Newsletter #8 - Achieving a Consistent Fitness Routine

Hello everyone,

Today I want to focus on the topic of fitness. Specifically, I will share how I have established a much more consistent exercise routine and my BHAG for fitness in 2024. I would argue that health might be the single most important part of our lives, yet it is easy to take for granted. Back in Newsletter #2 I shared how I was hindered by back pain a few years ago and how it hindered me from doing the things I love like sports and exercise. That was in part because I lacked a healthy fitness routine. This newsletter will not dive into the optimal training routine or the science behind the importance of exercise, instead, it will focus on how I achieved a much more consistent fitness routine.

To achieve consistency in my training there have been three key steps:

  1. Focus on things I enjoy doing
  2. Pick a program and stick to it
  3. Avoid rushing to increase load and weights

Focus on things I enjoy doing

To create a new habit it is often easiest to try and create it by doing things you enjoy as that will take less effort to do. When looking at performing a behavior there are usually two factors to look at motivation and effort. The more motivated you are to do something the more likely you are to do it and the less effort it is the easier it will be. This is illustrated in the image below where we can see that prompts above the action line will result in action being taken. The easier something is to do the less motivation will be required.

An illustration of BJ Fogg's behavior model made by me in MS Paint

When it comes to exercising for me this meant focusing on lifting weights as it is something that I get a lot of joy from and it does not take as much effort for me to do it as say going for a run or other cardio exercising methods. The fact that it is something I enjoy innately results in more motivation thus increasing the likelihood I take action. I also did CrossFit in Switzerland, another form of training that I enjoy. In terms of cardio, I have focused on things such as sports like badminton or if I go for a run I try to do it with a friend so it becomes more fun.

Pick a program and stick to it

A problem many face when trying to start a fitness routine is getting stuck on deciding the type of exercise and scheduling it. In reality, there is no optimal program that will give you astronomical benefits; the most effective program is simply the one you consistently follow. So at first just pick a program and stick to it, so that you can easily track your progress and focus on building the habit of working out. Additionally, the hardest part is beginning to take action and once you are over that hump it is much easier to shift the course if you feel like switching something up

"Common sense is like money and health, once you have it, you have to work to keep it"
- Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

The program I picked was the 5/3/1 Beginner program from the subreddit r/fitness. There was a good Google Sheets that I copied and used for my program. As I am still seeing a lot of progress from it I am still running this program. This has removed much of the mental effort of working out since I always know what the workout will look like. The first 20-30 minutes of every gym workout is already planned. This makes working out easier for me and therefore requires less motivation. Below is the spreadsheet I use to know what weights and reps to do for the main lifts of all my workouts.

An overview of the spreadsheet I use for my strength training

Avoid rushing to increase weights

This was a common problem for me when I began to lift weights. At the start, there are a lot of newbie gains and your strength increases rapidly. I just kept wanting to keep pushing the limit. This is however not always the smart move. Not only are you at increased risk of hurting yourself, but it can also be extremely demotivating once you are not able to progress as easily. Our bodies are not only made from bones and muscles, there are also plenty of tendons and other soft tissues that take longer to adapt than muscles. For this reason, rushing back into the same weights or volume after an extended period away can be incredibly harmful to your body.

Picture of a tortoise
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race!Photo by Luca Ambrosi on Unsplash

The adage 'slow and steady wins the race' holds true for fitness. Rather than viewing exercise as a short-term endeavor, recognize that maintaining strength and health is a long-term commitment spanning decades, if we want to maximize our healthspans. So instead of rushing to increase the weight focus on small and consistent incremental increases in load. This will allow you to progressively overload safely.

My training goal for 2024 - The road to 500

I want to achieve a 500 kg powerlifting total before 2024 is over. This means achieving a sum total of 500 kg in the following three exercises: squat, bench, and deadlift. I think it would be a cool feeling to be able to lift half a ton like this and it motivates me to achieve it. It is also a big enough goal to push me while feeling reachable. Below you can see the calculated maxes for my lifts, currently, my theoretical total if I add up my 1RM (one-rep maxes) would be 460 kg, however, the TM (training max) numbers are maybe closer to the truth, and would then result in 415 kg, which is quite a bit further off.

My current 1RM (one-rep max) according to my spreadsheet/program. TM (training max), which is what the spreadsheet uses to calculate my workout weights.

At present, my theoretical total increases by 12.5 kg every three weeks—one training cycle—due to increments of 5 kg in my squat and deadlift and 2.5 kg in my bench press each cycle. However, these figures are approximate, as I have not been maxing out. Assuming these gains continue, I should reach my goal within 12 weeks, or four training cycles.

Do you have any specific goals related to fitness? What are you doing to achieve them?

Have a great week!