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Here's One Thing That Helped Me Build An Exercise Routine

William Kennedy
Developer. General nerd. Always wanted to build an good workout app.
Updated on ・2 min read

There was a great question by @ben about morning routines.

It inspired me to share a piece of advice about building exercise routines that I found helpful when building up my gym routine(3-4 days a week for the last 6 years).

Take your goal and make it smaller.

Let's say you wanted to go running 2k everyday but you don't run at the moment.

When faced with this in the past, my approach would be to try and simply do it. Yet, I would peter out after 3 or 4 days.

The commitment was too big. Before the run, I started thinking of everything involved with the run. How long the run will take, the shower afterwards, the food and the water. Pretty soon, my brain will talk my way out of running. My brain made a mountain out of a molehill.

Then I came across this talk by Bj Fogg which helped me break down my goals into what I call microgoals.

Now if I wanted to start a routine of running 2k everyday, I would look at the goal and then ask, what's the smallest achievement that I can make just to get me started?

Armed with this perspective, my aim is now to put on my running shoes and step outside. Super simple. I've turned my mental mountain back into a mental molehill.

Once I'm outside, I start running. However, I tell myself that getting dressed and getting outside is good enough.

BJ Fogg breaks down building a dental flossing habit in his talk. Instead of aiming to floss all teeth, we just aim to floss one. After flossing the first one, flossing the rest of your teeth is easy because you got past the hardest barrier. Getting starter.

The teeth flossing examples applies to many other habits and routines we might want to build.

We all have big goals but the hardest part of any goal is getting started. Breaking your goals into daily micro goals might be the best place to start.

Finally, if you're building a new routine and you miss a day or week. Don't feel guilty. Just acknowledge it and start again.

Hope this helps.

Discussion (4)

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ellativity profile image
Ella Ang (she/her/elle)

The hardest part is showing up

is a really popular phrase in the yoga community. Variations include "the hardest part is getting on the mat" ("The hardest part of any practice is rolling out your mat" is attributed to Darren Main in The River of Wisdom but had been commonly heard well before that). There's even a phrase to describe the feeling: mat resistance

And sometimes it's true, but have you ever experienced getting started only to realize that it wasn't the hardest part?

Especially when movement is part of my morning routine, I often find that the hardest part is staying present rather than just going through the motions. Like, sometimes I'm really sleepy and I'll just forced myself out of bed with the principle of showing up, but once I show up I find it hard to get into the zone or flow of what I'm doing, so this is a big area of focus for me right now.

I'd love to hear from others whether or not they experience this as well.

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_williamkennedy profile image
William Kennedy Author

Starting something new is hard. Sticking to something and seeing it through is also hard.

That's the second half of the problem. When I'm doing something hard, I always treat as if I'm leveling up in a game.

So when I'm doing yoga, I would think, "last time I held this postition for 10 seconds, this time, I'll try for 12".

So instead of sticking it out, I'm just looking for an improvement.

That's just me though. I'm sure other people have different inner monolouges going on in their head.😝

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lee profile image
Lee Wynne

All the time @ellativity - tends to be what’s on my mind and what’s driving my emotions (especially if something has upset me) Just like this:

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lee profile image
Lee Wynne

I fall foul to this all the time. If I haven’t trained for a while, I’ll push it too hard then I don’t feel like training for another week because I am so sore 🤦‍♂️. What I should do is ignore my ego and build it up slowly.

@kpwags wrote a good post on this that’s worth a look: