The ‘Three E’s’ to Make Your Training Habit Easier

How are you injecting some fun into your training? I’ve had a lot of people tell me they’re hitting a bit of a slump in their training during social distancing.

Whether you’re a pro athlete or training for fun and health, changing circumstances can affect our motivation for, and attitudes towards, training.

Injecting some fun: Siobhan Milner leading some impromptu “snow-ga” during a break in a snow shoeing expedition with some friends in Quebec, Canada.

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist at Stanford University, and she speaks in the Ten Percent app about approaching behaviour change with a mindset of experimentation.

When you’re training in lockdown or semi-lockdown, be open to trying what works and what doesn’t in order to keep you exercising. Perhaps training is going to fit into your life differently now. Maybe some new things are going to get in the way. Be open to discovering what these are and to thinking creatively about what you can do differently. Approach it with curiosity instead of beating yourself with “shoulds!”

McGonigal refers to the three e’s of experimentation: Ease, Enjoyment, and Environment.

Whether you’re an athlete or an amateur, you can use some or all of these to help you create a new routine for your training during these crazy times.

Ease

How can you make it easier to train, or to reach your goal? What is one super easy thing that you can do today? I often refer to this when I emphasize that “something is better than nothing.”

Perhaps your goal is to maintain your muscle mass over lockdown? You could decide to do a couple of sets of push ups and chin ups right now.

If life with the kids at home is too much to fit in a full workout, what can you do to make it a bit easier? You could considering breaking your workout up into chunks to complete over the day.

Remember, experiment! Be open to finding what works and what doesn’t.

Enjoyment

Siobhan Milner injecting some fun into her weekly training with some standard and negative chin ups.

How can you make it fun?

Nowadays, when I’m not a strength and conditioning coach, I’m a professional dancer. I don’t necessarily need to be able to do chin ups. In the past as an adventure racer, upper body strength was a lot more relevant to me. Of course, I need upper body strength for my dance and my work, but they don’t contribute directly to my sport-specific goals.

So why am I doing them? They’re fun! I like a challenge, so this is something I can look forward to during my training week.

If you’re an athlete, you’ve likely got a periodised program to follow. How can you make it fun when your motivation is low? Is it cranking a banging playlist while you train? Is it having a Zoom call with a teammate to work out together?

If you’re just training for health and wellness, now is your chance to try a whole lot of new things for some fun! Grab some friends together for a group video call and take turns being the fitness instructor. Follow some ridiculous workout on YouTube for the laughs (Piloxing, anyone?).

Environment

The last e is environment.

How can you adapt your environment to remind you of your training goals, and to make it easier to complete them?

When I was getting up for super early morning training runs for adventure racing (hello, 5am!), I would put my training gear and a banana right next to my bed. When my alarm went off, I ate the banana, clothes went straight on, and I was out the door (for all of you shrieking “eating before a run?!” it is possible to train your gut, and a very effective piece of the training puzzle for endurance athletes).

Maybe for you right now, it’s just clearing some space in the lounge or bedroom so you can train at home easier. Maybe it’s laying your yoga mat out before you go to bed so it’s the first thing you see in the morning. Perhaps you need a sticker chart on the fridge to give yourself a gold star every time you train!

Work hard, but be kind to yourselves and remember, you can always begin again.

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