This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series SmashPlan

Habits are hard to break; for better or worse they are borne of repeated actions that yield some sort of outcome we desire. From this perspective, a pack-a-day smoking habit isn't much different than a morning jog, round of golf every Sunday, or a whiskey each night after work. Breaking habits is uncomfortable for sure, as you're going against “what you've always done” or a pattern that breeds comfort or confidence – this is part of the reason why people don't really want to effect change in their lives, they simply don't want to give up a comfortable routine.

Luckily, healthy habits are also relatively easy to slide back into; provided you have the desire to get over/around any obstacles. My last post, Quit Quitting, was a bit of an eye opener for me, I'd become too lazy and quitting had become a habit. Once I was able to be honest with myself (and frankly, looked at myself in the mirror) I made the decision to get back into healthier habits – more exercise, watching what I eat, and yes, a little less whiskey. This past year I've drank more alcohol than ever before in my life, and while I've enjoyed the social aspect (sometimes a little too much) I'm completely ready to get back to enjoying a glass of scotch once a week vs. 4-5 Jack & gingers over the course of a weekend. I'm not quitting all my bad habits, moderation is key.

Falling Back into Fitness

Everyone would have ripped abs if it was easy. If bulging biceps and rock hard chest grew on trees, we'd all look more like Evan Dollard than me (blue eyes, blond hair, and megawatt smile notwithstanding). In any of my books, I made it a priority to make the plans easy to follow and stick with – primarily because I knew from experience that's the only thing that works for me. 15-20 minutes of bodyweight exercises 3 days/week is something everyone can start and stick with for a while – hopefully a lifetime. Now, I've fallen off that truck over the past year, and it's time for me to get back on, but do so with some lessons learned in mind:

  • Start small; I don't care if you could do 30+ pull-ups a year or so ago, trying to do that many immediately will either result in a pulled muscle, or you'll be too sore from DOMS tomorrow and the next day to exercise.
  • Once you stop, it's 1000 times more difficult to restart. A pause here or there is OK, but get right back to activity as quickly as possible or you'll lose anything you've gained physically and mentally.
  • Building healthy habits take time, but they really need a kick in the shorts during days 5-10. After 14 or so days, patterns are set and it actually becomes easier to stick to a plan, so you need to keep your momentum and spirits up through the doldrums of week #2 – you're going to be sore, tired, and grumpy… but you're so close to reaching your goals if you can just keep going.
  • Excuses are the leading cause of death for dreams, goals, and lives. Exercise and fitness actually helps to “rewire” your brain to look at more positive outcomes, don't let excuses stop you before you get into that positive mindset.

Nail The Timing, Nail Your Goals

I've been blessed with decent willpower, so it's not too hard for me to stick to a nutritional regimen. For example, I have an entire box of Mas Korimas energy biscuits on my desk, yet will only open them up when my timer says so – oh, I totally forgot about the most important “trick” of all, setting a timer. (no, really, it works.)

Sticking with a routine is made a little easier when you relinquish a little bit of control – let your smartphone do some of the thinking for you, and just follow the plan. Trust me, it saves that internal fight where you haggle with your brain “10:22 is close enough to 11:00 to have my snack now…” and then you start playing with your timing until you inevitably screw it up. I know, I do it all the time, and Day 1 I completely forgot this trick and didn't eat breakfast until after 11, and was voracious all afternoon because I couldn't follow my own advice. Well, the alarms in the photo took exactly 30 seconds to set up thanks to Siri, and I've got my gameplan all set.

Power Tip: When you're putting together your snacks and meals for the day, use a sharpie and write the times on the outside of the bag and resist opening them until your timer goes off. Every little trick that you can make work for you is an an ally in your battle to keep your fit, healthy habits on-track.

If you look at my timers, you may notice that I eat pretty late in the morning, and exercise on an empty stomach; this is a routine that I experimented with during the development of 7 Weeks to Getting Ripped and my co-author Jason Warner (FXT: Functional Cross Training, Ultimate Jump Rope Workouts) has perfected his own intermittent fasting (IF) along with ketogenic diet to go along with his daily consumption window. Personally, I just like “running on empty” as I've found when I train with little energy in the tank I can perform much better on race day with full nutrition. Plus, food tastes so much better to me when I work for it!

Periodic Updates

I'll be posting updates on Mud Run Guide's Facebook page with little video snippets, and post here at least once a week, but most likely every couple of days or when something interesting happens – I'm not going to bore everyone with “Day 6, my pecs feel great, bro!”

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