I’ve spent the last couple of months being lousy about exercise. You name it, I found excuses not to. But I also learned something about myself.
I’m a morning exerciser. There’s just no way around it. By the end of the day, I’m done and I want to be comfortable, quiet and at home.
Oh, I’ve tried evening workouts. “Sure, honey, when you get home from work, we’ll go work out before dinner.”
It doesn’t happen.
However, if I get up, go work out and don’t give myself time to think or decide about it, I’m up and at ’em at 5:30 in the morning.
I think for me, it’s that my imagination and ability to visualize works against me. At 5:30 in the morning, morning person though I am, my brain isn’t engaged yet. I’m not thinking about cold, or physical effort or anything like that. I’m just following through on what I’d preprogrammed in my brain the night before. I roll out of bed, make it, and throw on my bathing suit and sweats without any real conscious decision because that’s what’s laying on my bedside table for me to put on. I’m at the gym before I’m thinking about the fact that I’d rather be in bed.
For all that many of my readers are intellectuals and value conscious thought, it’s important to remember that we’re learning that conscious thought is expensive in terms of energy – even when we’re really smart. There are things that don’t deserve conscious thought, once you’ve decided you want something in your life to be a habit. If we had to put conscious thought into wiping ourselves and washing our hands every time we went to the bathroom, there would be some subset of the population that would find themselves struggling with these very basic and ingrained habits. But it is habit and we don’t think about it, or decide to do it. We just do it.
I think it is helpful to put the habits you want into these sort of pre-programmed subroutines. I’m not talking about necessarily exercise. I mean any desirable behavior that you want to do, you think would be good for you to do, but you don’t and you struggle with doing it. Placing it in your day where you’ll be more likely to do it without conscious decision means that you can apply the conscious mind to more important things in your life that deserve it more.