1: Tony Horton is the founder of the wildly popular P90X fitness series.

He is one ultra-fit individual.

So, what are our assumptions about Tony? Number one: This guy obviously loves to work out.

Actually, he doesn’t.  

In fact, he tracks how he feels before starting his workout. He says, depending on the day, three different voices show up in his head:  

  • 21% of the time, the voice says: “Let’s do this. I’m ready. Let’s go.”  
  • 35% of the time, the voice is an adamant “NO. I’m not in the mood. Don’t bother me.”
  • 43% of the time, the voice mumbles, “OK, I guess so.”

That’s right: Four out of five days, Tony doesn’t feel like working out.  

But that’s not where the story ends. Regardless of how he feels, Tony does his workout anyway. He starts. He takes the first step. And before he knows it, he’s into it.

As Atomic Habits author James Clear says: “This is the difference between professionals and amateurs. Amateurs wait until they feel inspired or motivated. Professionals set a schedule and stick to it.”

Several years ago, I participated in philosopher Brian Johnson’s fantastic Heroic Coach Program. The year-long program culminates with a deep dive into what Brian calls the “Fundamentals.”

One of which is exercise. Back in our cavemen days, we were active eight hours a day, including one to two hours of moderate to vigorous exercise.

How much moderate to vigorous exercise does the average American adult get today?

10 minutes.

This data, while alarming, isn’t surprising. As human beings, we evolved to conserve energy, not expend it. We are not naturally motivated to exercise. The key to counterbalancing our natural tendency is to make exercise into a habit.  

The key is consistency. The most important meeting of the day is the one we make with ourselves to stay active. Just show up, Brian tells us.

Brian’s advice? Find something we genuinely enjoy doing. Then, create a compelling goal or vision. Brian’s target is to run a Spartan race when he’s 75 years old.

Finally, find joy in it! Develop the mindset to see exercise as giving ourselves a gift.

2: Exercise is the first of three areas Brian suggests we focus on. The second is movement. Think of movement as a big circle and exercise as a smaller circle inside the bigger circle.  

“Sitting is the new smoking,” states the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. James Levine. In his book Get Up! he details his decades of health research on the negative impact of being sedentary.

The point? We can exercise an hour every day and still be sedentary if we sit in a chair for our remaining waking hours.

“Our body was designed to live in gravity as a perpetual motion machine,” writes NASA scientist Joan Vernikos. When astronauts are launched into space, the moment gravitational pull disappears, their bodies change dramatically and quickly. Their bone density declines, their aerobic capacity shrinks, and their blood plasma changes. Within days and weeks, they age the equivalent of years and decades.  

Joan believes the changes astronauts undergo are similar to what we experience by being sedentary here on earth, she writes in her book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. Spending our days sitting in a chair accelerates aging.

To combat our sedentary nature, Brian suggests we pay attention to our “micro-movements.” Research suggests we allow ourselves no more than twenty minutes of sitting without standing up and moving our bodies. Brian keeps a 1,000-second timer (about 16 minutes) to remind him to get up and move consistently. Periodically during his day, Brian does sets of burpees. His goal each day is 100 burpees.   

3: The third area Brian focuses on is walking. Numerous studies show the number of steps we take every day is correlated with our physical and mental well-being. Those who take at least 6,500 steps a day are less likely to suffer from depression. Note: the average American takes 4,500 steps a day.

Other research suggests that people who live the longest are not runners but walkers and hikers.

Brian points out that if we commit to walking just 1-mile a day for 365 days works out to 90-hours of walking each year! Another benefit? We can turn our walks into a social activity by coordinating with friends to walk together. We can also develop other creative ways to get our steps in, like consistently parking in the farthest spot in the parking lot.

The other significant benefit of walking? It helps our thinking.  

“I have walked myself into my best thoughts,” Soren Kierkegaard said. Darwin, Kant, and Aristotle were all known for walking and thinking or talking with colleagues.

More next week.


Reflection: How much time am I spending sitting each day?

Action: Experiment with one of Brian’s suggestions to get more exercise, movement, or walking. Do it. Today!

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