rest comes from momentum.
- Eliminate analysis paralysis: For years I didn’t do much about fitness because I lacked a plan. Research shows that we often procrastinate or fail to act due to too many decisions. With a video, the workout is prescribed. Just do the plan for the day. Lots of people don’t want to make up a routine, they just want to “follow a recipe” that works. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barak Obama all chose a clothing “uniform” to wear every day to eliminate extra decisions. You can do that with exercise too.
- Change it up. We all get bored, so most good programs have a series of different workouts that change the focus and it keeps your muscles always guessing.
- Harness peer pressure. In a good workout program, you have some social pressure to work HARD. The guys and gals on the video can keep up, so it makes you want to “kick it up a notch” to keep up too (works on your pride). This is a very real effect which compounds your benefits (more gains in less time).
- Create social reinforcement and accountability. If you are lucky and have a spouse that also wants to take back control of their body, then you can do it together. My wife and I have done this together for going on 18 months now. She is looking and feeling great and NEVER would have done something like this without a partner.
But aren’t workout videos lame?
I know some of you are thinking this, because I’ve had the same reaction. But what I’m talking about is not what you are thinking. Let me guess at some of your thoughts (warning: they’re not all politically correct, but neither are your thoughts). Here is what at least some men might think:
“I remember the Richard Simmons and Sweatin’ to the Oldies — Uhh . . No way.”
“Workout videos are for wusses.”
“Workout videos are for women.”
“Workout videos are for losers who don’t know how to exercise.”
“I like sports and outdoor activities, so I don’t need anything else.”
“I want strength, so I need a gym with equipment.”
“Workout videos are scams.”
Not your father’s jog around the track
The workout videos I’m talking about are none of these. These workouts have come along way from the 80s and 90s, especially for men. You can find workouts for every level, from the out-of-shape total beginner to the hardcore fitness enthusiast and everything in between. There are both free and paid options.
The key is that these workouts have you doing things that are much more productive than the slow and steady jog on the treadmill or the stair-master. They involve your whole body. This is what your body is craving, and you will see the results. I am not saying that a good jog out in the fresh air is not a great option. I am saying that if you have tried that, don’t love it, or have not seen much benefit from it, or find yourself with lots of excuses for not doing it, this is a much more effective/efficient way to get results.
As I said in my last post, this is not for everyone. If you already have a routine you love and that you actually do regularly and it is working for you, then stick with it. If you like going to the gym, by all means don’t stop now. If you love to get into the nitty gritty about out how many reps of what body part to achieve very specific goals, then you probably already stopped reading awhile ago.
This particular magic bullet is for those of us who don’t naturally gravitate toward exercise, who don’t have naturally active lifestyles, and who have had a hard time sticking with something. This is for non-experts who want to plug into a program that has guaranteed results backed by experts who have thought the whole thing through for you. This is for people who want to get up, get it done, and get on with your day.
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Originally published at www.thefirsthabit.com on March 6, 2017.