Picking up a habit

I’ve become incredibly undisciplined about working out.

I could blame work, but the truth is I haven’t been meeting my exercise goals for some time.  My goal every week is to do 4 cardio sessions, whether running or elliptical, and three weight-bearing sessions, whether yoga, weights, or pilates.  Let’s take a look at my stats for the past month:

  • Last week: zero workouts
  • Week of 5/29: 1 cardio, 1 yoga
  • Week of 5/22: 3 cardios, 1 yoga; 1 weight training
  • Week of 5/15: 2 cardios; 2 yogas
  • Week of 5/8: 3 cardios; 1 yoga; 1 weight training
  • Week of 5/1: 2 cardios; 2 yogas; 1 weight training

I haven’t hit my cardio goal at all this month, and while 3 sessions of cardio is still pretty good, I’ve only done that twice.  I always feel better when I’m working out more, but even when I’m not too busy, I find it so easy just not to do it.  What’s the barrier?  The fact that the gym is a five-minute walk as opposed to right downstairs, like it was at my old job?  Or that other things are just more important, like spending time with MB and writing?  Should I just accept it’s okay if other things take priority?

I’m still in the mentality that a cardio workout is better, and that if I can’t get in a run or the elliptical, then why bother exercising at all? I have to remind myself that doing weights or yoga or pilates, or even some sit-ups and push-ups is better than nothing, and if I really don’t want to go to the gym, I should at least do one of those things.

I’m also trying to get into a work-life balance.  For my job, one of the things I do is Tweet news stories, and because news happens all day, all the time, I find myself looking for interesting news stories all the time, as a result neglecting my personal stuff.  I need to force myself to do it only at designated times, unless I happen to be working all day that day, or to plan more.  It’s only been a about a week and a half since I’ve started doing this, so of course it’ll take some getting used to.

Another method is alternating work-work/writing-work.  Yes, it’s better to Tweet news stories all day, but there’s no need to inundate our followers – in fact, it’s better to spread them out, I’m finding, about one an hour.  A pattern I’m liking is: Tweet, work on other stuff for an hour, Tweet, rinse and repeat.

It fits cuz I’m all ADD anyway.

I like this article I found via Lifehacker about how to get stuff done.  I’ve written before about picking up new habits, but it’s always good to have a refresher.  Some things in my life that are ingrained habits:

Getting enough sleep. Like Tony Schwartz, the author of the Harvard Business Review article, I NEED to get at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep. This means going to bed between 10 and 11 every night, no matter what.  This is an easy habit because I love to sleep, and my bed is right there.

Before bed routine. Sometimes I’m so tired, I don’t want to brush my teeth or wash my face, but I do.  At this point in my life, I don’t feel right unless I go through that routine before bed.

Not letting dirty dishes sit in the sink for more than a day. It’s just a thing.  I can’t stand seeing our sink full of dirty dishes.  If I’m too tired to do them at night, I’ll do them in the morning while the coffee is brewing.

At work, I’ve also gotten into habits, but that’s easier because there’s a set blogging/tweeting schedule.  And in terms of my writing, I think I always feel like I’m not writing enough, but then I suddenly remember, Oh yeah, I wrote a draft of that essay.  My habit has become writing essays and whatnot quickly, no matter how shitty they are, and setting them aside.  Right now I have three essays in draft form, waiting to be revised.  I find revising so much easier than writing from scratch.

With my novel, I’ve gotten into the habit of handwriting on my train rides, and then typing/revising on my work from home days and the weekends.  These last two weeks I neglected my novel because of work, but now I’m back in the swing of things.

So how can I make exercise a ritual again?  Schwartz describes rituals as “highly specific behaviors, done at precise times, so they eventually become automatic and no longer require conscious will or discipline.”  Bedtime, before bed ritual, and washing dishes are all done at specific times, and or in relation to other habits.  I feel a natural inclination to work out about an hour and a half after I get up (on my WFH days), basically after I get my most urgent stuff done, whether work or writing related.  Maybe that should be the designated time for exercise – after I finish urgent stuff, and before I start in on long-term stuff (essays that aren’t due for a while, my novel, etc.).

Even more difficult is working out on the weekends.  It’s much more fun to hang out with MB.  For now all I can ask of myself is to at least do yoga or weights, say, before I shower.  On the weekends I usually don’t shower till late morning/noonish, ie, when we’re almost ready to leave the house after a morning of working.

Okay, so we’ll see how all this goes. I’m sure there are other habits I can pick up, but I just want to deal with this one right now.


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