The Easiest Approach To Get On (Or Back On) The Fitness Wagon

It’s pretty common for those pursuing a life of health and hotness to fall off the wagon from time to time. After all, modern times ask a lot of all of us. It’s hard enough just balancing our family, social, and professional obligations. Carving out time for self care can easily fall by the wayside.

Even for fitness professionals. Even for people that run gyms. Even for people that run a couple Enchanted Ninja Clubhouses of Glory and Dreams…

Yes, dear reader. I too struggle to stay on my fitness. I too deal with the same pain when I’m not on my fitness.

In this article, I’m going to show you the easiest approach to begin making fitness a core part of your life OR to get back on the wagon if you’ve fallen off.

I’ll show you how to get clear on:

  • WHY fitness matters to you in the first place
  • Which action steps to take to develop your self-care regime
  • How to make sure you’re realistically able to execute your plan

I know this approach works, because I have to use it myself from time to time.

When you don’t make the time for fitness self-care, you’re not able to live your best life. Your body won’t be fueled properly, so you feel tired. You have less mental sharpness for tough projects and less mental endurance for long days. You may not feel good about the way your clothes fit. You could even see emotional ramifications. Perhaps you’re crankier, or feel a general sense of vague stress.

In my case, I can always tell I’m off my fitness game because I notice my anxiety goes up. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and depressed. As someone who studies well-being, I can intellectually appreciate that my life is still mostly awesome. I just don’t feel awesome. This is always a bit unsettling, but the older I get, the more I’ve learned to take this as a nudge from my body to get my fitness shit together.

Here’s the approach you can use to turn yourself around when you feel like you’re in a ditch.

NOTE: If you are already kicking ass… awesome! This three-step plan will still serve to reinforce your success and make sure it’s sustainable.

1. Find Your WHY (No, But REALLY)

Anyone who’s followed MFF for anytime knows we’re obsessed with getting to your “WHY.”

Your WHY is your underlying reason you have for pursuing fitness in the first place. You see, we often start pursuing fitness with a specific physical goal: losing ten pounds, lowering blood pressure, having more energy, etc. And that is a totally awesome place to start. But in order to keep the behaviors up after the initial burst of inspiration has left us, we need to dig deeper.

Furthermore, you have to re-audit your WHY on a regular basis. It’s natural this may change over time.

It’s very common for people to pursue fitness because they’re single and want to make out with hot people (no fucking judgement). And if they dig underneath that, they’ll find a deeper WHY correlated to this top-level goal.

But what happens if they find themselves in a relationship? At the very least, it’s likely that their top level goal has changed. So it would warrant another exploration:

“Why does fitness and self-care matter to me in the context of my current life and aspirations?”

To dig into your underlying (often subconscious) current WHY, go through this process.

  1. Write down the primary benefit you’re currently looking for with your fitness pursuits.
    (“lose ten pounds”)
  2. Write down how achieving that benefit will make you feel.
    (“I’ll feel more confident”)
  3. Write down WHY that’s important to you.
    (“Because that will allow me to have… or do… or be…”)
  4. Write down why THAT’s important to you.
    (“Because THAT will allow me to have… or do… or be…”)
  5. Write down why THAT’s important to you.
    (“Because THAT will allow me to have… or do… or be…”)
  6. Repeat 2-3 more times

I can’t emphasize how important it is to have the discipline to spend 10-20 minutes actually going through this exercise. Crystal clarity on your underlying WHY is the jet fuel that will keep you humming along with your fitness self care regime.

2. Identify Your Core Fitness Habits, Then Choose ONE

Each of us tend to have some “anchor” habits for all sorts of activities and pursuits. And fitness is no different.

When looking for a fitness makeover, many people attempt a complete overhaul of their entire life. This often leads to anxiety and a total crash after a few weeks. Even MFF’s Snatched in Six Weeks transformation program has evolved over the years to move away from the “all out war” approach. Although the program is known for getting fast and dramatic results, the process itself unfolds over weeks (and in the context of a community, which is a big piece of successful behavior change).

We’ve seen pretty consistently your best bet is to slowly layer on habits. By integrating a single habit for at least one to two weeks, you can slowly build on it without feeling overwhelmed. For those looking to get back into a fitness regime, a useful exercise is to list out all the daily habits / activities that leave you feeling anchored and moving towards your goals.

For instance, my list includes:

  • Being in bed 7-9 hours per night
  • Meditating twice a day for 20 minutes
  • Drinking Athletic Greens daily
  • Taking fish oil / Vitamin D
  • Drinking 96 ounces of water
  • Eating three generous servings of protein
  • Eating three generous servings of vegetables
  • Sharing three things I’m grateful for with my wife before bed
  • Moving for 30 minutes

Now your list may be different of course. But the important thing is to start to link together which behaviors leave you feeling “anchored” in your fitness goals.

If you’re new to the fitness game, you’ll be creating a list of potential core health habits. Until you try them, you won’t know which ones will be a fit. And that’s totally fine. But you do want a list of potential habits to consider.

If you’re getting back on the wagon, you likely already have some idea of which behaviors leave you feeling dialed in and progressing towards your fitness goals.

Now our next step is choosing one habit to nail this next week. It should be something you have 90% confidence you’ll be able to execute. So for instance, if you want to drink more water but think there’s only a 70% chance you’ll hit your target of 96 ounces, you have two choices.

  1. Choose another goal (maybe start by focusing on drinking a greens formula)
  2. “Right size” your goal until you have 90% confidence (maybe drink 32 ounces)

From here, we want to make sure all our focus is on the process and not the outcome.

Particularly if you’re getting back into the game, we may judge ourselves harshly against our previous levels of fitness. Anyone who’s taken time away from the gym knows how discouraging it can be to see your strength and conditioning down from your previous levels. Or maybe we’re bummed we don’t fit into our favorite gym clothes the way we once did.

This is totally normal. And all the more reason to focus on the behavior. Your best path forward is executing the plan and beginning to layer your habits back into your life. Trust that after 4-8 weeks you’ll be feeling the positive mental, emotional, and physical effects of your new behaviors.

3. To Fail To Plan Is To Plan To Fail: How To Plan WELL

Our final step is to plan the plan. (I know, I know this sounds weird, keep reading.)

Now that you know your WHY and you’ve settled on a single habit to focus on, there’s a time management piece that must be addressed.

On some level, fitness success is always a time management puzzle. For instance, if you’re looking to make it to the gym three times a week and find work keeps overtaking your plan, we need to address this via your approach to scheduling, handling interruptions, prioritizing your day, etc.

Ultimately, our only non-renewable resource is time. You can theoretically make more money. You can rest up and get more energy. But there’s no way to get time back. If you’re looking for a life of health and hotness or simply want a life of high achievement, start being disciplined about how you spend your time is key.

As we consider time management, we want to keep the lessons of habit formation in mind. We’re not looking for a massive overhaul of your schedule here. Our focus is a single habit. And some habits may not require much massaging of your calendar. Presumably it won’t take lots of extra prep time to drink more water throughout the day.

But let’s say you’re ready to layer in one of the more time intensive habits. Even if you’re looking to use a minimum effective dose and do a 15-minute at-home MFF workout a few times per week (get yours for FREE right here), that still may require some planning.

While I could write a book on how to handle your schedule (in fact, I am writing a book on time management for fitness business owners), our goal is keep things as simple as possible.

Fig. 1: Hurricane of Uncertainty.

If you know your day is a hurricane of uncertainty, you may want to consider doing your health habit first thing in the morning. For instance, rather than risking your evening getting swept away with last minute obligations, you may benefit from doing your 15-minute at-home MFF workout first thing in the morning. (Fitness Tip: Just be sure to take extra time to warm-up and ease into activity! Warm-ups become even more important in the morning, particularly if it’s cold.)

In order to properly “plan your plan,” go ahead and make a list of all the things that will get in the way of your new core habit.

Remember, you will have obstacles. That’s ok! We just want to plan in advance so we can be prepared to address it in your plan.

Now, for each potential obstacle, write your workaround. For instance, in the example above, you’ve successfully addressed evening conflicts by shifting your workout to first thing in the morning.

But what if you oversleep? Or what if you find yourself going to bed extra late and want to sleep in for 30 more minutes? Knowing that life has a way of happening, you’ll be far better prepared by choosing a contingency plan now.

Putting It Together

Whether you’re kickstarting your fitness regime, or looking to get back on the fitness wagon, you’ll benefit from applying the above three action steps.

First, find (or audit) your WHY. Second, choose a single core health habit that you believe you have a 90% chance of successfully executing. Third, consider when you can do your habit in a given day, then brainstorm all the things that will inevitably get in the way and prepare your backup plan.

After two weeks, rinse, wash, and repeat. While the WHY itself is likely to last you, repeat steps two and three to continue to layer your core health habits.

A final comment: while you can certainly have success doing this on your own, the social science literature suggests you’ll have a way easier time working with coach and being a part of a community. Behavior change is easier with fraaaands. Don’t be shy about letting your family and friends know how they can support you with adopting your new behavior.

(And if you’re in NYC? Come visit MFF and pet our unicorns. You can visit us in Hell’s Kitchen or on the Bowery by signing up for an appointment here to find out more about what we do. Hope to high five you in the real world soon.)

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