As we come off the 30-Day Challenge, I have been inspired to squash every one of your excuses to smitherines. :) Since I kicked my habit of mindless night-eating, I’m going to take those last little excuses and drop kick them for you.
This week will be dedicated to the excuse I hear more than all the rest:
“I just don’t have time to workout/eat healthy.”
You know better than this, boys and girls. Or do you?
As much as I can say, “anything is better than nothing,” it’s hard when you just don’t have a lot of time to work with. This week, I’ve called on some experts in the field to help me prove to you that you really don’t need hours every week to get in shape.
Today, we hear from Tom Miller of Effective Efforts on how you can get fit in 30 seconds every day. Yeah, that’s right. Three-oh seconds. Today, Tom will tell you about how this simple workout program was the answer he was looking for on his quest for fitness in a busy, last-thing-I-wanna-do-is-workout lifestyle.
Be sure to come back at the end of the week for a special surprise as I team up with one of my very favorite fitness junkies to SHOW you (*ahem* *videos!* *cough*) a workout and meal that will smash your time excuses into the ground!
Until then, take it away, Tom!
One of the biggest challenges of maintaining a consistent workout routine is becoming tired, bogged down, and de-motivated by the challenges of everyday life.
We’re too tired after work to go lift, so we say that we’ll just do it tomorrow.
We don’t get enough sleep, so we hit snooze instead of getting up in the morning to go run.
It’s much easier to plop down on the couch after a long day at work and crack open a beer than it is to go work up a sweat.
In the long-term though, this is not what anyone really wants out of life – everyone wants to be healthy, fit, and strong. But we feel like we can’t get it done. We have no willpower. So what’s the solution?
Let’s start with an understanding of what willpower is in the first place. In her recent book The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It, Kelly McGonigal discusses how willpower fundamentally works.
Your brain, it turns out, fatigues much like the muscles in your body. The more mental energy you use to evaluate choices, make decisions, and motivate yourself, the more fatigued you become – i.e. your willpower is a depletable resource.
This is a valuable piece of knowledge to have. If you expect to be able to come home after a long day, figure out what workout to do, find your stuff, get out the door, and then muster the energy to give the workout your best effort, you’re asking a lot of your willpower reserves.
Even if you are able to do this in the short term, chances are it is not sustainable. Eventually you will run out of steam.
Believe me, I’ve been there. I live it every day. Some days I am so ridiculously exhausted from work that I can barely pick myself up off the floor, let alone think about going to the gym. And I work at an office! And sit in a chair all day!
Who would think sitting in front of a computer would be so friggin exhausting?
Well it is. And I’m sure most of you can attest to that.
Okay, super. How does that help?
For me, it was a starting point. I knew I had the physical energy in my body to go work out, I just couldn’t access it. And that was incredibly frustrating.
Now I had an explanation. I was able to start looking at my exercise plans in a different way.
So let’s examine a typical workout. What steps are involved?
You have to…
•figure out when to work out
•figure out how often to work out
•decide which workout to do
•decide how long your workout will be
•decide what to wear
•decide to go work out
•motivate yourself to put forth effort
•actually perform the workout
•keep track of your weight, reps, speed, etc.
All of these steps have one thing in common: they require a significant amount of mental energy. And as I’d come to realize, mental energy expenditure was the enemy – to be minimized at all costs.
So knowing what we do about willpower, one answer to figuring out how to maintain a long-time workout habit is this: to create a simple, minimal routine that requires little thought and can be accomplished in a short period of time.
That means that if you can either (1) eliminate any of those steps, or (2) reduce the amount of mental energy required to complete them, you give yourself a much better chance of maintaining that routine long-term. This is the key to consistency.
For me, this was a revelation. Sure, I’ve maintained a certain respectable level of fitness since college. But in all truth, I’d never found one thing that I could count on to work for me week in and week out.
I mean in all seriousness, I think I’ve started P90X at least 12 times (notice the word “started” and not “completed”). And typically I make it through about 4-6 weeks and then run out steam. Why? Because it’s a huge time and effort commitment! And it only fits a certain demographic of people who have the time and motivation to get it done for over an hour every day for 90 days.
And that’s fine. One-fourth of P90X every so often is a decent amount of relatively high-quality exercise. But it’s certainly not encouraging. It doesn’t breed confidence. I’m not proud of myself for finishing 25% of P90X 12 times.
Transitioning to these shorter workouts, specifically designed to require minimum mental effort, was a way to break that trend. It was a way of guaranteeing that I would work out every day.
And it was huge for me psychologically. It just feels so much better when you accomplish at least one thing after work every day. Even though sometimes I don’t even sweat or change out of my work clothes, it still means a lot to me to be able to say that I finished my workout.
What about ambition? Going all out. Reaching for your dreams. Testing your limits.
Don’t you want more?
Of course I do! I want to eat healthy, be super fit, train like an olympic weightlifter, ride the Tour de France, and become a world-class marathoner all at the same time. Who doesn’t?
But guess what? It doesn’t actually matter that much. I’ve found that only the smallest changes are necessary to feel accomplished. And you can keep it up every day and see progress without giving up anything you currently do.
Those small wins add up. I have confidence now. I know I did 3 curls last time at 35 lbs and now I can do 5. That’s an accomplishment. And it can be achieved through the most modest of investments.
How do you do it?
In The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss describes a workout routine he coins “Occam’s protocol:” A lifting routine designed to provide your body maximal benefit for minimal effort. It’s what Ferriss describes as a “consolidation routine,” and works by activating muscular, neural, and hormonal growth mechanisms. In essence, breaking down your muscles as quickly as possible and giving them time to fully recover.
He recommends doing these workouts at certain specified intervals (2-3 times per week with increasing time between workouts) and doing 2-3 exercises per workout, at one set per exercise.
I prefer to take it one step further and make it so simple and straightforward that there’s no way you can convince yourself not to do it.
One exercise per day, one set, low reps. Crazy, right?
Why does it work?
1. Maximum benefit for minimal effort – You’re doing the absolute minimum amount of work required to produce a training benefit. You can always do more later. But start here, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can improve with just this small amount.
2. No excuses or decisions – You have to work out every day. Period. There’s no mental energy to be expended trying to remember whether today is a workout day. No effort spent trying to re-shuffle your schedule to work out later because you’re tired.
3. It requires a minimal amount of motivation – Imagine you come home from work, and have to go do an intense 45-minute circuit training routine. Think of the effort you will have to expend to get through that. Now imagine that instead, all you have to do, is 6 lat pull-downs until exhaustion. Which one has a better chance of getting done?
4. You don’t have to keep track of that much data – Tracking is a must if you’re serious about a long-term routine. Here, you only have to record your weight and your reps for one set, once a day.
5. The daily routine creates a habit – You create a string of small wins. It’s almost a guarantee that you will succeed at least once a day. This is huge. And it’s what leads to long-term consistency.
This routine is focused purely on nailing down the daily habit and creating momentum of improvement.
It’s easy to complete, easy to remember, and literally only takes 30 seconds.
And it’s the first routine that I can honestly say, for me, is sustainable. I can sit there and say to myself “Hey, I could definitely do this every single day for the rest of my life.” It’s long-term, and that counts for a lot.
The shortest workout you have ever heard of could just be the breakthrough you’ve been looking for.
Try it out for 30 days. Absolutely anyone can do it. So just see what happens. I think you’ll be happy with it.
Modified Occam’s Protocol:
Do each exercise with the maximum weight possible for 3-5 reps. 5-second/5-second rhythm. Only 1 set. Complete failure.
Day 1: Lat pulldown – 3-5 reps
Day 2: Machine press – 3-5 reps
Day 3: Dumbbell side raises - 3-5 reps
Day 4: Kettlebell swings – max weight for 50 reps
Day 5: Bicep curls - 3-5 reps
Day 6: Lying tricep extensions - 3-5 reps
Day 7: Leg press - 3-5 reps
For an example of a simple tracking method, check out my latest here (all you need is a quick update after each set).
And if you’re interested in other ways to unlock your effectiveness and create sustainable excellence, check us out at Effective Efforts.