I’ll do it tomorrow…

Everyday, Exercise, Psychology, Purpose, Motivation, Training

So much to do, so little time. No wonder some things get pushed to the next day.

We’ve all been there…

I get home after a long day at work, not to mention a breakdown-inducing commute, only to face a list of chores which includes making dinner, cleaning the kitchen, paying a bill, assisting with kids’ homework, bath, story time, etc., and, of course, exercising.

After a short internal debate (very short, because there simply is not much time to debate), I come to the obvious conclusion: “I’m too tired, and there’s too much to do, so I’ll exercise tomorrow instead.”

The details vary, but the scenario is similar, whether it’s you, me, or our neighbours living through such a story. More often than not, the decision is to postpone the workout.

It is not a flaw of character: It is simply human nature. It is a form of procrastination, but it is mostly due to our tendency to view the future more optimistically than we have reason to: Although we feel tired now, we still feel we won’t be as tired next time.

Because, of course, what happens the next day, is pretty much the same story… And so days go by that we don’t exercise.

It gets worse: After a couple of days missed, OK maybe three, the brain switches to thinking: “Well, this week is screwed, so I’ll start fresh next week.” It’s the ultimate version of “I’ll do it tomorrow…”

Skipping one workout because something else comes up, or being sick, or really, really needing the time for something else, can happen. It is no big deal. The problem arises when it is not the exception anymore. The real problem is when exercising becomes the exception, not the regular occurrence. When “I’ll do it tomorrow…” is everyday, instead of exercise being everyday.

Let’s face it, very few of us are able to maintain an exercise regimen day in, day out. It is not easy. Heck, I do a few marathons and one iron distance triathlon each year, and I have a hard time keeping a steady exercise regimen.

But some people are capable of doing it.

Those who do are either exercise nuts who don’t really do anything else (you’ve met some, admit it), or have a very clear purpose for training (like elite athletes, which you also think are nuts, but you respect that kind of nuts), or are extremely motivated (for a while, but it does not last), or… are nearly unnoticeable because they operate on auto-pilot.

That’s right: Auto-pilot.

Making decisions is hard

Exercise, Everyday, Training

Just push the button, and let it go.

Why do I say they are on auto-pilot?

Because many who manage to exercise have understood something critical to maintaining a regimen: Mental energy is often in low supply, so if you rely on making the decision to exercise, more often than not you won’t.

So exercise, for those people, is the default behaviour. There is no question, there is no debate. You might be surprised that you don’t see them all that much because they tend to be quieter than the highly motivated or the exercise nuts. They don’t fuss; they just move.

There are two ways this can be achieved, and there is one very important trick you can use to increase the odds of success.

Auto-pilot mode

The first way is to turn your own, internal, auto-pilot mode to ON. It is not easy, and it takes a bit of time to stick (is it 21 days, or more?).

An auto-pilot mode is like a switch that you must program, a mental shortcut that just gets triggered whenever needed.

When you catch yourself asking the question “do I want to exercise” you must immediately answer “yes, of course” and then just do it. (Not trying to infringe on Nike’s trademark, but those are three really good words to tell yourself.)

The sooner you catch yourself and switch to automatically respond in the affirmative, the easier it is. For instance, if you wait until you’ve already told yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow…”, it is much more difficult to tell yourself “No, I’m doing it today.”

But that’s exactly what you must do.

Everyday. Until it becomes automatic.

A trick that helps a great deal is to put exercise on your daily agenda first thing in the morning. Even if it means having to get up earlier. That way, when evening comes, you’ll actually have more energy, and the chores will still be doable.

Let someone else be your pilot

The second way to have an auto-pilot is to actually let someone else be your pilot. Perhaps only for a while, to get over the hump of starting a good habit and jump-starting your own auto-pilot programming.

How does that work?

Get a coach.

And then do what the coach tells you to do.

As you follow the instructions of the coach, notice how things are simpler. Enjoy the free time from having to make decisions. All the decisions are made for you. All you have to do is, well, “do”.

But pick a good coach, one that understands what you are trying to do, and has your interests at heart. That way he or she will have you do things that make sense, in the right intensity, to get you fitter and healthier.

Getting that sort of help is not a sign of weakness. Quite the contrary: It shows resolve for doing the right thing for your body. A commitment to what is important.

After all, top athletes all have coaches. (Many even have more than one, by the way.)

Isn’t it time you consider yourself also an athlete? Albeit, an everyday athlete?

That time is today. No more “I’ll do it tomorrow…”!

Exercise, Everyday, Athlete, Everyday Athlete

You need to make your habit of exercising an automatic behaviour.

Images from Pixabay

Do this to be healthier and save money

Supplements, Diet, Everyday, Health

That’s what Echinacea looks like. Pretty. But you don’t need to eat any.

Have I got a good and easy deal for you today! Guaranteed results! Free of charge, too!

A simple action you can set in motion today, and easily maintain for the rest of your life. One that will pay handsome dividends both in terms of your health, and in your wallet.

What is it? Here it is:

Never buy dietary supplements ever again.

Simple enough, right?

I know, I know, you want to tell me that you already don’t use that stuff, so this advice does not apply to you.

Well, the statistics are pretty clear on the subject: About 20% of us regularly buy some sort of supplement, be it protein or herbal “stuff” with wildly exaggerated properties, none of which have been scientifically demonstrated. The industry of supplements is estimated to be raking in some $5 billions annually. Taken together, those numbers mean that if none of you admit to taking some, some of you are lying.

By the way, I’m not talking about pills of vitamins or minerals. To be fair, unless you have a medically diagnosed condition that requires you to supplement your nutrition with vitamins or minerals, they are also a waste of money. Were I to include them, the proportion of those who take some sort of supplement on a regular basis would go above 50%. And the value of the industry would go to some $30 billions, most of which wasted by consumers because they simply don’t need any supplements.

No, I’m talking about the large number of products, supposedly based on plants, which are touted as cures or insurance for a wide range of diseases or problems. And for which there is no credible scientific support.

Worse than that, however, is the fact, well demonstrated scientifically in this case, that the supplements often don’t even contain what they claim to contain.

So, to put a big nail in the coffin: Even if you insist on believing that Echinacea, for instance, has some near-miraculous effect on your health, taking a pill that does not even contain Echinacea will definitely not do anything for you. But it will still cost you a pretty penny.

How can I make such a bold claim as “it is good for your health” to not take any supplements, you ask? It follows logically:

If makers of those supplements can make outlandish claims about their properties without having to demonstrate them, and they still don’t get sued out of business, then it must be because the supplements don’t really do anything. Therefore, not using them must be as good for you as using them.

Except when the supplements actually do hurt people, because the stuff they contain is sometimes dangerous. In which case, not taking supplements is much more healthy than taking some. (Just have a look at this Consumer Report, or do a search on the Web for “dietary supplements pulled from shelves”…)

At best, supplements don’t do anything; at worst, they might have seriously bad consequences. Ergo, not taking supplements is healthier, on average, than taking some. And it does not cost a thing, so start thinking about what you could do instead with the money you will save. As my wife would put it: QED.

If you ever feel the urge to pop a pill made of lord knows what, do this instead: Have a tall glass of water, but without the pill.

Think of it as the ultimate dosage of homeopathic medicine against dietary supplements. (I hope most of you get that. It is quite funny, if I do say so myself.)

So, maximize your health, and that of your wallet, by not buying supplements. If you really must take minerals or vitamins because of a medical condition, of course, do so; otherwise, don’t bother.

And move, everyday.

You’re welcome.

Picture from Pixabay

By the way, this report from 2013 that started the ball rolling for the New York State Attorney General’s office to ban some supplements is worth watching as well.

Some is good, more is better, too much is still undetermined?

Running, Exercise, Science, Everyday

Running: Some is good, more is better, but too much is… too much?

This post is about the danger, and strong temptation, of drawing conclusions when it comes to fitness.

There is a process by which it can be done: It is called science.

But it is a lengthy process, one that is deeply human (and that can therefore err) but also fundamentally self-correcting (thus its immense success, without which you would not be reading this, among other things you do on a daily basis).

There are shortcuts, sometimes pretending to be science, but in fact nothing more than wishful thinking. Common sense, sometimes based on anecdotes, falls in this category.

Science is fundamentally always questioning itself. Common sense and anecdotes appear much more solid, which explains their success.

The main issue, it seems, is that most of us are more comfortable with solid, unequivocal conclusions than with questions.

Take a recent example, from just two days ago.

A small research team published results from an analysis of data on mortality and jogging habits of people living in Copenhagen. So far, this is science.

The title of the paper indicates what was being analyzed. The results suggest a possible negative effect of “strenuous” jogging.

That’s all most bloggers and some journalists needed to draw firm conclusions. That’s news. But it is no longer science.

Take a moment to read some of these (they basically say the same thing): BBC, Time, and Huffington Post.

Those titles, and some of the statements, are strong conclusions, mostly taken from the title of the research paper and probably from a press release stating a few key aspects of the research (thus the similarities between the three).

Running, Exercise, Everyday, Science

Go ahead and do it?

The problem is that the research is still lacking in statistical significance with respect to the strongly stated conclusions. The paper itself is not strongly concluding, but stating that the results suggest an increased risk. That raises the question; it is not a firm conclusion.

Of course, to those strong conclusions, some folks with a keen interest in promoting running had to take a dissenting position. That’s what is sometimes called “a debate.” (Note: Not a scientific debate, but one in the public sphere.)

Take a moment to read this Runner’s World blogger.

He makes some valid points about statistical significance, but he also acts disingenuously when trying to imply that the methodology is not correct. (That’s what peer reviewers are there for, not some blogger.)

And by pointing out the small numbers, as if they were by themselves cause to not pay attention to the research, he is giving a false impression of what science is all about. By thus strongly concluding against the findings, he is also part of the problem.

Now, pause for a moment, and consider whether you are more comfortable with the strong conclusions, whichever you like better, or with the uncertainty that, perhaps, too much of something might actually be bad.

Because that question is worth asking.

To use an analogy: You need to breathe oxygen to live; air with a slightly increased oxygen percentage promotes recovery; too much oxygen in percentage in the air you breathe and you die.

So it would stand to reason that some exercise is good for you; more exercise is better, but “too much” can be deadly.

It is worth investigating, not denying. What it is not worth doing is becoming sedentary over…

Because even though “is too much bad for you?” is a valid question, the question “is doing some good for you?” has generated a lot of evidence behind a positive answer, even though it is also still a valid scientific question.

That’s what science provides: Degrees of confidence. Never absolute conclusions.

No matter what anyone tells you about it.

Unfortunately, degrees of confidence don’t sell magazines, or gym memberships. Certainty does.

So you should move. A lot. Everyday. And it seems pretty certain that if you keep the intensity moderate, you’ll be safe.

Safer, and healthier, than if you don’t move at all. I’m pretty confident about that.

Running, Exercise, Science

Better move than not. Better more than too little.

Pictures taken by the author at various running events.

Discipline: The 5 Practices – Practice 5

Exercise, Discipline, Everyday, Training, Sports

Find ways to find it fun to exercise. At times, it won’t be easy.

Find your fun!

There: That’s it. That’s the fifth Practice of Discipline. Nothing more to add.

Ok, maybe a few things to add.

Find your fun is an essential practice of discipline because, contrary to most people’s view about discipline, you should not drag yourself through unpleasant activities day after day after day…

That old view of discipline must go out the window.

But you must make an effort, at times, to find the fun in what you are doing. Especially when you are doing it everyday.

What does that mean, practically speaking?

Ways to find your fun

I’m a big fan of traveling and visiting places I don’t know, even in my own city. I always find that pleasant, be it on a bike or while doing a long run. Even if it is in my own city, I enjoy taking detours that I have not taken before. That, for me, is fun.

To some, it could be always doing a very nice loop (walking, running, rollerblading, biking, etc.) in a beautiful park, or in a particularly nice residential area. Perhaps to notice doing it faster each time, but that should not be necessary.

To others it might be exercising on a stationary device (bike, treadmill, elliptical) while watching a favourite show, or a “guilty pleasure show you would not be caught watching otherwise, or listening to a podcast series on an interesting topic.

Perhaps it is to pick up again a sport you used to like doing when you were younger. Think back to then: How about badminton, tennis, basketball, water-polo? Sure, it might require finding a group to have fun with, but they exist, you just have to look for them.

It could also simply be a thought while you walk/run/cycle/swim: “I’ll be in better shape for the next time I… (insert activity for which you want to be more fit).” That’s OK as well, though it is better to find your fun in the situation you are in while exercising, not just in some future version of you.

The best fun, in my experience, comes from appreciating how your body feels as you exercise, and observing the environment around you. Especially in the environment, you can find ever changing and renewed fun everyday.

I also enjoy talking to people while I run. Especially long runs, or marathons. This is my fun, not necessarily the fun of those I talk to. You have to be careful about how you find your fun, because the fun invariably ends where someone else’s NOT FUN begins…

The best fun is solitary fun

The point is, no matter what it is, you need to find some.

Many resort to finding a training buddy, or joining some sort of team or “fitness” class. Nothing wrong with that. However, a word (or two) of caution:

When you become dependent on a partner, or on a group, for your fun, you risk stopping whatever activity it is that you’ve undertaken. For instance, if your partner does not show up. Or if the class comes to an end.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding fun within yourself. More to the point: within your own attitude towards the exercise and the world around you.

Fun for two

Fun with a partner is, as indicated earlier, acceptable.

More than that: It is an excellent way of having great fun. The closer the partner (spouse, close friend, etc.), the better the fun, and the more likely the fun will be reciprocal, and repeatable.

Be it chatting while walking/running/stationary something, or playing doubles tennis/badminton/etc., sharing a fitness-increasing activity can enhance it.

However, as noted earlier, you should not rely on an exercise partner: What if your doubles partner does not show up? What if the exercise itself causes tension with your significant other.

Better be careful, and make sure you can find fun by yourself.

Group fun

Group fun is also acceptable. It can be an excellent way of finding fun in the beginning.

But careful if you come to rely of the stimulus offered by a group (and/or a cheerleader-coach) for your fun: That’s a pretty much certain sign that your fun is teetering on the edge of not being enough to sustain your activity level.

As we all know, too much stimulation leads to a saturation, and an inability to find the fun in more mundane situations (like fun for two, or fun on your own).

To be sure, get started and use whatever means to find the fun at first, but make sure to branch off and find the fun on your own as soon as possible.

The key thing is to move a lot more.

Your body will enjoy that.

It’s up to you to bring your mind around to enjoying it as well. And that’s where discipline comes in…

Image from Pixabay.