In the beginning, it was so easy. Regular FaceTime workouts with my buddy on the roof. Citi Biking around Central Park in the evenings as the fireflies flirted in the undergrowth. Zoom yoga at lunchtime. I had this quarantine exercise thing nailed, bitches!
But four months on, the city heat melts my yoga mat the minute it hits the tar, my body has forgotten what a waistband feels like, and that early enthusiasm has given way to a more general malaise. A kind of meh-xercise regime.
I’m sure (I hope) I’m not alone. How to get my muscle mojo back?
“Here’s my number one (counter-intuitive) Jedi mind-trick to support you in making your fitness dreams come true and getting on (or back on!) the fitness wagon,” Mark Fisher says.
OK, I’m all ears …
“Make it easy.”
Hard work is great when appropriate, explains the trainer and New York gym owner. And not all of our fitness endeavors are going to feel like butterfly kisses. But, if we’re going to be in this for the long haul, we need to manage our expectations.
These are his six tips to “easify” success.
1. Reduce “activation energy”
This is a fancy term that basically means doing whatever you can to make it easier to “start” your planned fitness activity. The classic example is sleeping in your gym clothes if you struggle to work out in the morning. This could also mean a well-planned grocery trip where you stock up on the items you need and don’t find yourself suddenly missing a key ingredient-oh-well-might-as-well-eat-these-cookies-for-dinner-eff-my-liiiife.
2. Choose activities you like
No shit Sherlock! But here’s the thing – it’s going to be a lot easier to keep up with your fitness routine if you actually like what you’re doing. “While I’m all for considering what fitness activity is optimal for your goals,” says Mark, “sometimes you’re better off doing a less-than-optimal activity because you genuinely think it’s fun and you’re more likely to do it.”
3. Make It OK to do “just a little bit”
Particularly when you’re starting for the first time ever (or easing back in), make it OK to do a short session. Do five push-ups and call it a day. Turn on your favorite YouTube yoga session and make it OK to only do five minutes. This is a great strategy because 1) you won’t need much stimulus if you’ve been inactive and 2) it can feel WAY less daunting than going from zero to a 60-minute, high-intensity sweat session.
4. Eat healthy foods you actually like
Want to make it easy to pick a healthy option for dinner? Build a menu of go-to meals you are genuinely excited about eating. For most people, particularly those who are new to cooking, it may take time to develop your personal repertoire through trial and error. And that’s OK. But it’s worth the investment of time because it will pay you health returns for the rest of your life.
5. Set up barriers that make it harder to veer away from your plans
This is the inversion of point #1. It’s much harder to eat cookies for dinner if you have to leave your home and go to the store to buy them. The implementation of this strategy will look different based on your living situation. For a lot of people, not having temptation in your home will be 80% of success. However, you may be living with loved ones or roommates who want to keep some chips handy. No probs! Simply storing them in an out-of-sight, semi-annoying place (think back of a cabinet) can be enough to defy temptation.
6. Create accountability
This can look like all kinds of things. It could be a set class time you’ve committed to (and paid for!) in advance. It could be working with a nutrition coach who’s going to check in on you. It could be finding a community of fellow fitness-ing humans who will notice if you’re not there and check in on you. Making a commitment to another human being will provide some useful tension to your personal integrity: doing the thing you said you were going to do when you said you’re going to do it.
Bottom line, says Mark: we all know there’s no such thing as a magic pill. Achieving success will require some work.
“On the other hand, there’s no glory in needlessly overtaxing your willpower when we can set ourselves up for success in advance.”
Mark Fisher Fitness is a gym for people who hate gyms. Until the W39th St clubhouse can reopen, it’s 14-day Homebody challenge is featuring live, virtual, no-equipment-necessary classes for $99 (keeping you accountable when the temptation strikes to order Chipotle and drink frozen margaritas instead).