There’s something liberating about being told what to do. It lets you focus on the doing.
This is another one of those countless truths that I sensed but never articulated until a real-life example made it clear.
Historically, my relationship to the fitness “wagon” has been spotty. Many times in my adult life, I strung together a stretch of regular workouts for a couple of months, and made progress, but it always felt like I was close to falling off.
It was always the same thing that unseated me. I would begin to doubt whether my chosen regimen was sensible, and that made it hard to throw myself into it physically. I’d wonder whether I was doing too little and not really getting anywhere, or the opposite — setting the pace so high that I would inevitably start compromising. At some point, I’d always begin to wonder whether I should make an adjustment to my targets or my number of sets or rest times or something. Soon it would be impossible to stick to the program, because I no longer know what the program was.
Until recently, the intermittence of my workout habits was never a big problem because my job had been physical enough to keep me in shape. Now I work from home, which can become an extremely sedentary lifestyle if you don’t deliberately include daily physical activity. I went from walking miles a day, with equipment on my shoulder, to a twenty-five-foot indoor commute.
For the first time, I’m doing a regular workout that I don’t have to fight myself over. I have almost no resistance to it. My success has something to do with the fact that this time I’m taking orders from a computer program.
Going with the principle of “The best workout is the one you can stick to,” I decided to begin with the arbitrary but attractive goal of a hundred pushups in one session, using a much-downloaded “100 pushups” app on my phone. You start with an initial test, type in your results, and then it prescribes how many reps to do each set, and counts the rest time down for you. It charts your progress in a graph.
It’s not high fitness science and I understand that. I’m fully aware there may be better programs, but any doubt in my regimen is trumped by the undeniable fact that it is working — my reps-per-day graph is snaking steadily upward, I’m looking and feeling better, and I’m never tempted to miss a workout. I’ve never experienced this kind of consistency and confidence in my workout routine. Now that I’ve established this consistency I can scale up the volume. I’m going to start doing kettlebell squats in the same way.
The doubt that normally sinks my fitness efforts is absent this time because it’s always clear what to do. Press the “Begin” button. Shoot for the targets it tells you. Keep your form good. Enter your results. Repeat the workout if you have to. The wondering is gone, and that removes a certain shakiness from my muscles. Read More