You might look at those fitness articles out there.
Those with the headlines saying:
Lose 5kg in 5 days!
Never be fat again with these 5 exercises!
You know, those articles with the six-pack abs, the killer bodies…
And you look at yours, and you’re completely deflated.
You read the things they write and think to yourself:
How would these people know?
They’ve never been unfit themselves?
You close the tab in disgust.
We’ve all been there.
Started New Years with great resolutions, bought the gym membership, and then end up not getting to the gym.
Getting another pizza.
Before long, you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, rubbing your tummy, and wondering,
Am I going to be stuck with this for the rest of my life?
Let me share my story.
I wouldn’t call myself a fitness expert. But I do try very hard to be fit.
After all, fitness is something I enjoy.
Here’s the thing.
In September 2019, I let myself go.
I let all of it go.
For 3 years in England, I had been faithfully going to the gym. Benchpress, squats, deadlifts.
Filmed my routines. Analysed how to improve them.
Gotten a trainer.
There were significant shifts in my muscularity.
But when I returned back to Singapore in September 2019, I let it go.
Mind you, I was still trying to exercise.
But to numb the deep grief I felt from the loss of the place, people and peace I had come to enjoy in Nottingham, I started binging on food to soothe myself.
I would stuff myself with biscuits, chocolates and caloric food.
Within a month, I grew by 8kg.
I found myself bloated, and wondering how to lose the weight.
In Jan 2020, I got another coach. Started tracking my calories.
But nothing seemed to work. I still stayed at the same weight of 68kg.
Then COVID hit.
On 6 April 2020, Singapore went into lockdown. With nowhere to go, nothing to do, I started working out.
Day after day.
It’s been 279 days since.
I’m still working out daily.
I started shifting the way I ate.
I used a smaller bowl.
Instead of finishing everything I ate quickly, I ate slowly.
Focused entirely on my food rather than on my food and my phone.
If you asked me what changed, why I started to do all these, I cannot give you a direct answer.
I’m not sure myself.
Part of the motivation was that I was tired of feeling fat and disliking how I looked in the mirror.
Today, I want to share the mindset that worked for me, so that you can use it yourself.
Because you and I know the truth.
The truth isn’t that you don’t have the proper exercises or equipment.
Or that it’s raining and you can’t go out to exercise.
Don’t bluff yourself.
You know those are excuses, not reasons right?
There are two ways this can go.
You can scroll through this article quickly, and then decide:
Oh John is speaking a load of nonsense, and I will continue trying things my way.
Let me guess. You’re here because you’ve tried things your way, and it hasn’t worked.
Or you can go through the article, write down thoughts that struck you and a series of actions you will do moving forward.
Here, I will share with you the attitudes and actions that led me to go from 68kg on 6 April 2020 to 54.6kg on 6 Aug 2020.
A loss of 13.4 kg.
Not by chance, but by intention.
Day after day of workouts for the last 279 days sounds crazy.
When you start, it’s hard.
You wonder if you should do it.
Not if you should do the exercise… because you know you need to do exercise.
But whether you should do it – at this moment, at this time, at this location.
Because there are so many reasons you shouldn’t, right?
Here’s the thing – commit to not missing a single workout.
Makes things easier, right?
No need to think whether you should do it on a Monday, or a weekend.
Just do it, everyday.
Like what Nike says.
That’s easy to say.
But what are the practical steps you can take to ensure that you never miss?
First, set yourself a time. Schedule your workout.
Then, list out the actions you will take before the workout.
Like wear your shoes, get into your exercise kit, then get out.
It can go into those minute details. Try listing that now.
But why do that?
You prime yourself.
Instead of thinking what you need to do to get into a workout, you do it. Follow the list.
Never miss twice.
If you miss one workout, don’t miss it again.
As simple as that.
If you want to make an exercise habit, don’t make a habit of missing workouts.
Get to it again the next day.
Stop waiting for motivation.
There’s a Chinese parable called 守株待兔 .
Here’s the story.
Once, a farmer was out in his field. Whilst on his way home, he saw a rabbit that had run into a pole, knocked itself senseless.
What did this mean?
Dinner for the farmer!
Free dinner! Without even having to work.
The story goes that after that encounter, he stopped tending his farm.
He started waiting at the pole, day after day, for another rabbit to run into the pole, and knock itself senseless.
So that he could get a free dinner.
Why share this story?
Because that’s many of us, isn’t it?
We wait for motivation to strike us.
We think to ourselves:
I don’t feel like it today.
I don’t feel great today.
There’s always tomorrow.
So you keep waiting for the magical hit of motivation to get you out, and start exercising.
Motivation is meaningless.
It’s inconsistent, and a poor predictor of success in your fitness regime for the year.
We often think that motivation starts before the exercise.
The truth is that it starts after the exercise. You do the exercise, the dopamine starts hitting you, and you start thinking,
Wow this feels good.
I want to do more of it.
What’s more meaningful?
Commit to exercising, no matter what you do.
On a calendar, place exercise. After every day of exercise, put a check on it.
Keep the checks going, and never miss another check.
Commit to yourself, not motivate yourself.
Have a failsafe.
How have I exercised for 279 days? Continuously?
Don’t I have times when I don’t have much time? Or when something happens, and it’s difficult to squeeze in a workout for the day?
That’s when I use the failsafe.
The absolute minimum I have to do to get in a workout for the day.
For me, that is:
- 1 set of bicep curls
- 1 set of lateral raises
- 1 set of shoulder presses
As long as you have 10 minutes, you can always squeeze in a failsafe.
The question is,
Do you want to?
Automate it with habit.
You are the sum of your habits.
Remember when I asked you to list out the exact steps you would take before you exercised?
That’s to prime yourself.
It’s also to automate yourself.
When your body starts doing those actions – put your exercise outfit on, put your running shoes on, get out of the house, your mind goes into the ‘CLICK, WHIRR, ACTION!’ Loop.
Think about something like breakfast.
You put cereal in your bowl.
Milk in your cereal.
Put your spoon in the cereal.
Put into your mouth.
It’s a habit.
Same with exercise.
Automate it with the actions you take, that prime you to take the actions that lead you to exercise.
It’s not what you start, but what you stop.
Can I tell you a secret?
I’ve been trying to get a girlfriend for a number of years.
I’ve tried everything. From being more fit, to practising more jokes, to even giving a lady an iPhone once!
Okay, the point of this is not to show you how bad I am at dating women.
I know that already.
It’s to say that I realised how bad I was at dating women that I stopped.
Because none of the actions I was taking was productive to getting me to my end-goal.
Fitness is the same.
It’s not what you start.
It’s what you stop.
Stop having the resolution list to ‘be fit’.
Seriously, chuck that away.
You either use it or lose it.
There’s no point in making resolutions you won’t keep. You end up torturing yourself with feeling bad that you didn’t keep to your resolutions again.
Instead, commit to a series of things you stop doing.
Here’s what I recommend and what I did.
- stop eating gluten
- stop drinking milk
- stop eating after 730pm.
- stop skipping breakfast
- stop drinking sugared drinks
There’s a simple fitness equation to getting more fit/losing weight/ whatever your fitness goal is.
Calories out > Calories in.
Stop doing the things that necessitate you to work even harder.
Start there, and let’s look forward to a greater 2021.
You’ve probably had your own fitness experience too.
What was the most important piece of advice you would give yourself, looking back?
Share it below.