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Saturday, November 1, 2014
Getting past the resistance donkey. Get to Yoga or to the Gym every time
How To Get Addicted To Working Out
How is it that some people manage to work out regularly, week in week out, year after year, and do it with a smile on their face? Are they just superhuman? Nope. Far from it. They have just tapped into something that most people haven’t.
All humans (and this includes you) have one big weakness, and they use this weakness to their advantage. Here it is:
We humans are prone to addiction, but we can all learn to tap this resource and use its power to fuel our motivation to work out consistently.
Think about the potential. Coffee drinkers don’t need to motivate themselves to drink their morning cup. They want to drink it. Smokers don’t need a reason to light up after a meal. They feel compelled to do it. Sugar addicts don’t need tempting to eat something sweet… cake anyone? And it’s no different from exercise. You can create a ‘hunger’ for working out too and that hunger helps to form a habit that you barely have to think about. All you need to do is learn how to cultivate the addiction.
What makes exercise addictive?
A good workout done regularly has far reaching effects on your body’s biochemistry, and that’s why it’s perhaps the number 1 thing you can do to keep your body strong, lean, young, totally healthy, and protected from almost every chronic disease you can think of.
In addition to all that, one of the ways that exercise affects our bodies that particularly interests me is the way it alters our brain chemistry. You’ve heard of the ‘runners high’ right? Well this nicely describes that “I feel amazing and I could take over the world right now” feeling after a good workout and it happens all because of a shift in brain neurotransmitter levels. (By the way, we get this same feeling after any good workout, not just from running, so let’s call it the ‘post-workout high’ from now on!)
Now here’s where things get interesting. Among the neurotransmitters that cause this ‘post-work out high’ are endorphins. It’s these endorphins that can also get you hooked to working out. Endorphins are morphine like substances produced by the brain in response to excitement, eating chili, having sex, and of course exercising.
How to Get Addicted
There are of course some slight differences between working out and crack cocaine. Its effects for example are nowhere near as strong (luckily), and it’s nowhere near as addictive. On top of this, and unlike crack cocaine, you need to be a little proactive at maintaining the addiction. So how do you do it?
There are quite a few ways, but here are the 5 key things I find work for most people.
1. Make your workouts short, sharp, intense and fun. I hate to be the one to say it but a brisk walk, a light run, or 40 minutes peddling on an exercise bike while reading a magazine probably won’t ever give you the endorphin release you’ll need to get a ‘post-work out high” so you’re highly unlikely to feel great after a workout let alone tap your into the addiction potential that we’re talking about here. On top of that, you’re unlikely to get many of the other countless benefits (which I haven’t gone into here) that a proper work out can bring. When I say intense, I mean: doing 6 / 30 second springs, 50 kettle bell swings, 20 burpees, 40 jump lunges or squat jumps. These are just a few examples of the kind of movements that are going to get you maximum results in minimum time. Now you don’t need to kill yourself, but your workout needs to be challenging for you, and that’s going to be different for everyone. I have a little moto which is this: If you can exercise longer than 20-30 minutes, then you’re not working out hard enough.
2. Don’t miss more than 2 days in a row. Think of your new work-out addiction like a hungry lion that needs regular feeding to survive. Once you skip too many days (typically 2 full days without a workout), your workout lion starts to get weak, and so does the drive and motivation to do work out the next day. So while there’s no real reason you should feel compelled to work out every single day, think about feeding your workout lion regularly and aim to workout at least every second day.
3. If you miss more than 2 days in a row, expect resistance & squash it as soon as possible: If you starve your work out lion something else starts growing in its place: resistance. I guess we could represent this resistance by a stubborn, senseless donkey that hates doing anything different and would much rather do what its always done- namely spend all evening hanging out on the couch. The resistance is that little voice that says “I’m tired, perhaps we should skip it today”, or “I’ll work out later… really”. Now your workout lion (you’re drive to improve on who you were yesterday) and your resistance donkey (you’re natural inclination to do whatever’s easiest and usual) can never die, but when one is strong, it suppresses and fights off the other. So the longer you put off working out and feeding your workout lion the stronger the resistance donkey gets. That’s why, at the first opportunity, you need tell that resistance donkey to ‘shut its mouth’, get yourself moving, feed your work out lion, and put that donkey back in its place.
4. Create a positive trigger: Like Pavlov’s dogs we can prime ourselves so when that bell rings, our work-out lion becomes fired up and ready to be fed. Ok, perhaps I wouldn’t recommend using an actual bell, however there’s an unlimited number of ways to create a positive conditioned reflex to get you motivated and ready work out. Mine is simple. When the time comes that I’ve planned to do my work out, I put on some really funky upbeat tunes, go throw on my workout gear, fire up my interval timer, and do a short 3 minute warm up. The music kicks things off, and then that flows to the next action and the next, and before I even think about it I am already half way through my workout and loving it. Any sequence of actions will do. I have a friend who always starts by drinking a cup of green tea and yet another who watches a quick martial arts match on youtube. But whatever you do just do it consistently every time and do it before your resistance creature starts whispering tempting excuses into your ear.
5. Schedule your workout. I have a very very busy schedule, don’t we all these days, so even though I keep my workouts short, I still need to plan ahead to make sure I actually get them in. I’m more motivated in the early evening, so I generally take 2 minutes during the day to plan what exercises I’m going to do, and then work out before dinner around 7 or 8 o’clock. If you’re someone who isn’t freaked out by 6am wake-ups then I’d recommend planning your work out for first thing before breakfast. This ensures that it always gets done and as an added bonus it’ll leave you fully charged and feeling great for the rest of the day.
We all have a workout lion that if you feed will keep you addicted and motivated to work out regularly. If you work out regularly you’ll see some awesome results in your body and your health, and because you’re being consistent you’ll see them fast. Isn’t that the whole point? On the other hand, we all have a stubborn resistance donkey that’s constantly trying to sabotage your work-out objectives by keeping you on the couch. The very best way to beat this beast back into its place is to feed your work-out lion and fuel your addiction by working out every 2-3 days, make those work outs short, intense and as fun as possible.
Have You Fed Your Workout Lion Today?
Disclaimer: Seriously, I shouldn’t need to tell you this but if you’ve not worked out for a while and your health leaves much to be desired, you’re going to have to start out slow and build up to the type of workouts I talk about here progressively. Really I’m here to prevent heart attacks not cause them! So consider hiring a personal trainer to put a simple program together for you that you can do at home in your lounge room which can get you on track.