Monday, July 26, 2004

Loehr and Schwartz on Ritual and Exercise

by Asim Jalis

1. Loehr and Schwartz's stuff on exercise is pretty good. The book is really about how to get a lot done without using up your will power. 2. Will power and discipline are depleting energy resources. So any strategy that relies on them is bound to fail long-term. They reports studies in which people who used their will-power to resist deserts the first time were less capable of willing their behavior later in the experiment. 3. The key is to leverage ritual and routine. Ritual and routine lowers the cognitive cost of doing something. If you do something every day then you don't have to motivate yourself to do it. You don't have to reason with yourself about why to do it. 4. The way to establish successful rituals is by keeping them extremely easy at the beginning. Instead of starting on a rigorous exercise regimen, start with something tiny, like a 10 or 15 minute walk every day. The size of the walk doesn't matter. What matters is that you do it every day. Under no circumstances can you skip the walk. 5. When I got back into going to the gym for several weeks I went to the gym just to get a shower. I would shower and come home. I kept my shaving stuff in the car so that the only way I could shave was by driving to the gym. Once the gym habit was firm I could build on that. 6. The advantage of forming a habit incrementally, with an extremely low bar at the beginning, is that the other parts of my life were able to adapt to it. The time I woke up, the time I showed up for work, the time I went to bed, all adapted to my routine of going to the gym every day. And so after a while going to the gym becomes effortless. 7. A 10-minute walk done every day is more effective than swimming for an hour at random times on random days of the week. The key elements of a successful routine are: specificity of time and behavior. 8. You can alternate behavior to break the monotony. Do one thing on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and another thing on Tuesday and Thursday. 9. Once a rhythm is in place the rhythm carries you. It is extremely resilient. It takes a lot to knock it out of place.