I recently went on vacation to San Francisco with my wife and our five-month-old baby. It was our first time traveling on a plane with our son, which turned out not to be as horrifying as I had feared. I played solo daddy for four days while my wife went to a conference, and then we had a few glorious days of California sunshine, overeating, and spending time with friends.
Jason, our other morning coach and gym admin extraordinaire, wrote me a travel workout program. It consisted of things I could do without any equipment (push-ups, lunges) and was supposed to be no longer than 15-20 minutes long.
Unfortunately, I somehow managed to get through our entire vacation without once doing a workout. I had some fantastic excuses that I won’t bore you with (but if you must ask, I walked over four hours almost daily; our son slept poorly and kept us up all night; and having eaten way too much seafood the night before, I didn’t feel it was safe to disturb my digestion by moving around too much).
Anyway, after returning to Indianapolis, I felt like I was starting over from zero. This is very demotivating, and so of course I chose to wallow in my self-pity rather than actually start over.
Finally, after wasting another (few) weeks on feeble excuses, I decided that enough was enough and started exercising again. And you know what? After I started, it really wasn’t so bad.
There’s no trick. You just have to get started, and the resistance eventually melts away. It’s like procrastinating on anything — writing a term paper, filing your taxes, proposing to your girlfriend (I wouldn’t know anything about that one). Once you get started, it’s much easier to keep going. It’s just getting started that’s the hard part.
Okay, there is ONE trick. The trick is to make it as easy as possible. As low-resistance as possible. I’ve talked previously about how flossing just one tooth, as silly as it sounds, can eventually get you to get in the habit of flossing your teeth.
So when I did my first workout after my extended vacation, it was super easy. In fact, it was too easy.
Instead of warming up for 20 minutes, I skipped the warmup. (To avoid injury, I kept the weights light.) That way, I couldn’t tell myself, “I don’t have time to get a good warmup, so I’ll just skip this workout.”
Instead of doing three or four sets of squats, I did two.
Don’t tell anyone, but I even skipped my conditioning at the end.
I was done with my “workout” in 15 minutes.
What’s important is not that first workout. It’s the second, and the third, and all the workouts that follow.
So while I probably could have made myself work harder in that first workout, I was setting myself up for success over the next week and the next month.
We all get sick, take vacations, or find some other way to fall off the wagon. The next time that happens to you, try making it ridiculously easy for yourself (floss one tooth!) to get back in the habit, and let me know how it goes.