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When things don’t add up

Finding time is hard. Making time is easier. That’s why it’s good to set your priorities straight before leaping onto a new venture.

On a full day it’s really hard to find the time for physical exercise. If it’s not a priority it doesn’t happen. Simple as that. Going to the gym is after all effort. Going to the swimming hall is also effort.

Over the course of a year I find myself in different seasons. There are times when I want to focus more on my physical health, and there are other times when I want to focus on learning a new skill. Trouble comes when I want to maintain my normal schedule for going to the gym, while learning a new language at the same time. That’s when failure hits. And it hits badly.

Things shift after all. Interests, motivation, energy levels — it all comes and goes. And it’s important that it does. It’s called personal growth for a reason.

The smallest thing you can do

But even if I’m not in a season where I regularly go to the gym and work out three days a week, I still want to maintain a minimum standard for continuous exercise. This has been an important personal lesson — throwing everything away and starting from scratch sucks.

Accelerating a moving car is much easier than accelerating a parked one. It’s easier to spark life into a passion if you still maintain it as a habit. Even if that means just kindling the fire to stay alive. Keep the minimum.

That’s why I find the concept of ”what’s the smallest thing you can do each day?” so fascinating. Just seven minutes of exercise each day compounds over the weeks, months, and years. It allows me to keep my body on a minimum level of fitness, even if I’m not fully focusing on physical health right now. And — in contrast of having to go to the gym — it’s not much of an effort.

Lower the friction

I use a fitness app called Seven which has helped me retain minimum fitness for the last two years. It’s got a bunch of different workout exercises that only require seven minutes to complete. It’s also filled with all that goodness like badges and digital trophies — so you don’t want to break the streak by missing a day.

Even though there are many different workouts to try out, I’ve decided to stay by just one. It lowers the friction of having to find the right workout each day. The only thing I have to do is start the app and tap the Belly Burn workout. That’s it. I love the simplicity of it.

I’ve anchored the habit to when I come home from work in the afternoon. The only thing I need to do is to start the app, get down on the floor, and do the exercise. It’s seven minutes of pain each day. But I try not to think about the pain. I only think about how good it feels afterwards.

I wouldn’t need the app at this point. I know the workout in and out, I could do it from memory. But it feels like accountability, it’s there and it asks me each day if I have the seven minutes. My answer is yes and that’s how I’m able to keep fitting exercising into every day, even during the seasons I’m not in the mood for it.


Things I write.

Personal blog by Johannes Holmberg.
Thinking and musing.