What the fitness industry often forgets is that a lot of people just don’t want to workout. This is hard to swallow for a bunch of former athletes and type A’s who got into physical training because they love exercising. We want people to feel as excited as we are about crushing a hard workout, learning the kettlebell, or beating your best Fran time.
Yet, for a lot of people fitness is a chore. They know they should exercise. They know they’d feel better if they moved more, ate better, and lived that whole song and dance, but they don’t really want to do it. Even more, they don’t want the popular fitness experience.
They don’t want to walk around a gym feeling awkward around a bunch of equipment they don’t feel comfortable using while being eyed by the gym regulars who strut around confidently. They don’t want to join an hour fitness class where they feel like they can’t breathe midway through the warmup and are then yelled at to “Push!” and “Dig deep!” by Daphne the Wonder Woman. They don’t care what pre-workout supplement you are using and they sure don’t want to hear your damn Fran time.
Let me qualify my message with another. I think CrossFit, competitive workout classes, triathlons, and all these passions of the heavily committed fitness community are wonderful endeavors. Their messages are needed and they provide unbelievable communities that help people change lives.
In fact, if their adherents are sometimes overzealous and intimidating, this is just a by-product of the value they provide. These people have had an amazing experience and they want to tell people about it. Unfortunately, a large majority aren’t interested and even if they could someday become interested, it is unlikely to be early on in their fitness experience.
Many if not most people, don’t care about being supermodels and strongmen. They don’t want to push themselves to their physical limit and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. After all, self-education is important, but you don’t see Jordan Peterson or some doctor telling all of us we have to adopt their intense study habits and annotate chapters to our limit.
Sure we should keep reading and learning, but that can take on a lot of different forms and intensities. Similarly, the typical person probably wants to move a little more freely, be a little stronger, carry a little less fat, and eat a little better, but they aren’t looking for a wholesale life change.
Brush Your Teeth, Make Your Bed, and Do Your Squats
The typical person needs to look at things differently. You aren’t that into fitness, so don’t dread going to extreme fitness classes a couple of days a week. I say movement is hygiene. It needs to be done every day as part of being a responsible, mature adult.
But it doesn’t need to be an event that requires a place, a special uniform, and a large investment of time and money. Just as you make your bed, brush your teeth, shower, and do the dishes every day, the best place to start is instilling the habit of 10 minutes of movement every morning.
You need a brief warmup and a short daily circuit that can be modified to your preferred intensity. It’s simple, easy, and, in the long run, can have tremendous positive ripple effects. That’s why of the three core habits I profess in my ebook, The Essential Guide to Self-Mastery, daily morning movement is considered the chief habit.
This may sound counter-intuitive.
You’re recommending that since I don’t like fitness, I should do it every day and in the morning when I’m least eager to move?
Yes, but allow me to tell you why and how.
First of all, “daily” is the path to any action you want to sustain. It does you no good to start doing something only to quit a month or even a year later. Anything you start should have the potential to last indefinitely.
“Daily” honors the science of habit formation and as a result our habits define our long-term actions. You brush your teeth every night because of a consistent cue—getting ready for bed and a consistent reward—the chemical induced tingly feeling in your mouth.
Likewise, you can set up a cue-routine-reward pattern for your morning movement practice that helps you follow through everyday, or at least every workday within a five day per week traditional work schedule. It becomes your workday morning routine. There is no cue more consistent than waking.
Furthermore, morning is the best time because it is the most available window in our day. Once we leave our house, check our phone, or engage with the world, we tend to be swept away by the desires of a million other people.
Planned windows close up in hectic days or are subject to the effects of diminished willpower. When you finally get the kids to bed and have that hour of one on one time with your spouse, most people aren’t saying, „Hey, give me ten minutes to exercise and I’ll be right there.“
However, in that pristine window after waking, the only agenda is your own.It is completely under your control. If you need more time then you wake up ten minutes earlier. As much as I believe in quality sleep, ten minutes never makes the difference.
Habits require consistency, however. Even if you aren’t into fitness you have to value personal development or even the easiest exercise dose won’t work. I could tell you that scratching and sniffing stickers for 10 minutes a day would improve your health, energy, etc.—and you’d still quit.
Life Can Only Be So Easy
The reality is that all we are talking about is a self-development practice. Despite modern luxury and convenience, affluent societies witness skyrocketing depression, anxiety, suicide, obesity, and drug overdose.
These are all linked. Humanity is facing an emotional crisis stemming from a lack of required personal responsibility, competency, and community effort. We all desperately need self-development practices.
Daily movement is one, but so is education, a gratitude practice, and perhaps more. All this is to say that it’s fine not to like exercise, but if you haven’t decided that self-improvement is a worthwhile pursuit, no plan will work.
So, now you are ready for the routine. You understand why daily movement is best, why the morning is the best time, and that even if you aren’t in the mood, this practice is a worthwhile component of a larger mission to live a better life. Now, how do you start?
The Best Place to Start
Attack the low hanging fruit. Make it easy to start each morning. Don’t dread it. You wake up and you’re groggy. You feel like you could lay in bed for hours longer. Your body is stiff from hardly moving over the last eight hours. You need to ease into movement. The first thing you do shouldn’t be torture. Many plans could work. The ten minute morning program I suggested in the article The Chief Habit: Your Ten-Minute Morning Fitness Plan might be perfect for many people.
However, for people who want something more simple and better for beginners I suggest the following plan.
- Child’s Pose – 3-5 diaphragmatic breaths
- Neck Nods – x3
- Neck Infinities – x3 per side
- Bird Dogs – x5 per side
- Lying Y-W Handcuffs – x5
- Down Dog – x3
- World’s Greatest Lunge – x3 per side
- Straddle Stance Thoracic Rotation – x3 per side
- Frogger Hip Thrusters – x10
Daily Workout 1
2 rounds of:
- Air Squats – x10
- Push-Ups – x5
- Split Squats – x5 per side
- 1-Leg Glute Bridge – x5 per side
- Side Plank Taps – x5 per side
If you want more variety, you can do this second workout also and just alternate each day.
Daily Workout 2
2 rounds of:
- Isometric Lunge Hold – x10 seconds per side
- Bear Crawls – 5 steps forward and 5 back
- Superman – x10
- Plank Jacks – x20
- Russian Twist – x20
If and when you want to bump things up a notch, I recommend checking out my chief habit plan, but there are plenty of options, particularly if you add bands, a bench, and a wall, or if you want to try a classical calisthenics program, or if youadd a kettlebell.
Is 10 Minutes Going to Do Anything?
Many people will wonder whether ten minutes a day will even make a difference. First of all, YES! Admittedly, the results will be more modest than if you’d done 45 minutes per day, but the sustainability is far higher. Remember, there is no point in a change you only maintain for 45 days. We want to build a habit for 45 years. It is better to start slow and add more as you desire than to start with too much and quit altogether.
Still, you will feel and see the difference, but more importantly, you’ll gain the mental strength to continue growing and moving forward. As one routine becomes easy and stale you’ll be able to adopt another.
As you feel better, you’ll naturally move more in your daily life and naturally adopt slightly more polished eating habits. The positive ripple effect that follows such a powerful habit will change the trajectory of each day and, in the long run, amount to tremendous change.
There is no reason anyone has to be a fitness fanatic or keep a journal full of their PR’s. Still, physical fitness is an essential part of being a human. Like anything important, it should be tended to daily and the best way to do that is ten minutes every morning. Set the habit and, in time, you’ll appreciate the results.