The 3 year exercise construction project

In Jan 2020, I decided I wanted to be significantly fitter. We now had a 1.5 year old and a 3 year old and were getting out of crisis mode. As I looked for ways to hold myself accountable, I decided to buy an Apple Watch. I wanted to track my activity and use the move + exercise + stand rings as motivation. That went okay for a couple weeks. Then COVID-19 lockdowns hit. Cue: a repeat of crisis mode.

As we got into a routine in the latter part of the year, I realized that the Watch buy was a success. The 3 rings were motivating and I could see myself committing to this.

In 2021, I renewed my commitment to closing the rings. My challenge was to do so during weekdays. I didn’t need a watch during weekends as we led fairly active weekend lives. And I didn’t have any specific criteria beyond hitting my 400 calorie/30 minutes/10 hours x 1 min stand goal. As long as it got done, I was good. It had its ups and downs in 2021. But, by the end of the year, I was structuring my day such that I got a good 20ish minute walk (often during a call) and closing those rings on most days.

I still wasn’t feeling fit. But I was beginning to see the light.

In 2022, I wanted to do better and decided to commit to at least 5-10 minutes of strength training. A 30 minute walk to close my exercise ring didn’t cut it anymore. This time, I decided to try Apple Fitness+ and got myself a few dumbbells. Again, this worked well. I used Apple Fitness+ in the first half of the year and kept the habit of an 8-10 minute strength workout throughout the year.

I felt fitter than I was last year. A win.

As we enter 2023, I think I’m finally ready to go after that original goal – get significantly fitter. I spent a bit of time exploring options for a personal trainer at a gym nearby. This would cost more – but I felt ready to make the commitment. However, with young kids and everything we have going on, that idea flew out of the window quickly. Instead, I ended up signing up for Future’s app based personal training service. My goal for this year is to complete 4 x 30 minute strength training sessions during the week. The very early signs are positive. Let’s hope I can keep it up.

3 reflections –

(1) I shared all this to emphasize just how hard it is to build a “simple” habit – exercise. I approach building such habits as 3 year construction projects. I start by doing something. Then I learn to do it better. And, by year 3, I begin to step up my game. I’m in year 3 of this journey… and hopeful.

(2) I also prefer focusing entirely on a combination of directional goals (feel significantly fitter – a sign would be toned muscles for example) and process (4 x strength training sessions) vs. outcome goals. I think that combination keeps things focused and positive.

(3) This focus on exercise hasn’t been without trade-offs. For example, I read significantly lesser than previous years in 2022. I just mentally prioritized exercise after sleep and family + work. I’d like to rebalance this a bit this year and read more than I did last year. I’ll definitely give it a go – but exercise will be higher priority. Every strategy has trade-offs.

That in turn gets to why doing the simple things right is hard. I have so many other skills/habits I want to build. I want to eat better, listen better, communicate better, keep a sense of humor more often, and so on. But I have no illusions that they’ll come easily.

The good news, however, is that once they’re part of your life, they’ll stay in some shape or form. I worked on reading regularly many years ago. And while I didn’t read as much as I used to, I still read. Just slower. And that’s okay for now.

Simple is hard.