“We do not rise to the level of our motivation, we fall to the level of our systems.” – James Clear
Exercise! For some of you reading, that word gets you FIRED UP! You LOVEthe gym, the intensity of a great lift, or the grind of a long endurance run. Working out makes you feel energized, focused, and mentally stable.
For others, the paragraph above could not be further from the truth! You HATE the thought of going to the gym, and even if you did, you’d have no idea where to start. You are overweight, or at least not making healthy choices. You find yourself drinking extra coffee, energy drinks, etc. just to stay awake during the day, and eventually crash anyway.
That’s where I was in June 2018. I was finishing school while traveling the Southeast trying to grow our other business (which funny enough is in the health and wellness industry), all while routinely making poor dietary decisions. On top of all that, I allowed the excuse of work/school to keep me out of the gym.
In July 2018, I said no more. I was tired of being unhealthy and out of shape, so I decided to make a change.
These 5 tips are what I found to be most helpful to develop a consistent exercise routine:
- Establish WHY you want to exercise
I’m quite a fan of Simon Sinek, who is famous for his book (and movement) Start with Why. I love it because it was one of the first pieces of “bingo” content I ever read in the business/personal development world. Essentially, the idea is that before you can truly commit to something and be fulfilled by it, you need to understand WHY you are doing it.
Before you just run into the gym, take a step back and figure out your WHY. Are you wanting to look better for your spouse? Are you trying to attract a spouse? Do you want to get healthy for yourself? Do you have a medical condition that requires you to lose weight?
The beauty of your WHY is that it is YOURS, and yours only. It can be different from everyone else’s, but it needs to be so deeply planted in your mind that the thought of not achieving it makes you sick.
- Develop specific goals around your WHY
After you’ve solidified your WHY, it’s time to set some specific goals. If you’re WHY is that you want to look better, then set a goal conducive to that. If you’re overweight, set a goal (with a deadline) to lose x number of pounds. Skinny? Time to hit the weights, and set specific weight goals for each lift.
This point may seem elementary, but a goal not written down is ONLY a wish. Write your goals down or type them as a reminder on your phone. Wherever you put it, make sure you can see it daily.
- Consult with a trainer/doctor to determine what exercise you should be doing
All of our bodies are different! So, why do we get so tied to one specific workout routine or diet? Does the Keto work for many people? Yes! Does intermittent fasting help some people burn fat quickly? Yes (it did for me)! Does eating 8 meals a day help some people build muscle? Of course!
However, that doesn’t automatically mean that we should immediately flock to one specific dietary or exercise regimen. We all have different needs, so it is my #1 recommendation to grasp a better understanding of your body by setting an appointment with a doctor and/or nutritionist/trainer. Understand where your biggest health issues arise, and put together a proper schedule to work on those.
- Start with less volume than you think necessary
If you can go from zero exercise to 7 days/week in the gym, more power to you! However, most of us can’t, so this point will be for us.
Matt D’Avella is a filmmaker who puts out consistent content on YouTube and Patreon, and also hosts his own podcast called The Ground Up Show (named after his affinity for a good cup of joe- aka the best method, a pour over). On episode #083, he and James Clear discuss how setting the bar lower for yourself early on can actually be beneficial rather than restrictive.
I’ve linked the episode for you to watch, but the idea’s basic premise is this: Let’s say you currently do not exercise, and then you set a goal to go to the gym 5 times a week. The first step is to ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that I will go the gym 5 days a week?” This is where brutal honesty with yourself is absolutely paramount- lying doesn’t help.
If your answer to that question is 7/10 or less, then drop the # of days by 1 day. Do this until you are confident in the chances being 8/10 or higher, and then STICK TO IT! This will help you create momentum moving forward, and will allow you to get several “wins” in the gym without being overwhelmed. The beautiful thing is, once this gets easy, you can add more!
In July 2018, I had to start small. I had tried the “all or nothing” approach before, and I ended up with nothing every single time. So, I started going to the gym just 3 days a week. While there, I would just do 15 minutes of cardio, and then 20 minutes or so of lifting. Then I’d leave!
This workout certainly would not impress any Hollywood bodybuilders, but it’s what I did to get started. When it got easier, I added on more volume. Then, I started to see change. I took progress pics every month (which I highly recommend), and let those tell the story of my journey rather than the scale.
Today, I lift weights 5 days a week, and exercise in some form every single day. I feel great, and certainly look much better (believe it or not, 210 lbs didn’t look great on my 5’8 frame lol).
- Allow yourself 3 months of little to no progress
This point is about playing tricks on your mind. Will you go the gym for 3 months without seeing any results? No. (If you see no results after 3 months, it may be time for another doctor’s visit).
If you consistently exercise over 3 months, you will see results. Depending on the severity of your current health issues, you could potentially see HUGE results. Regardless, the key is to give yourself a 3-month time span to not worry about immediate feelings or results. This is the time for you to just put your head down, focus on your goals, and stay consistent!
For me, this was the biggest point out of all 5. I had gone to the gym off and on essentially all of college, and it wasn’t until I adopted this mindset that I finally developed the consistency necessary to sustain long term results.
The clock will continue to tick regardless of whether you exercise. If you are not happy with the way you look or feel, then now is the perfect time to do something about it. Start small, stay consistent, and see results!