Counterintuitive Advice for Making Exercise a Sustainable Habit – Michelle Segar on The Art of Manliness, Hosted By Brett McKay

Check Out The Art of Manliness Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • When it comes to exercise, DO WHAT YOU CAN
    • Anything > nothing
  • Research indicates people are much more motivated by immediate exercise rewards (AKA how they feel after a workout) compared to long-term weight loss goals, avoiding disease, etc.
  • Give yourself the permission to prioritize your well-being and self-care
  • Make your exercise a learning goal, as opposed to a performance goal
  • Exercise will help you sleep better and boost your mood/energy, but when it comes to calorie expenditure, it’s just not that effective compared to optimizing your diet

Intro

How often to people stick to new exercise goals?

  • “In general, by just six months, most people have discontinued their planned exercise” – Michelle Segar
  • In terms of New Year’s exercise resolutions, the statistics are even worse – most stop exercising after 6-8 weeks

Why do so many people not follow through with their new health goals?

  • When people decide to change a health-related behavior, they’re committing from a place of high-motivation (what Michelle terms the “motivation bubble”)
    • But, once real-life hits, the motivation bubble often pops. People live overly-busy lives, and like it or not, health often falls to the bottom of the average to-do list.
      • Think about it: On a daily basis, if someone asks, “How relevant is exercising for better health compared to all these other things?”
        • For the average person, the answer is probably, “Not relevant at all” 
  • Also, original motivation is largely tainted 
    • How so? – It’s primarily driven by external pressure (a doctor’s advice, a friend’s back-hand comment, etc.), not internal influence

The Way You Think About Exercise Sets You Up for Failure

  • Research indicates people are much more motivated by immediate exercise rewards (AKA how they feel after a workout) compared to long-term weight loss goals, avoiding disease, etc.
    • You need to realize: Weight loss is HARD and takes time – 30 pounds doesn’t disappear overnight
  • Also, when it comes to exercise, many have the mindset: “I have to go to the gym 5x a week, or else it isn’t worth it”
    • NOPE – DO WHAT YOU CAN (anything > nothing)

Sustainable Exercise Through MAPS | Meaning, Awareness, Permission, and Strategy

Meaning

  • For most, exercise eventually starts feeling like a chore – this primarily results from focusing too much on long-term (and difficult-to-achieve) weight loss/health goals (Michelle refers to these as “wrong whys”)
  • Meaning is also created by the experiences you have while exercising:
    • For many, forcing themselves to exercise to exhaustion creates a negative association
    • Instead:
      • Make your workouts fun by exercising with friends
      • If you don’t enjoy a particular type of exercise (like strength training), don’t do it!
      • Relish in the immediate benefits of exercise (like increased mood)

Awareness

  • AKA: Being mindful of the beliefs you hold about physical activity
    • Do you think exercise HAS to be hard and vigorous? Do you think your workouts have to be the same every single time? Do you think that by exercising, you can eat whatever you want?

Permission

  • Give yourself permission to get rid of your limiting beliefs
  • Give yourself permission to choose the types of exercise you enjoy most
  • Lastly, give yourself permission to prioritize your own well-being and self-care
    • MANY don’t feel they don’t have the right to take a break from family/work time and hit the gym (or that it’s even worth it)
      • “In society, we’re rewarded for being successful at work and being good parents… but we’re not rewarded for self-care or increasing our sense of well-being. That truly is the most difficult thing.” – Michelle Segar

Strategy

  • Make your exercise a learning goal, as opposed to a performance goal
    • Examples of performance goals: Trying to lose 50 pounds, aiming to hit the gym 5x a week, etc.
    • Focusing on hitting specific achievements in your fitness adds stress to the equation when it doesn’t need to be there
    • Ideally, think of your exercise as a “project” – go to the gym to learn to squat/deadlift/etc.
  • Learn how to negotiate with yourself
    • For example, you might be swamped with work and have no desire to hit the gym for a full hour. That’s fine; workout for 30 minutes and get back to work.

🎧 Diet > Exercise

  • “Eating beats out exercise exponentially in determining how much we weigh”Michelle Segar
    • Exercise will help you sleep better and boost your mood/energy, but when it comes to calorie expenditure, it’s just not that effective compared to optimizing your diet

Wrapping Up | How to Make Exercise a Sustainable Part of Your Life

  • “Be very clear about whether your intention to do this is truly yours, or if you’re doing it out of some type of ‘should.'” Michelle Segar
    • If the motivation is truly yours, move forward and do the types of exercise you enjoy most
    • If exercising feels like a “should,” ask why and get to the bottom of it – make it a goal to let go of the “should” and to fuel your fitness efforts with internal motivation

Additional Notes

  • “That’s the beauty of research. When what you hypothesize doesn’t turn out to be as expected, it forces you to think more deeply about your assumptions and the way the world works.” Michelle Segar