By Ndukwu Chibundom Kaosisochukwu - May 31, 2022


One resolution that I made this month of May, in a bid to take care of my physical body, which I was sure that I had been ignoring and taking poor care of, was to begin exercising. This was one habit that I had developed during the lockdown, but abandoned once I came back to school.

By the time I made the firm resolution that I would try everything that I could to ensure that I never missed a day throughout the month, which was something that I did not do even when I began it in 2020, I decided to think through how I was to execute what I wanted.

Even though I did not sit down to write my plans down, I used some tips that I had learned from reading James Clear’s ‘Atomic Habits’ to achieve the goal that I had set out for myself.

The first thing that I did was to draft out an implementation intention (a plan made before starting a habit on where and when to execute the habit) in my mind. To achieve that, I made use of habit stacking. Knowing that fixing a particular time of the day had never really worked for me all the times that I had tried it out, I decided that instead; I was going to pair it with a habit that I did every day. This, according to James Clear, is known as habit stacking, i.e. identifying a current habit that a person already does each day and then stacking a new behavior on top of the current habit.

So, I decided I would make sure that I had my workout done before I took my bath. A lot of the days, I prepared what I would use to take my bath, and then, with everything in place, I slipped into my workout clothes and began exercising. Eventually, I involuntarily did another form of habit stacking. When I could not exercise just before bathing, most of the time because I had somewhere to go first thing in the morning, I made sure that I exercised before I slept, even if it turned out to be the last thing that I was going to do before bed.

Again, I looked back on the previous times that I had tried to bring back the habit of exercising and see what made me unable to stick with the habit. I found that there was something that I kept on doing that made it almost impossible to go through with my plans to exercise every day. This was because, whenever I exercised, I forgot that my body had not been exercising for a while and needed some time to readjust to having an exercise regime and started out strongly. Hence, on my first day of deciding to exercise again, I was prone to overstretching my body so much that I ended up hurting myself, rendering me unable to walk upstairs or run without wincing for the next two to three days after the hellish workout regime that I put myself through.

Of course, what this meant was that I could not exercise during those two to three days and after that, because of the negative thoughts that would flood y mind calling me lazy for not being able to stick with the habit, even though it was impossible to do so, by the time I had gotten physically capable of exercising, I had lost all the morale to do so.

Furthermore, even if I did not sustain as much harm, even if I could do such exercises, if I could pull such off for about three days, I would wake up on the fourth day with an inexplicable dread for the torture that I was once again going to pass myself through and just the thought of spending the time that I set out to spend torturing my body was enough to make me give up whilst berating myself at the same time for not having enough willpower to do so.

So, I decided I was going to implement the two-minute rule. What the two-minute rule states is that when starting a new habit, one should make sure that it takes less than two minutes to do. Of course, for me, two minutes was too small to accomplish anything, so it was more or less three to five minutes for me. Hence, on the worst of the worst of the days when all the motivation I had to exercise was almost completely depleted, or on days in which the last day’s exercise left my body feeling somewhat sore, I was going to spend only about five minutes exercising. And not only that, my exercises on such days were going to comprise mostly simple yogic stretches, nothing that would leave me out of breath or sweating.

Of all the things that I decided, I think this one was the elixir that made me able to accomplish this mission that I had set out for myself this month. This was because, on days that I just was too unmotivated, or the stresses of the day made me feel incapable of carrying out the workouts that I had set out for myself, or on days in which, for one reason or the other, I was feeling unwell; I did not have to sweat out over the fact that I had to exercise that day. This was because I knew if the worst was to happen, I was going to do some stretching exercises from the app that I used.

In fact, after a particular day in which I had carried a heavy load for a long time and hence, had my shoulders aching for two days, for those two days, all the exercises that I did were merely targeted stretches meant to ease the pain that I felt on my shoulders, neck, and back.

Again, to make sure that I had all the physical cues that were going to push me to exercise, my exercise mat was always lying in the corner of my room and my exercise garments were always accessible for use. In fact, on some days during which I did only stretches, I did not even make use of the regalia, using only my mat and whatever I was wearing as long as it gave me enough leg space to do the exercises that I wanted to do. Again, the three apps that I used to exercise were always staring right at the home screen of my phone, next to some apps that I used almost every day, just like my music app and my bible app.

I have been able to actualize the exercise that I set out to do throughout the month of May. The exercises that I engaged in included power walks, full-body exercises, full-body stretches, thigh workouts, abs exercises, arm exercises, splits training, glute exercises, walking/ jogging for relatively long distances, etc. I did not set out the goal to become ripped because I was terrified of injuring myself and not being able to work out the next day. Hence, the longest amount of time that I spent exercising was about twelve minutes (minus breaks to stabilise my body taken in between exercises which, if calculated, would probably increase the time to about twenty to twenty-five minutes).

The goal for me was just to inculcate the habit of exercising into my life. My long-term goal is to spend about twenty to thirty minutes daily exercising (minus breaks) at least four times a week for the rest of my life and I think that with how I have started, I have garnered enough knowledge and strength of will to stick with the habit long term.

Workout clothes and mat

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