Monday, June 30, 2014

Defining a Workout Schedule

I always reminisce about the height of my health. It was senior year of college, and that year I decided to make health a priority. I cooked all my meals, I didn't procrastinate when it came to studying, and I kept a really regular workout schedule. Four days a week, the same classes every time. I felt great, and I got good at them. I got in great shape, and I had energy to spare.

Then I moved to New York, which threw my schedule off. Then I became a teacher, and suddenly working out took a back seat to lesson planning, grading and commiserating with my coworkers after hours. Cut to five years later, and with the exception of marathon training, I haven't nailed down a reliable workout schedule. 

The problem with not having a schedule is this: Even if I do manage to get in a workout 3-4 times per week, because there’s no schedule to it, I find myself, almost every single day, wondering whether I’ll work out. Mentally assessing my energy, both physical and mental, looking up yoga classes, determining whether the weather would make for a nice run. Then coaxing myself into it.

If you hadn’t guessed, that takes a lot of mental energy that I could be spending elsewhere, and all of that deciding whether to work out gives me the choice.

In a Vanity Fair profile on President Obama, I was struck by his day-to-day routine. Because the President has so many decisions to make in a day - real decisions, about whether to invade foreign countries, work with or around congress, and respond to Russian threats - he has eliminated the little decisions from his life, like when to eat or work out. Better to focus on the task of running the country. Here's an excerpt from the article:

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” [the President] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

When it comes to my workout routines, I don’t want a choice. I want a habit.

So taking heed of Obama's example, I finally sat down, pen to calendar, and mapped out my week. I made a list of all the workouts I could do (long run, short run with plyometrics afterward, hot yoga, vinyasa yoga, circuit training, etc.), then mapped out the ones I love. In my case, these turned out to cover three days: my Monday morning bagel run, Tuesday night vinyasa yoga with my favorite teacher, and Saturday morning hot yoga. From there, since I've always found that four workouts per week is my sweet spot, I chose one more: circuit training. I decided that it would be easiest for me to do on Sundays, since I can’t always depend on getting out of work at a reasonable hour. And because I love my long-runs-listening-to-podcasts, I penciled in a completely option guilt-free-if-I-miss-it long run on Thursday nights, podcasts in ear.

And voila! No more choices! It’s been four weeks and I’ve stuck to it thus far.

Wish me luck!

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