PDF 2014 – Public Displays of Fitness

Time to put Simple Gym to the test…

Thanks for sticking with us during an unannounced sabbatical. Sorry for leaving you stranded during the “heaviest” time of the year. I can’t help be curious though, if you’ve been with us for a while, did you feel empowered and able to put together some of your own workouts? If you only follow the blog, this post seems rather hypocritical, since this is the first public post in nearly 3 months. You need to get on the email list my friend, where workouts are conveniently emailed out 3x per week. 

One of our hopes for the community is you would begin to look at what’s available to workout with, and what you’re able to to do on your own. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Ok Matt & Morgan, but what have YOU been doing this past month?

I’d be annoyed with me also, but know we have been cooking up something for the community. We want 2014 to be a year you tackle a public fitness challenge, like a 5-10k run! Even if you’ve signed up for the Simple Gym in the past month and have completed the starter sessions, you’re set for the 5k plan.

Been working out with the Simple Gym for 3-6 months? You’re probably ready for the 10k plan!

If you’ve been working out regularly with us for the whole year, I think a half marathon should be a part of your big audacious goal for 2014. Think about it.

2014 is a year of PDF’s for the Simple Gym, and I hope you’ll join us.

On Getting Out of the Way

I had a great conversation with Jedd Rose of Topo Designs this week. Eventually, it will be a podcast episode everyone will be able to share, which I’m super-excited about. But I wanted to share something Jedd talked about that I think has important application for us in our life and work.

Topo Designs, Colorado USA

Topo Designs is an outdoor gear and lifestyle company merging the throwback asthetic of 60’s and 70’s gear with modern materials. If you haven’t heard of their stuff, it’s definitely worth a look, just to see why and how they work, and what the end result looks like. When I asked Jedd why their gear is so stripped down (compared to most packs) he gave a very profound answer, and it wasn’t what I expected.

We want Topo gear to do exactly what is needed in your outdoor adventures, but nothing more. The pack should be a integrated in to the experience, and not conquer it. In a way, we want the gear to get out of the way and allow the outdoorsman to take in the majesty of the outdoors without fussing with his pack.


Jedd’s words have resonated with me throughout the day, when I think about how often I try and trade up again and again for the latest and greatest, thinking more bells and whistles will improve my performance or experience. Obviously there’s a baseline of tech which helps, but I think mentally we stuck on the hamster wheel of “if I had this tool things would be better”. The value of continually upgrading isn’t always worth the energy, and I certainly believe the returns diminish quite rapidly after hitting the baseline.

I remembered I had seen this in real life, sitting at Yellowstone and waiting for Old Faithful to blow. We sat next to an elderly man, toting an old 35mm. Behind us, a man in his early 30s sported a new Canon DSLR. This 2nd man was like me. We waited, waited, and waited for the geyser to spout. Each time Old Faithful looked ready to fulfill her earthly duty, Canon man took about a dozen pictures in burst mode. This happened about a dozen times. He probably took 200 pictures of nearly the exact same view. The old man took one, maybe two. I was in the middle, taking more and less, mostly trying to video.

Finally, Old Faithful did what she was created to do, and let loose. Water shot in to the air, reaching towards the sky, falling back in thick mists that pelted our faces and fogged our lenses. Canon man was a fury of snapping, adjusting, and recording. I filmed most of the eruption, but simply held the camera steady as I watched with my own two eyes. Again, the old man took one, maybe two pictures, and watched.

Afterwards, Canon man fussed about his pictures, while the old man remained steady, watching the spray as it dissipated in to the air. Canon man had barely seen the show, and he will have 500 pictures to remind him of the time he took 500 pictures of Old Faithful. The old man experienced a stunning display of the earth’s power and force, and will have a couple of pictures to help him recall the prismatic effect of sky, sun, and water, the feel of mist on his cheeks, and the sound of untold gallons of water pumping through the earth.

The old man didn’t let the equipment get in his way. The camera integrated perfectly in to his experience. Topo tries to follow this process and mindset of simplicity and experience in the outdoors and in life. Jedd summed up their ethos with this quote:

Think canoe vs. motorboat. We’re the canoe. Handmade, artistic, and gliding smoothly along the water, connected to the environment.

I certainly hope to embody this more in my life and work. Jedd and I talked a lot about simplicity and priorities, and I look forward to sharing the full conversation with you.

In December, I’ll be launching a podcast called Story Signals. I’ll be learning from artists, entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, writers, and many other people who are living great stories. The best part is, we’ll all be learning together! To claim your spot on the launch list, and get access to a curated list of 9 videos to build your story, click here

The Science of Starting Small

Starting positive habits and breaking bad ones are two of the oldest and most challenging practices for people. In fact, society seems to be on even more of a habit kick lately, evidenced by the popularity of Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, and Making Habits, Breaking Habits, by Jeremy Dean. The science and research of habit change and formation is growing rapidly, as people look for ways to gain that crucial edge in an ever-competing world.

Every person has attempted to start a new habit and failed at some point in their life. There are a myriad of reasons why, but one of the biggest reasons we struggle is because our habits are too audacious. There are times we need to establish a big, hairy, audacious goal, or BHAG. But in the case of proclaiming “I want to lose 50 pounds!” or “I’m going to wake up at 5 a.m. every day!” many people end up right where they started.

Maybe it’s precisely because we’re thinking too big. Our failure often lies in the fact we’re not thinking small enough.

One Is Better Than Zero

Let’s do a little personal research, okay? Think of the last time you worked out. Maybe today, a few days ago, or weeks. Rather than beat yourself up over it, try and channel your inner drill sergeant, pushing yourself to “drop and give me ONE!”

“Well that just sounds ridiculous,” is what we say in our minds. But is it really? Consider doing simply one push up per day — it accumulates to 365 pushups a year. Think about that for a moment. Did you do 365 pushups last year?

What’s more likely is that when you get down and do one, you think: “I guess I could do one more… one more… one more…” Extrapolate the number to five push ups a day, and you’ve done 1,825 pushups in a year. More than last year? Probably.

Change that to writing, coding, playing music, anything you can do without much preparation or equipment. If I commit to writing just one word every day, I will inevitably write more.

The takeaway is simply to start. The crazy part is the answer becomes obvious! We all know it but fail to act.

Just Start

Doug Lisle, director of research at TrueNorth Health Center, recommended this technique for a woman looking to kick her caffeine habit.

“Go get out your tea, bring it over to the sink while we are talking, and get some scissors,” Lisle said. His patient laughed nervously. “I can’t believe you are making me do this!”

She goes on to cut up the bags and dump the leaves down the drain. Two weeks later, she hadn’t bought any more. Lisle goes on to say that too often we overcomplicate the process of change. We wait for the big inspiration, lowest of lows, a turning point, and never actually begin. Starting small help build momentum for bigger changes.

Your Goals Are Too Big, Even the Small Ones

BJ Fogg is the director of research and design at Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab. He’s the guy who asked people to floss one tooth a day for a week. Like one push up, that sounds ridiculous. But Fogg emphasizes you must only floss one tooth every day for a week, and afterwards congratulate yourself. Why?

You must declare victory. Like I am so awesome, I just flossed one tooth. And I know it sounds ridiculous. But I believe that when you reinforce yourself like that, your brain will say yeah, awesome, let’s do that.

Do you want to get in the habit of running? Simply put on your shoes. That’s it. For five days.

Fogg calls these tiny habits and has been running thousands of tests with willing subjects. In fact, you can get in on the course by signing up for Tiny Habits. But why limit yourself to such a microscopic act? Fogg’s research has shown that people who start by flossing one tooth last longer than people who floss all their teeth. Why? Because the first day you don’t reach your goal, you feel sad and guilty; and those feelings snowball the same way positive feelings do. In fact,negative emotional feelings tend to elicit quicker, stronger responses than positive emotions, and also are sub-conciously given more attention.

Find Your Anchors

Fogg goes on to explain that one of the main reasons habits fail is because we’re not attaching them to strong anchors. What is an anchor? An action that you take every day, no matter how simple it is. Our most powerful habits. Here are a few examples.

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Opening your front door
  • Feeding your pets
  • Waking up

The key is to attach your new habit to an anchor, doing it immediately after the anchor habit. Why after? Because then you’re not relying on memory, but piggybacking the automatic behavior, which is already present. It also helps if the anchor is present around the same time each day, which can make meals a little unreliable.

Another important way to strengthen your habit is to design your environment around it. If you want to exercise in the morning, set your clothes out the night before. Place the book you want to read next to the coffee maker.

Quantity is not the purpose early on. The purpose is to train your brain to recognize a pattern of action and reward.

Don’t Be Intimidated

Starting a business is a fantastic goal. But the big picture of any startup business is intimidating. There’s the product, marketing, hiring, and customer service, to name just a few. But once again, how small can you start? Even before you build a product?

The most basic question to ask is: “Would people pay for my product?” Don’t simply ask your friends and family, which normally results in the confirmation bias, or in everyday terms, they’re telling you what you want to hear. In their book Decisive, the Heath Brothers have an even simpler analogy for the confirmation bias: “No one is going to tell you that your baby is ugly.”

So test your product in the market, as simple as you can make it. Eric Ries of Lean Startup fame refers to this as the Minimum Viable Product. Enough to function, but not so developed you’re married to the design and structure. That way it will be easy to pivot when changes need to happen.

So instead of getting worked up over your future IPO, start with one email, one sale, one dollar. You will save lots of time, money, and build a business you know is in demand from the start.

Break It Up!

Many people get stuck in the beginning stage of habit formation, successful with a tiny habit of 10 pushups or one paragraph of writing. But we still struggle with finding the time to work out for 30 minutes or write three pages.

A recent study at Arizona State revealed that breaking up your exercise in to three 10 minute blocks can be more beneficial in lowering blood pressure than one 30-minute session. It helped keep blood pressure steady throughout the day, instead of spiking. A 2011 study by PLoS One showed the time could be even less for children, showing results with intervals as brief as 5 minutes.

The Simple Gym, a fitness and habit formation blog, designed a workout around small blocks of time during your day. Set a timer to of off every 30 minutes. When it beeps, do five pushups, or even 10! When the timer goes off the next time, do 10 squats. At the end of an eight-hour work day, you’ve done 80 pushups and 80 squats! This type of activity won’t get you in the Olympics, but the cumulative effects of small bursts of energy throughout the day have shown to be effective in reducing muscle pain and headaches, while increasing energy and focus.

Practice Small Wins

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg tells the story of Olympic champion Michael Phelps. Phelps goes through same routine of tiny habits before each training session, and before each race. Each successful accomplishment builds on itself, creating a powerful feeling of self-confidence whenever Phelps enters the pool.

Duhigg calls these small wins, and like Fogg’s tiny habits, encourages readers to celebrate small wins in physical and vocal ways. Allowing yourself to appreciate these accomplishments wires your brain to expect a positive outcome.

In the health care field, researchers showed that a strategy of small wins often produced visible results in their work.

Small wins concurrently marked progress along the way and shifted attention and energies to the next areas of action … In this regard, small wins were easily overlooked. However, their accumulation resulted in noticeable achievements, representing powerful symbolic markers of progress.

What’s a small win you can celebrate each day? Duhigg suggests making your bed, citing research that correlates bed-making with better productivity, a greater sense of self, and even sticking to your budget. It what he calls a keystone habit, and though they seem small, are the building blocks of widespread change.

Do One Thing at a Time

One habit we all need to break is our addiction to multi-tasking. When we spread out our brain processes across multiple tasks, it actually takes us more time, and our performance drops. In fact, Rogers and Monsell showed the effect could result in four times as many mistakes!

Multi-tasking is simply our brain creating the illusion of getting things done, because we just get a little done on lots of tasks and struggle to finish just one of them. It splits the brain and creates “spotlights” on different tasks, and your brain has to frantically switch back and forth.

In an effort to think small, focusing on a single task feels incredibly limiting. But breaking down a large task in to small wins, you’re able to finish quicker and be more productive. After you rewire your brain, you’ll find you can get a lot more done with both spotlights shining on a single task.

Leo Widrich, CMO of social app Buffer, wrote an illuminating post on multi-tasking. For now, try and work on one task at a time, no matter how frustrated you feel. Keep one browser tab open, plan out your daily tasks, and maybe even turn your internet off for a while.

Have you seen small habits snowball in to big successes in your own life? Do you believe tiny habits are simply too microscopic? What are some other tactics you have used to initiate habit change?


Rogers RD & Monsell, S (1995) Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 124(2): 207 – 231

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.

The Simple Manifesto, Part 1

Today We Start

Whether it’s day 1, 100, or 1000 in our pursuit of fitness and function, we start today as a new day, a gift to use our bodies as they’ve been used for the past thousands of years and billions of people. We will run, jump pull, push, lift, and throw not just our bodies but our will to do what we never thought was possible, from one pullup to one hundred miles. We welcome everyone because we are everyone, from across the world and the spectrum of age we high-five your initiative and cheer you each day.

We want to offer an alternative to big-box gyms and workouts. You can lose weight and get in great shape just by working out at your home, the local park, or even the office! Here is a community of people who want to be the change in the world each day, and are ready to wake up and make it.

The change begins today, we start today. Join us. 

The Simple Manifesto is an ongoing series of challenges to the status quo. You can always find the full, updated manifesto at TheSimpleGym.com/Simple-Manifesto.

Declutter Your Life: 5 Ways to Cut the Crap

We have just moved to Nashville, and what a change it has been. Though the Nashville is much bigger than Asheville, our space has shrunk, along with our available space outside. Areas and rooms we took for granted don’t exist any longer, and the stuff we filled the rooms with no longer has a home.


Morgan and I have gone through a lot of things, stuff we didn’t really need but didn’t really need to throw away. As we packed, we both kept looking at items and wondering “why did we get this?” (biscuit cutters) or “when did we last use this?”

Comparatively, I think we had less stuff than the average married couple in their late twenties, but then again people normally look on themselves with a kinder eye than we warrant. But there was still a lot.

Stuff when we started packing

Stuff when we kept packing

Stuff when we were unpacking

The stuff I came across whilst unpacking was the most frustrating. Why did I think I needed this stuff twice already?! We have moved in to a little 550 sq ft apartment, and there just isn’t enough room for all this stuff! Even stuff I didn’t need any longer I had continued holding on to, because I was too proud or because the item reminded of something great I had done or been a part of. I couldn’t let go of either past failures or successes.

Why we find it difficult to let go of stuff

Pride and Sentiment. Those are the emotions blocking my ability to unload stuff, and they’re probably the same for you as well. I don’t want to get rid of something I haven’t used because I paid good money for it. So I’ll justify keeping it because I’m going to sell it on Ebay, except I never get around to posting it. But I certainly don’t just give it away!

Giving it away for nothing means I made a mistake in the past, and I don’t like admitting mistakes.

There’s the deadly sin. Pride.

I was and still am too proud to unload things which are providing no value to me. Simply recognizing the trait does wonders, and I’ve improved! Realizing the wastefulness of buying things in the past makes me consider current and future purchases. Do I need this? Do I already own something that will work? Would I keep this if we moved to a small apartment?

Sentiment is another reason, we hold on to old things because they remind us of past versions of ourselves, and the good past self to boot. We keep home run balls, not the one we struck out on to lose the game. I have lots of this stuff, and while some has been tossed, a few boxes remain. If they’re going to have a place in your life, do yourself a favor and look through them sometimes, get some use out of their memories.

Whether you are downsizing your living space or not, cutting through your clutter can be a great practice to keeping your space manageable and clean. Cleaning our small space has been much easier and quicker, precisely because there’s less stuff! Here are five ways you can do the same.

1. Have a yard sale – and keep it cheap

Set up early, because pickers come around by 7:00 am, guaranteed. Keep it simple and cheap with yard sales, most people coming through aren’t looking to spend $50 on a coffee table. This is a good place for old DVDs, CDs, clothes, and other stuff you don’t want to ship or sell online.

2. Sell on Craig’s List and Ebay

Sell your big, expensive, or unique items here. We sold our bedroom furniture for $550 on CL, and have racked up $150 in Ebay items. An example of a unique item was my lacrosse helmet. No one was coming to the yard sale looking for a lax lid, but someone in South Carolina sure was. Use this helpful guide from Man vs Debt to get your stuff sold online.

3. Hold a friends and family giveaway party

If you don’t want to give your stuff away to strangers, give it away to your friends and family! Here’s the catch though… give them nice stuff. If it’s something useful that you’re just not using anymore, let it go to someone else! In the past few months, we’ve given away clothes, small appliances, cutlery, and sporting goods to loved ones who will give the stuff a nice new home and regular use.

4. Take useful stuff to Goodwill

Didn’t sell it or give it away to loved ones? Pack it up in bags and take it away to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Don’t get all sentimental or proud, just do it! Freecycle.org is another great resource for getting your stuff to people who will make use of it (see below).

5. Trash it

If none of the above worked, time to trash it. An item making it through the first four steps does NOT mean it’s destined to be yours now, but the fact it has survived this long means it should definitely be kick to the curb.

Simplicity isn’t just about minimizing your stuff, it’s about maximizing your life!

(click to tweet that)

UPDATE: As you see in the comments, Ansley suggested using freecycle.org as a way to unload your stuff before trashing it. This is such a great point and one I didn’t emphasize enough. Trashing is the last resort, and you should look to make good use of your stuff keep the planet uncluttered!

I know we’re not making it easy on ourselves. The temptation is to blindly accumulate and keep up with the rest of society, except it isn’t working. We’re slowly waking up to realize that all this stuff isn’t making us any happier, and it’s not filling any deep need. The answer isn’t to go live at a monastery or tucked away in the woods (though that does sound nice at times), but to be mindful of the choices we’re making with our time and money.

Let’s help each other choose well

Additional Resources on Stuff…

Comedian George Carlin holds up the mirror on our addiction to stuff… in 1986!

I got my start on minimizing stuff and maximizing life from the Minimalists.

Annie Leonard’s great book The Story of Stuff, and the accompanying short film.

The Grind Mentality and Running Ultra-Marathons

48082_10100407839398622_1704875925_nRunning has become a great teacher in my life, but it didn’t start that way. The value of work and contribution was instilled in me at an early age. I had chores, mowed the lawn, washed cars, vacuumed, all sorts of around-the-house work. My first cash job was assembling trophies at the shop of my friend’s dad. My brother and I would go in on the weekends, or after school, and work for a few hours, be handed a $10 bill, and happily ride our bikes home.

Working at summer camp helped too. Being a counselor is an all-day job, though not all of it feels like work! But I still had to learn to be present and engaging even when I didn’t feel like it.

Sports also helped round out my grind ethic. Football two-a-days was another valuable lesson in putting aside temporary fatigue for the good of the team and long-term goals.

But perhaps my greatest teacher in learning how to grind has been running. I was a sprinter in high school, and before moving to North Carolina, had never run more than a 15k at once, and honestly that had only been once!

My transformation in to an endurance athlete isn’t the point. The point is training for and running these long distances has engaged a different part of myself, and has coincided with writing more. After never running more than a 15k (9.3 miles), I have now run 5 races of a marathon distance or longer, running ultra-marathons of 40 miles. When training for a race of that length, you regularly need to run over 10 miles. So yes, it’s been quite a change.

When you’re moving for that long, a lot happens. You’re constantly making little binary decisions about what to do.

“Do I eat? Stop to stretch? Go to the bathroom?”

Those are easy compared to the non-stop mind games doing their own laps through your brain.

“What are you doing?” “This is such a waste of your time” “Why don’t you just flag down that truck there” and my favorite, “Shouldn’t you be writing?”

Which is just perfect for the Resistance, because when I’m writing I hear the voice saying,

“Shouldn’t you be running?”

Remember those binary decisions? I’ve found even in writing I am tempted to make similar little decisions that can distract me from the task.

“Should I make more coffee now?” “Check email?” “Go for a run?” “Cook?”

In any type of endurance event, you’re constantly giving yourself positive self-talk, reminding your weary body why you can complete this task. That the payoff at the end is worth the temporary pain. Running in the woods for hours on end taught me this in a way nothing else has. It taught me that I can stay in something for a long time, longer than I thought was possible.

I never thought I could run 40 miles in one day. I still don’t like driving 40 miles! But grinding towards that goal has opened my mind to other “impossibilities” I once thought were unattainable.

  • Starting a blog and waking up early or staying up late to write? In progress
  • Completing an Ironman? One day
  • Starting a business? Possible
  • Speaking to 400 people? Last month
  • Reading the Steve Jobs book? Working on it 🙂

There is a mental switch to turning physical lessons (running) to cognitive work (writing), but the non-cognitive traits and lessons learned make the process possible. Traits like resilience, endurance, positive thinking, patience, and simplicity are applicable across different kinds of work and relationships.

And I learned them in the woods.

Question: Have you found that you’ve learned lessons in one aspect of life that you realized were applicable to another part? Please share in the comments.

Simple Gym Radio – Interview with Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete


Today I’m thrilled to share this interview with Matt Frazier from NoMeatAthlete.com. We discuss vegan & paleo diets, running, habit formation, & marathon training.

Click here to download

Jump to…

Once you’ve downloaded the interview, you can add it to iTunes or another audio player, and listen on the go. If you want to jump to a specific topic, timestamps are listed below. Hope you enjoy!

Vegan Diet @ 1:48

Why Paleo and Vegans should stop hating each other @ 10:25

Paleo & Vegan @ 11:17

Simple Ways to move toward a healthy diet @ 13:34

Michael Pollen & Food Rules @ 15:00

Energy @ 16:20

7 Day Vegan Challenge @ 17:40

Running @ 22:40

Running as a habit @ 25:52

Running steps and breathing @ 32:23

Half Marathon/ Marathon 39:48

Links & Resources

No Meat Athlete Half-Marathon & Marathon Training Programs

Food Rules by Michael Pollan

Body, Mind, Sport by John Douillard



Homemade Energy Gel & Homemade Energy Bar

Why Paleo and Vegans should stop hating each other

The Most Mathematically Perfect Playlists for Running


What do you think about having an interview available on The Simple Gym? Would you like to hear more? Prefer articles? Or both?

How to Develop Good Habits (and not drive yourself crazy)

We all have good habits we would like to develop. Patterns of acting, eating, exercising, learning, or creating. Even worse for us is the maybe the lack of certain habits or patterns we wish to have, along with bad habits, like biting our nail (guilty).

But rather dwell on our bad habits, let’s make temporary peace with the shadow sides of ourselves and talk about developing good habits, patterns, and practices. Now, this isn’t a a sure-fire, 21 days to mastery post. That doesn’t really exist. The real nitty-gritty of worthwhile patterns takes longer, but we can definitely begin moving in the right direction!

My quick list of 5 good habits I would like to develop (in no particular order), and why.

  1. Eat healthier – It’s good for me, I feel better, and have more energy.
  2. Exercise every day – It’s integrally tied to my eating, and when I do both each day, I feel so much better!
  3. Read more – I always have loved reading, simply would like to read even more.
  4. Write diligently – I feel that I can write well, and have a story to tell.
  5. Dedicated time for meditation & prayer – It’s a lifeline for me, the most important, yet often neglected, practice in my life.

From my experience, all of these habits are not like snapping your fingers. They are difficult! I also experience that worthwhile habits are not the easiest to develop, as I’m sure you have as well. Humans look for the quickest way to success and happiness, usually at our own downfall.

I’ll quickly break down my own reasons for not developing these healthy habits.

  1. I like sugar, processed food tastes good and hits the sugar/fat desire, and it’s easy to prepare (or lack thereof).
  2. I don’t feel like moving at the time, or I’m too tired or busy.
  3. But Modern Family is so funny! As Jim Gaffigan says “You know why I like the movie more than the book? NO READING.
  4. I’ve been writing for 5 months and no book deal? Screw this!
  5. It’s too early/late, the weather is too nice/bad/rainy/snowy/hot/cold, I haven’t had coffee/food/tea/ice cream, any of the above excuses will do. And of course… because I’m afraid of what I’ll be asked to do.

So that’s it. I would encourage you to do the same for your own hopeful habits. I think most of us are closer than we think, and the last steps to take are the most difficult. They are the steps that put you out in public, make failure possible. You’ll be sitting in Subway with a veggie sub, explaining why you’re reducing your meat consumption by 95%, heading towards 100%. You’ll be talking about how you turned off your TV satellite at the beginning of football season.

And then I will be overcome with guilt for my relapses, as you may be.


Let’s make a decision to move towards our true selves. If you would, make a short list (I find I become overwhelmed by all my inadequacies), and break down why you want to make each one a habit, and what holds you back.

Next, decide on incremental ways to turn your hopes in to habits. Maybe start 1 at a time, and go for a month with regular practice. Don’t try and do everything at once! For me, it’s to play the guitar for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Next month, I’ll give up a TV show a week, and read for an extra 30 minutes.

Most of the time, when I can break the cycle of a bad habit or passive attitude towards development of a good habit, it loses power over me!

Just as important is to realize that when you slip, that the slip does not define you! You cannot give that action the power to whisper in your ear “See! You’re not good enough to make this change! You’ll always be the (fill in the blank badness) that everyone knows you are!”

Yes, it happened, you slipped. I fall down daily (in a spiritual sense, but sometimes physically too), and need to be reminded that my failings do not define me. I can think “Yep, that happens” and move towards wholeness and my true self.

Now it’s your turn. Join me! What are the habits you would you like to develop or break? I encourage you to find someone to help hold you accountable and check-in on your progress. Let us know in the comments!

Have a great day.

Tiny Habits Can Lead to Big Changes

Why do we always think because we don’t have time for an hour workout, there’s no point. Man, I hope I am not alone here. Well, I used to think that working out meant a specific amount of time focusing on just that. If I didn’t have X amount of time, I shouldn’t even bother.

Thankfully, I have changed my ways. Exercise doesn’t have to fit in to that pre-conceived framework. It really is the small stuff that counts, and taking those small steps toward a better and healthier life.

It is all about Tiny Habits

So how can and do we change our thinking around exercise? It helps me to have tiny habits. Matt and I have listened to a man named Dr. BJ Fogg on this topic. He is a professor at Stanford University, in the Persuasive Tech Lab (interesting stuff going on in there). Dr. Fogg talks about how we can change our habits and form new ones. Conventional advice has been that if we stick with something for 21 days, its a habit.

Dr. Fogg disagrees, he suggests tiny habits that take less than 30 seconds have a much higher success rate. At first. I thought this was a crazy! How could this change into a full blown habit? Dr. Fogg’s example was flossing. Let’s say you would like to start the habit of flossing. Instead of cleaning all the teeth, he suggests flossing one tooth. That’s right, just one.

Tiny Habits - Flossing

I must say this is much less daunting than to all of a sudden decide to do all of them! This habit will take less than 30 seconds and will last longer and actually become a habit.

How about we try it? Pick three tiny habits you would like to pursue. Start small. It’s not enough to think, “I’d like to exercise more”. Well, sure, we all would. Instead think,

I’m going to do three push ups as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning.

That will certainly take less than 30 seconds, and you’re attaching your tiny habit to something that is GOING to happen. You are GOING to get out of bed (I hope you will) which is an easy transition to the tiny habit. Getting out of bed is the anchor for your tiny habit. Before you know it, you can work your way up to 5, 10, 15 push ups before you even have your morning cuppa’ joe. Think of the possibilities!

An important part of the process is your celebration! That’s right, celebrate your three pushups! Stand up, pump your fist, pat your back, say “way to go!” or do the ol’ Steve Holt!

Ok, lets try another one. I’ll let you in on  a little secret, I can barley touch my toes. I know, right! It’s horrible. So one of my tiny habits is after I pour my coffee in the morning (the anchor), I forward fold. I stay there for only about 10-20 seconds, but it is my tiny habit I’m working on. Your anchor should precede the tiny habit, not follow it! Try to pick anchors that normally fall in the same time fram each day. This is why meals don’t work well as anchors for me, the times are too random.

Examples of Anchors

  • Getting out of bed
  • Pouring coffee or tea
  • Letting the pets out
  • Feeding the pets
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Getting dressed

I urge you to re-think what it means to be active, and strive for three tiny habits, no matter what they might be! Don’t judge your choices, simply begin! Your tiny habits can be stretching, flossing, meditating, or cleaning. It helps to start small and build from there. Remember every journey starts with a single step. I hope this helps motivate you to conquer a few tiny habits!

Join the Tiny Habits movement here.

No Sweat Workouts! Why You Don’t Need to Be a Mess to Get Fit

photo by xannah

When do you begin to sweat?

There are many answers to this question, because it varies from person to person. The climate and the clothes you are wearing also play a role, but it’s an important point for you to figure out.

Why should I care about sweat point?

Sweat, by definition, is the brain’s reaction to your body beginning to overheat. Something I was curious about was how fast, and how hard I could workout without hitting my sweat point. That’s why we came up with this literal term:

No Sweat Workouts

Wait… isn’t the point of exercise to sweat?

Yes, if you have the time and access to the shower. But we have all been in situations where we just want to move a little bit at work, before leaving the house, or in other short bursts. When you know what your sweat point is, you can figure out how many small movements can be done before becoming uncomfortable at home or work.

Ladies, I’m sorry to tell you, but it looks like women actually sweat a little more than men during high-tempo exercises. But remember, many factors impact a person’s sweat point, including biological and environmental. You’ll sweat faster outside than inside an air-conditioned room. You’ll sweat faster in work clothes than breathable exercise clothes.

For example, if your sweat point in work clothes is 10 minutes moving at a moderate pace, then you can go for a 10 minute walk after lunch. For higher tempo exercises, like burpees, it may only be a few minutes. If your sweat point in the house is 5 minutes at a high tempo, then you can listen to a good song while doing pushups and squats.

Single plane movements (up and down or side to side) like pushups are less taxing than multi-plane movements. I personally like to do a mixture of hi-tempo movements with low reps, and single-plane movements at a slow, challenging pace.

Here’s a quick example of a No Sweat Workout!

Timer set for 7 minutes, AMRAP

  • 5 pushups – 5 seconds up, then 5 seconds down
  • 10 squats
  • 3 burpees
  • 20 second count on bridge

I really focus on form, my breathing, and stretching my body out with each rep. These no sweat workouts serve the purpose of giving me a quick boost of energy, stress relief, and focus. It may also be that I haven’t scheduled well enough to give myself a proper workout, and this is better than nothing!

photo by zoofytheji

Short workouts may seem unnecessary and unhelpful, but there’s a growing body of research that is showing the benefits. It’s easy to make the excuse of thinking “I don’t have time” or “A 5 minute workout isn’t worth it.” But when we take the time to consider the benefits of movement, the inverse almost seems silly in comparison. “I can get all the benefits of being happier, productive, and less-stressed, just by moving around a bit!?”

In fact, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have shown the cumulative effects of bursts of movement throughout the day can be very effective.

In the study, two groups of middle aged women were told to exercise for a period of 20 weeks. Both groups were told to workout five days each week, for 20-40 minutes. The difference was that one group needed to complete their workout in one 30 minute session, while the other group was asked to complete three 10-minute sessions throughout the day. After 20 weeks, the multi-session group finished the study with a 39% greater weight loss than the single-session group!

Any kind of workout is great, but no longer do we need to believe that unless we can get that 20-30 minute workout in, we don’t have time. If you are literally telling yourself that you don’t have 5 minutes to spend on making yourself healthier, then you need to look at how you’re spending your time.

All we’re talking about here is simply finding your body’s threshold of sweat. Finding your sweat point allows you to do mini-workouts and movement that will keep your body firing on all cylinders. To help you get started, here are 5 workouts you can do in 5 minutes, and likely keep yourself from reaching your sweat point.

All workouts are timed for 5 minutes (increase as your sweat point goes up). Set your watch or phone and get going!

No Sweat Workouts: Morning

Workout #1

5 pushups

5 one-leg side jumps (each leg)

5 bent-over rows (with weight or using the table)

Workout #2

5 burpees

10 abs

5 lunges (each leg)

No Sweat Workouts: Lunch Break

Workout #3

5 table pulls

10 side lunges

5 pushups

Workout #4

10 squats

10 dips

3 pullups (find an overhang around your building, or nearby park)

Workout #5

Sun Saluations

Illustration by Maggie Miller