How to Stay Consistent with Exercise


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Introduction

Hello, I am a friend of Kris' and I will be a guest writer from time to time on the section of his blog called "How to be a Human". My name is Ju and since this series is called "How to be a Human", I will be referring to myself as a Juman because I like puns.

Before I start, I'd like to make note that this blog post is not about losing weight. Weight loss is 100% diet. Exercise is a tool to help speed up the weight-loss process. Also, everything in this blog post is of my personal opinion so don't take it too seriously if you don't agree ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. This post is geared towards those who want to get started with exercising or have started but are struggling to stay consistent.

I want to start off with a little bit about my background and experience with exercise. I started exercising around 2008 (wow that's ten years now) because my main goal was literally "not be fat". Yes it's a vain reason but a reason nonetheless and it's what got me started. For many years, I just dicked around with exercise and had a lot of on and off periods. I never took exercise too seriously and "got lazy" for several months at a time. And that's okay. Exercise and consistency is a life-long journey. Around mid-late 2012, I started becoming consistent with exercise and only had one period of time where I stopped for a few months in mid 2016. I have been consistent and never "gave up" or "got lazy" since. And for the record, no, my goal/reason for exercising is no longer "not be fat". With that being said…

Identify a goal for exercising

A lot of people who give up on exercise do so because they forget about why they even started in the first place. Without a clear goal or reason in mind, exercise seems a bit pointless don't you think? Why are you exercising? Is it to lose weight? Look good? Become stronger? To impress someone? To show your ex what they're missing out on? No matter what the goal is, identify it, and remember it. Think of your goal when you're having trouble getting started on a workout session to remind yourself why you are exercising. Notice I'm using the term "remind yourself" instead of "motivate yourself". There's a reason for that, which brings me to the next topic that I want to talk about.

Motivation is not the answer

Have you ever felt really motivated to do something only to feel meh about it the next day? For example, maybe you are a graphic designer and you and your friends just had an amazing brainstorming session that resulted in some very cool ideas. You feel excited and you're motivated to start a new project but when it comes to actually starting the project, you're not that hyped up about it anymore. The reason for this is that the feeling of motivation is fleeting. Like all feelings, motivation comes and goes. In order to stay consistent with exercise, you should not rely on or let motivation dictate your exercise. So what does help with exercising consistently? Discipline and habit. Develop the discipline to stick to your exercise no matter what. Don't feel like exercising? Be disciplined and push yourself to just do it anyway. To help with remaining disciplined, make exercise into a habit. Do it on the same days each week and at the same time of day. Learn to mentally "cue" yourself into exercising, for example: when I get home from work on Mondays to Thursdays, I empty my pockets and then get changed into my workout clothing right away. Getting changed into my workout clothing is the cue that tells my brain and body "okay, it's time to exercise."

One trick about making exercise into a habit that I really like is to treat exercise like brushing your teeth. Every night, when you are about to brush your teeth, are you thinking "Oh boy! I'm so motivated to brush my teeth!!!! anticipation emoji"? Most likely not. You do it because it's a habit and you were taught at a young age to be disciplined to do it every night. Exercise should be treated in the same manner when it comes to staying consistent.

Start small

Another reason I find that causes someone to give up exercising, especially if they are just starting out, is that they overreach, become overwhelmed, and then burn out quickly as a result. You need to start small and take baby steps. Like really really baby steps. Make the steps so small and effortless that it's laughable. This is a personal-life application of a technique called Kaizen. I recommend watching the following video for more information (don't mind the overly muscular children in the video thumbnail:

An example of applying Kaizen to exercise is: if you are just starting out, for your first workout session, your first baby step can be "get changed into workout clothes". That's it. Congrats, you just finished your first workout session. For your next session, get changed and perform one rep of a warm-up exercise. Feeling brave? Perform three whole reps of a warm-up exercise. When you slowly and incrementally increase the difficulty and number of things you do per workout session, it doesn't really feel that hard. You need to learn to crawl before you learn to walk before you learn to run. Or if you prefer gaming analogies, you need to start at lvl 1 and grind that sweet sweet exp to reach lvl 5 so that you can learn your character's first ability, then grind some more to meet the exp requirements for your next ability. Keep grinding little by little to learn all of your abilities, and then grind some more to reach max level and the endgame where you can truly min-max your stats.

Do exercises that you enjoy

feel enjoy

Why do exercises that you hate? That's called torturing yourself. Staying consistent with exercise is a lot easier if you enjoy what you are doing. I don't have much else to say about this.

Never stop learning

Once you get into the habit of exercising and start to take exercise more seriously, you'll definitely have questions. There are so many things to learn in the world of exercise that it shouldn't really get boring as long as you are continuing to look for things to learn about. For example if you are a beginner, you may want to do research on the proper form for an exercise. Let's say you are learning about the squat. You start looking up how to do the squat in perfect form. That leads you into learning that in order to perform squats the right way, you need to have good hip and ankle mobility. Oh, you don't know what mobility is? You start researching mobility and then find yourself learning about different stretches. When you learn about stretches you might run into information about dynamic stretches vs. static stretches, and etc. What about maximizing muscle recovery? When you start looking up how to properly recover your muscles, you will come across topics such as nutrition, sleep, the autonomic nervous system, etc. and each of those are a rabbit hole of their own. If you're at an intermediate level, try looking for a new exercise or skill to learn and that should open up a whole new chain of things to learn about. Here are a few things to look into learning if you are a beginner (in no particular order):

  • Proper form for your exercises of choice
  • Dynamic vs. static stretches and when to do them
  • How much protein you need for your body
  • The sympathetic nervous system vs. the parasympathetic nervous system
  • How sleep affects your muscle recovery
  • Mobility and flexibility
  • Deloading
  • Carb timing
  • Self-massage
  • How to breathe properly during exercise

Find inspiration

one punch man workout

Whether it be watching Goku train in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber for ten episodes in a row, listening to Saitama tell you about his training routine (100 PUSH-UPS, 100 SIT-UPS, 100 SQUATS, AND 10KM RUNNING! EVERY SINGLE DAY! [I don't recommend this routine though]), or just seeing someone else perform a cool bodyweight skill, it's important to find some sort of inspiration. I once read a book with a very cheesy, marketing fluff-esque title called "The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence" and to quote the book:

"The law of Mental Magnetism states that you will draw to yourself that which you most persistently think about. And, here we must remind ourselves of something we said earlier: no person is what he thinks he is, but what he thinks, he is!"

In other words, this can be interpreted as "you are what you think" or "You become what you think". If you are looking at exercise inspiration, then you are subconsciously thinking about exercise and what you persistently think about will become reality. It's sort of like self-induced inception.

Conclusion

The topics discussed above are the things that have kept me exercising consistently over the years and will continue to do so for many years to come. I am by no means a professional and everything I have written about is from personal experience. If I am able to inspire just one person into starting exercise and staying consistent for at least a year, then I will be a very happy juman.