What my degree in IPE didn't teach me about baking, DIY, fitness, and life…
Strength training – it’s fair to say that I’m not a fan. In all the sports I’ve played and exercises I’ve tried, the strength training part has always ranked absolute bottom on the fun scale. Plus, I don’t want bulky muscles. I want to look long, lean, and svelte. Bring on the cardio I say… But I have a slight bone structure and a family history of osteoporosis and it’s kinda embarrassing not to be able to open jars. So, I knew it was time to tackle this.
In February I started reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It gave me just the tools I needed to get started. Duhigg (yes, that’s his real name) maps out the anatomy of a habit: cue, routine, reward. Basically every habit behaviour starts with a cue, something that triggers you to start the behaviour or routine. After which, you receive a reward. Understanding these things can help you break bad habits or engineer new healthy habits. One of the other things that The Power of Habit taught me is that habits expand. Intuitively this makes sense. If we find something rewarding, we’re likely to do more of it.
Armed with these ideas, I started thinking about how to engineer a strength training habit. I knew that it had to start small, be consistent, and have a decent reward if it were going to take hold. I decided that I would do 10 bent-knee pushups (routine) every morning after I got dressed (cue), and then give myself a gold-star on my tick list (reward – I love gold stars and starting the day with something already ticked). Each week I would increase the number of pushups by one and once I got to 25 I would start converting them to full pushups.
It might sound a meager goal, but with time and consistency on my side I’m getting stronger. Plus, remember that part about habits expanding? Well, after doing the pushups that first day I looked around the room and realised I could take advantage of the machinery. I added 10 captain’s chair exercises to to the routine (5 with bent legs/ 5 straight). 2 weeks later, I started adding planks, 4 weeks later modified dips. Now I’m 13 weeks in and doing 21 bent-knee pushups, 11 straight leg captain’s chair exercises, 13 modified dips, and a full minute plank!! Just think of where I might be by the end of the year.
Check out how it’s evolved:
The thing that all this really teaches me about habits is that habits are long-term investments. If I get stuck on a week or an exercise I just keep it at that level for another week until I get used to it. Why? Because there is tremendous power in small change applied consistently! What thing in your life do you want to change? What small healthy habit could you start to get you to that change?
(Btw – recent research suggests that exercises like jumping rope might be better for bone strength then weight lifting, but strength training still contributes and it definitely helps with the jar opening =p)