This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated in 2022. Enjoy!
You don’t need more books about exercise and fitness. And I doubt you need more advice, tips, gurus, or videos on how to “gain muscle in just 10 minutes a day.”
Don’t worry—that’s not what this post is about.
Instead, I want to share a kind of checklist I use to decide what fitness activities will work for me.
MARATHONS FOR MOTIVATION
For a long time, I used marathons, ironman, and short-course triathlon competitions to motivate me and get my butt out of bed. That still works, and I still enjoy an occasional endurance race, but I need something for every day, even when there isn’t a competition on the calendar.
My goal is simple: have a great level of fitness and a body that allows me to do whatever I want for the next 20 years. And to get there I have a good diet, am mostly gluten-free, try for seven hours of sleep, and I get 30 hours of exercise a month.
You may not want or need that much fitness time, if you are like the 80% of Canadians and Americans who don’t get even the minimum fitness time per week, you need some kind of solution.
So, if you ever joined a gym, but only went four times, or have a rusty NordicTrack in the basement, this is for you.
WILL YOU STICK WITH IT LONG-TERM?
Here are my four ways to know if a new fitness “solution” will work for me long-term. The question for you is:
What are you going to stop, start, or change today to make fitness your friend every day?
I want to look forward to exercise. So, my first rule is all activities have to be enjoyable (fun is even better).
Saturday mornings I run with a bunch of guys (occasionally a woman suffers our company). The conversation is hilarious. Within five minutes we have gone from a recent NHL match-up, to marriage, kids, US politics, and back to hockey.
On Friday, I’m already looking forward to the run and, if I’m in town, I never miss the workout. What can you do – even daily – that is simple, enjoyable and you always look forward to it?
Here are some quick ideas:
- listen to podcasts or audiobooks on your walk
- meet a neighbor and walk your dogs together
- join a local running group
- hike/walk/run trails instead of the road
In the best-seller Younger Next Year, author Chris Crowley says that daily exercise “is our job”. That’s why I think the best fitness program is the one that becomes a habit. Thinking about running, cycling, weights, or yoga class is a lot more exhausting than simply picking up your yoga mat and towel because it’s 11:45AM on Tuesday and that’s
I walk my dog, Riley, every weekday morning at 7:00AM plus every evening, for a total of about 1 hour—no exceptions. That habit alone, gives me about 260 hours of fitness a year.
Habits are the brain’s way to save energy. It’s a part of our wiring that can get you out of a lot of trouble (like apologizing when you screw up), and get you into a lot of great fitness. What habit do you need to create?
- meditate for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up
- walk for 20 minutes at lunch
- do yoga every Wednesday and Friday
- move garbage and recycling containers away from your desk
When I’m on the road for a speaking engagement I need every minute I can get. I often arrive late the night before my event, the next morning is for prepping, and typically I meet my client early, before delegates arrive. So, there’s no time for the gym. That’s why I created my 15 minute hotel room workout.
It’s convenient, that’s why it works. What fitness routine could you include in your week that’s super convenient and fits perfectly into your schedule?
- park four blocks from work and walk the rest
- take the stairs to your office
- become friends with the gym in your building, or neighborhood
- use your bike to run local errands, like getting groceries
We all need an incentive to stick with fitness. I realized years ago that I didn’t have enough triathlons, mountain climbs, or marathons on the calendar to motivate me. So I created my own incentive.
For at least 10 years now I have recorded all my fitness on a calendar, after the event. My goal is for every month to add up to at least 30 hours. Jerry Seinfeld says his goal (because he marks his calendar with an “X” every morning after writing new material) is to not “break the chain”.
How can you reward yourself for fitness?
- sign up for a charity walk or run
- create your own goal for the week
- mark your calendar after every fitness activity
- use the LIFT app, Nike Fitbit, Lose it!, or some other tool to track your activities
There you have it: four things I look for in fitness.
Now it’s up to you.