Warning: This story is dramatically different from all of my previous Medium stories, so this is not a metaphor for working out programming problems, it’s about actual workouts, something that us, the developers, usually have a problem with.
I mean, who in their right mind would like to workout when there are fun programming problems to solve, feeds to scroll, and interesting people to exchange ideas with? It’s nice and cozy. It’s the ultimate comfort zone. When you wake up in the morning instead of jumping into your running shoes, you can’t wait to jump on Twitter/Slack/GitHub and see what’s new. Well, I tried to change that behavior for 30 days, and it worked.
My fitness history
Here’s a bit of history about my on/off relationship with fitness. I didn’t care about sports and working out until I was 20. Then I started running, kept it up for a few days/weeks, then stopped. I have repeated this process every now and then. It was very random and I’ve never had a successful and consistent running routine. After a while I became interested in going to the gym, and I literally went nuts about it. I was following a strict diet and I was lifting weights and doing cardio 5–6 times per week. I repeated that and ate the same food every frickin’ day for almost 2 years. People couldn’t believe what was going on with me. I started to look better, feel better, and all that crap. It was all fun and games until at one point when my shoulder started hurting really really bad (probably from bad lifting form) I had to completely stop going. I couldn’t deal with this reality, so I started visiting doctors, therapists, chiropractors, etc. but unfortunately, nothing worked. At that point I just quit the idea that I’ll ever go to the gym again. I gained a bunch of weight, and then I lost it with the Insanity workout program. I went down to around 70–75kg, but I started to look really skinny and unhealthy. Then I gained it back. Same old story.
The last 5 years were a bumpy ride consisted of losing/gaining weight, working out and being a lazy slob, eating right and eating like crap, running for a while and then being sedentary for months. So I tried to pinpoint the problem and this is what I have figured out.
How to work out 24 times in 30 days
First of all, there’s a huge difference between going to the gym and working out on your own. The mere fact that you’re paying for the gym will sometimes kick your ass into gear. Another situation is if you’re working out with a friend, you would feel accountable because you wouldn’t wanna let them down, so sometimes you’ll go to the gym with them even if you feel extremely tired.
Running, or working out on your own, is a completely different story. It’s really hard to be consistent, and here’s the main reason:
You’re letting your brain ask too many questions
- Is the weather nice?
- Maybe it’s going to rain later?
- Am I actually in the mood for a run?
- Do I feel like working out?
- Did I eat enough food today?
- What about carbs, I think I need more carbs
- Ahh, I slept 1 hour less than what I’ve planned… Will I have the strength to finish the workout?
- I just woke up and I feel like crap, should I leave it for tomorrow?
- What about the afternoon? Maybe it’ll be better then. Hmm…
- I had one beer last night, will that affect my workout? Yeah, I’ve read somewhere that it’s a bad idea. Should I just skip today and do it on Thursday? Then I can do the next one on Saturday instead of Mond…
Aaaaand it’s gone. Say goodbye to your workout.
The one and only answer that your brain will *instantly* give you to each one of these questions is: YUP, YOU’RE RIGHT, DON’T DO IT. The longer you think, and the more questions you ask, the more your brain is going to verify the “NO” answer until you eventually give up.
Our brains are smart and stupid as hell at the same time. It’s funny that we can be self aware enough to observe that, but really, sometimes you got to trick that fucker into working for your benefits. If you let your brain construct your workout schedule on the fly for every day/week, you will never do things right. So here’s what I did.
I decided that I’m going to run a 5k every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I’m going to do Ab Ripper X (a home workout program for abs) every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, until the end of summer.
Those were the conditions. So the only question that I ask myself in the morning is:
What day is it today?
If it’s Monday — I’m going out for a run, it’s that simple.
If it’s Tuesday, I’m playing the Ab Ripper X video and I’m sweating my ass off for 20 minutes.
No additional questions asked. I’m running before eating any food - fuck what all the research says, there are always divided opinions about everything. I’m running if rain is pouring all over my face — which in the Netherlands is every second day. I’m running if I’m tired. I’m running if I feel like shit and don’t want to get out of bed. I’m running if I only had 5 hours of sleep the night before. It’s funny that I actually ran my fastest 5k when I had 3 beers and 5 hours of sleep the night before.
I have a pollen allergy, so in the spring I’m usually waking up in a terrible, terrible mood. I cannot even breathe properly for the first 15 minutes of the day. In those moments I literally hate myself and I don’t want to do anything or talk to anyone. So, If I would let my brain ask some questions like: “Am I in the MOOD for a run” or “Do I FEEL like going out for a run now?”, the answer is FUCK NO. But If I ask myself “Is it Monday today?” the answer is FUCK YES. That’s a constant, if it’s Monday — it’s fucking Monday, and it will be Monday the next Monday, and the next Monday, and so on.
You can set a different goal for yourself: Run a 3k every Monday and Friday, Run a 2k every Wednesday, do weightlifting every Tuesday and Thursday, whatever you want. The key is to schedule the exact times and not to be flexible at all about them. If you say “I’ll go out running 2 times this week” or “I’m gonna go to the gym 10 times this month” you’re already screwed. Just set a stricter goal and stick to it.
Surprisingly, this technique works really well for me, and I managed to complete the 24 days of running/ab workouts. I lost around 5 kg (11 lbs) and I have improved my running pace by a minute and a half. In the meantime I’m doing medical treatments for my shoulder 2 times per week, with the hope that I’ll finally be able to go back to the gym again. If you’re curious to see if I’ll commit to my workout goals for the whole summer you can follow me on Twitter, where I usually post my updates.
Thanks for reading this! Now it’s time to close Medium, decide on your goal and ask yourself:
What day is it today?