Do you have a workout schedule or do you just go when you feel like it?

I feel like that question is rhetorical, but for clarity:

Failing to plan your healthy habits ensures you will not hit your goals.

Nobody has the willpower and free schedule for “I’ll just do it when I have time”. The most successful people block off the time to workout, prepare food, and get ready for bed at a reasonable time. And that time is sacrosanct.

Time to self-reflect

Look back on your behavior over the last month and answer these questions:

  • How many workouts did you miss this month?
  • How many times did you eat things you weren’t planning on eating?
  • How many times did you plan what you ate?
  • How many healthy choice “exceptions” did you make?

It seems crazy, but if you’re eating unplanned unhealthy foods, coming up with excuses to stay up later, and missing even a single workout in the month, then your planning is insufficient.

Protect your time

I know I may be coming off a bit stern. Who doesn’t miss workouts?

Well, people who prioritize them and protect their time don’t miss workouts, that’s who.

Find a time you can protect and stick to it at all costs. Exceptions kill habits. If you have to make exceptions, you need to find a new time to protect.

First thing in the morning is objectively best. People don’t interrupt you when they’re sleeping and the work day hasn’t begun.

Small objectives guarantee success

This is NOT about making the biggest changes to your diet and lifestyle. This is about building habits because habits build success.

So you should have a goal and you should make zero exceptions when implementing it. But the goal does NOT have to be lofty.

If you don’t exercise regularly, snack all day, have dessert after every meal, sometimes don’t eat any protein in a meal, drink like 8 oz of water a day, and go to bed at 1AM, your goal should NOT be to fix all of those. It’s too much change, too much to juggle. It will ensure that you fail.

To ensure that you succeed, make your step more manageable. There are two things I look for when helping clients set new habits:

  1. What change will have the biggest positive impact on your body?
  2. What change are you 100% certain you can make?

I want these two responses to overlap as much as possible. If you need to start with just taking a multivitamin every day, then hey, that’s a good start. You won’t lose weight, but you will start to become someone who takes care of herself.

Don’t be a hero

Maybe you’ve done it all before: the workouts, the shakes, the vegetables, the bedtime. You’ve tasted victory, but have just kind of let yourself go over the last one, two… ten months.

You might start thinking, “I’ve done this before, I can do it again. I can do it all. I can change everything. That’s the only way I will lose weight.”

I’ve been particularly susceptible to this in my life. Back when I didn’t have control of my hip pain, I would lift hard for two weeks, then basically take two weeks off while I recovered. I cycled back and forth for about a year and a half.

I had to redefine what exercise meant to me.

When I was younger, I would train my balls off. And I was more successful in the gym than most of my friends. Simply due to consistency.

But once my body started saying, “What the hell are you doing to me? I’m going to revolt,” I had to change my plan. I had to push myself until technique failure, then stop. Even if I wasn’t huffing and puffing, I had to stop. Over time, my endurance with good technique built up, allowing me to challenge my cardiovascular system during workouts, too.

Over time, I’ve learned the difference between on days and off days. Some days I felt good and could lift heavy without writhing in pain later that night. Other days I felt locked, stiff, like compacted garbage. It took a few years of self-loathing, but I learned to accept that some days are just off days.

You can’t treat off days the same as on days. So I needed to update my plan. If I’m feeling good, I do what I planned. If I’m feeling off, I keep the weights lower, maybe do fewer sets, and maybe turn the whole thing into a cardio circuit with really light weights instead.

It still counts as a workout if I do even one exercise. Extra credit if I sweat.

Be decisive

Perfection is a myth that prevents you from achieving your goals.

Take it from me because this is probably my biggest weakness: do not go back and forth trying to pick the right goal. You’ll do both eventually. Pick one. Whatever seems easiest. Don’t waste your time “optimizing”.

Here’s a video with some thoughts on spending more time DOING, rather than simply planning.

Summary

Make a new habit. Set attainable, measurable goals. Make no exceptions. Act. Progress slowly.