40 DB Clean @ 45/30
40 DB Push Press
40 DB Deadlift
40 Pull Up
From The Art of Manliness
Brett and Kate McKay | January 2, 2018
The 10 Best Ways to Make Exercise an Unbreakable Habit
Exercising regularly is surely one of the most commonly made New Year’s resolutions. And surely one of the most commonly broken. Gyms around the world fill up with freshly-minted members in January . . . who are almost all gone by February.
If you’ve resolved and failed, and resolved and failed to start working out consistently, you know it can be a really discouraging cycle. Cementing the exercise habit can seem like an impossible task.
But it truly doesn’t have to be, as long you take the right approach. Below we share 10 key tactics that will help you make exercise an unbreakable habit.
#1: Do something you enjoy doing.
I’ve been barbell training for the past two years, and during that time I’ve missed just a handful of workouts, and only when stricken with an extreme illness (I still work out if I’m just a little sick). I’ve trained on Thanksgiving. I’ve trained on Christmas. I’ve trained on vacation. But I don’t have this streak going because I’m super dedicated and disciplined and force myself to work out even when I don’t want to.
I merely enjoy barbell training. A lot! I don’t work out so regularly because I’m a hard-as-nails badass, but because I want to. Because I like it.
When it comes to exercise, people tend to think that for it to work, it has to be unpleasant. They think exercise is like eating Brussels sprouts; you may not like the taste, but you’ve got to get ‘em down because they’re good for you. Yet while these folks can flog themselves to exercise for a few weeks or even a few months out of a sense of dour obedience, they’re ultimately kicking against the pricks. Eventually, their dislike for their chosen regimen overpowers their will, and they stop working out altogether.
It’s true that to be effective all exercise will involve some discomfort. And it’s true that certain kinds of exercise are more or less effective than others. But all exercise is good for you, any exercise is better than none, and if you choose the right form of it — the form that’s right for you — it can in fact hurt so good and be a source of great pleasure.
Lots of people will say you should do CrossFit; that you should run; that you should do barbell training. These people mean well. They likely enjoy those activities and have gotten results from them and want you to experience the same benefit. But if you don’t like what they think you “should” be doing, you’re not going to do it.
Instead of should-ing on yourself by exercising the way some person or some magazine told you to, find something that you enjoy doing. This will take some time and experimentation. If you don’t like road running, try trail running. If you don’t like running at all, try rucking. If you don’t like lifting weights, try a bodyweight program. If you don’t like working out by yourself, try joining a CrossFit class, or a martial arts school, or a team sport.
I spent nearly ten years begrudgingly doing cardio-heavy and CrossFit-like workout programs before I discovered my love for barbell training. I recently found that I also enjoy rucking and MovNat as well, so that’s part of my exercise routine, too. Exercise is now something I look forward to — it in fact feels like one of the best parts of my life; consequently, it would take more discipline for me not to do a workout than to do one!
Bottom line: if you want to make exercise a habit, start off by picking an activity you enjoy. If you do that, you’ll be 90% there to becoming a man who exercises religiously.
#2: Put your training schedule on your calendar.
Besides picking an activity that they don’t enjoy doing, the other thing that keeps people from regularly exercising is not setting aside time for it on their calendar. For these folks, exercise is one of those things that they’ll get to . . . if they have time for it. But, of course, they never do, because something else always comes up.
If you want time to exercise, you have to make time for it. And the best way to do that is to schedule your workouts on your calendar and treat them like doctor’s appointments. Just as you’d tell someone you were busy if they wanted to do something at the same time you were scheduled to see a doc, you’re going to inform people you’re busy when they ask you to do something during your workout “appointment.”
#3: Experiment to find the workout time that’s best for you.
At what time should you schedule your workout “appointments”? That’s up to you.
Many people find that it’s best to exercise first thing in the morning; that way, when they get tired and stressed, or “urgent” to-do’s pile-up as the day goes on, their workout doesn’t end up getting pushed off the schedule. When you put the big rocks in first, all the small rocks can fit too.
However, that’s not an inviolable rule for everyone. Everybody’s got different work/life schedules and different rhythms to their daily energy and motivation. Maybe you’ll love working out at lunchtime or at night. You’ll never know unless you try. Experiment with different options and see what works best for you.
#4: Remove obstacles with a pre-workout checklist.
When I interviewed bodyweight training coach Anthony Arvanitakis for the podcast, he told me that one thing he does to ritualize his workouts is to use a pre-workout checklist. His checklist includes making sure his phone is charged so it won’t quit playing music in the middle of his workout, putting the phone in airplane mode so calls and texts won’t create distractions, filling up his water bottle, preparing equipment in his gym so nothing’s missing and everything’s right at hand, and changing into certain workout clothes.
Arvanitakis keeps this checklist on an index card and reviews it each day, as he says he finds doing so “comforting.” As he observes, “The most difficult part in a workout is getting started,” and “Having that list gets you in the flow.” It eliminates decision-making and friction, so there’s less standing in the way of you getting your sweat on.