Fitness Isn’t About Hours, It’s About Sustainable Habits

Paul Harrell
May 29, 2019 · 4 min read
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When I was younger, I was a workout fiend. Anything I did, I did to extremes. If it was running, I’d run for an hour one day, an hour and a half the next day, then complete the cycle on the third day with a two-hour run and then begin the cycle all over. It was great, until my back was fried through all the running on pavement. When I lifted, I was spending hours working out. I could bench press twice my weight and do 30 chin-ups. Until my shoulders gave out. Children came into the family, and suddenly time was short. And I do mean short!

The Solution

It was clear I had two choices. Give up, or restructure. I looked at my calendar, and found it pretty easy to get up 35 minutes early to get a workout in. My workouts lasted 30 minutes. That’s all. Question is, was 30 minutes enough? Studies at the Mayo Clinic recommend that we get 150 minutes of exercise each week, with two additional days of specific strength training. The math works out to 30 minutes per day. So, that’s the minimum, but will it do anything? I want results. In a study out of Copenhagen, publicized by WebMD, reflects that men who worked out 30 minutes, lost more weight (average of 8 pounds) than those who worked out 60 minutes per day (6 pound average). Restructure it was.

The Plan

I needed to create a habit involving cue, routine and reward. I’d studied the habit loop after I learned of it in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. I got up 35 minutes early, entered the kitchen, got my caffeine (this became my cue). I made sure to habit stack the new habit with one I already had, morning caffeine. The cue was already ingrained and now I just altered the routine that followed. Instead of sitting down and opening up my computer, I set the timer for 30 minutes. That was the start of my routine. The rest of the routine was to complete one of three 30-minute workouts that I went through without pause (while watching a continuing series on Netflix). My reward started as intrinsic, my getting a win each morning fueled me. It quickly morphed into both intrinsic and extrinsic as people noticed my body slowly change. After a few weeks, I was hooked. It felt too good to get my 30-minute win completed to even think about skipping. And, the results were piling up.

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Think of it like you do saving money

You want to save $520 this year? Well, you could just carve out the money from your next paycheck and be done with it. But, maybe you can’t afford that. So, you decide to carve out of your expenses $10 per week. Not quite as painful, yet achieves the same result. You exercise 30 minutes per day. In a year, you’d have exercised more than 182 hours. That’s a number that makes a difference! And, your chances of keeping this habit up? If you’ve set up your loop correctly, it won’t fail you. Putting hundreds of little workout wins together creates a large scale win you, and those around, you will notice.

How Am I Doing?

I’ve been diligent at this for a few years now. Four years ago, I had a 90% blockage of my “Widow Maker” artery. One stent later, I created a habit loop that didn’t interfere with my daily routine, one I could do, and something that creates results. I’m now the same size I was in college. I’m doing 1,000 crunches a workout, my beautiful bride of 24 years loves the result, and I feel a sense of accomplishment each morning. Oh yea, I’m 66 years old…

Your Call to Action

If I did this, you can crush it.

· Step 1: Set up your 30 minutes per day now. What will you have to alter? For me, it was 35 minutes of sleep. What will you trade for success?

· Step 2: Decide what your routine will be. Kettlebells, Fit Board? what else do you need to get started?

· Step 3: Habit stack it to a habit you already have. For me, it was my morning caffeine. Find something you already do just before the time you’ve set aside, and stack your new habit on it.

· Step 4: Celebrate each win. Not every 5, but each one. See how many in a row you can do without missing.

· Step 5: Enjoy a new fit life that’s sustainable.

I’ll repeat Zig Ziglar’s quote, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” So, start… your greatness awaits you, built 30 minutes at a time…

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Paul Harrell

Written by

I began Over the Wall Coaching, not asking if I’d be successful, but rather how many people could I help achieve their dreams.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 150,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Paul Harrell

Written by

I began Over the Wall Coaching, not asking if I’d be successful, but rather how many people could I help achieve their dreams.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 150,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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