You’re listening to The Work Of Becoming podcast! My name is Dr. Karin Nordin. I am your host as well as a behavior change expert and self-proclaimed tornado girl. I spent years of my life struggling to change before I finally got my PhD and learned the psychological tools that I needed to actually make those changes happen. Now, I’m bringing you five-minute sneak peeks of how I’m applying the real science of self-help to my life. Let’s get started!
All right, everybody! Welcome to this episode, which I’m actually re-recording because I want to be a little clearer about some things that I talked about in the first episode. This episode is gonna be all about my new workout routine.
I will start off by saying, if you are a person who’s really struggling with working out too much, over-exercising, not taking rest days, this is not the episode for you. Please go ahead and skip this episode if discussion of working out a lot is gonna be triggering for you because that is what I’m going to discuss. Okay?
So, I’m gonna jump into it. I’m gonna start with the story of kind of what I was doing before, and then I’m gonna talk about the changes that I’ve made, and you’ll understand why after that.
So, previous to this month, I was shooting for somewhere around three to four workouts per week. Usually, I was getting in two to three on a good week, but I was really — I have been open about this before that I really struggle with a lot of workout resistance, and it has gotten so much better in the past couple of years because I have used all the tools that we teach inside of Change Academy and Alliance Coaching, but it is something that has been ever present, and it never felt like that workout resistance — it would get easier and I would get better at using the tools, but it never went away. There was never a moment where I was without it.
And so, I was working out three times per week, and I was doing these sort of long, more intense powerlifting-style workouts. I was lifting really heavy, and I really liked that, and it really served me for a long time. But as I was reading the research on routine and habit formation and when I was reading the research on exercise, which is something I was reading because that’s the topic of this month’s Change Academy workshop, I was really intrigued by some of the research on habit formation and, specifically, the difference between habit initiation versus habit completion, and I’m not gonna go into the science of that here. That’s something that I’m gonna teach inside of Change Academy this month, but what I will say is it got me thinking what if I worked out much more frequently, even if just for a short period of time, like a month or two, in order to really solidify and establish that habit of going to the gym?
I think it’s interesting because when you give yourself more structure, it kind of ends up like a trampoline, right? You have to give yourself more structure, but in order for that structure to function, there also has to be flexibility. A trampoline has a very thick, structured exterior circle, and then in the middle is the flexibility.
So, I said to myself, “Okay, Karin, for the month of March while I’m working on stress management and building this routine, I am going to workout six days per week, and no matter what, on those six days, I am getting up, I’m going to the gym, and what I do at the gym is completely flexible. If I’m really beat up that day, I will just literally sit in the hot tub or go for a walk, but I have to get my ass up and take myself to the gym no matter what.”
This was particularly helpful because usually — so, Jon and I only have one car, and so, I take the car on certain days, and he takes the car on certain days, and on the days where he takes the car, I can take the metro to the gym, but it’s more of a barrier for me. So, there’s one specific day every week that I know for sure that, “It’s Tuesdays, he’s gonna take the car.” And so, those are my designated rest days, and any other day of the week where I do have access to the car, that’s it. I’m going to the gym. And so, what that did for me is it really eliminated the constant mental negotiation of, “Should I go today? Should I not go today? I don’t know. Maybe I should take a rest day,” and me constantly flipping around my schedule over and over and over again, going back on my plan, re-planning, all of those sorts of things.
I also want to say that I am not a person who has ever struggled with working out too much or not listening to my body. I am a person who has the opposite problem where if my left elbow is even slightly less than 100% energetic, I’m like, “Oh, no! I have to take a rest day,” and that’s just the way my brain wants to lean. My brain wants to lean towards over-rest rather than over-work. What has been fascinating about this experience in the past 24 days is that there have been absolutely days where my brain has started that mental negotiation and been like, “Oh, I’m so tired. We’ve been working out more. We need to take a rest day,” and I’m like, “Okay, sure, body. If you want to rest, we can rest today, but we’re gonna go rest at the gym. We’re gonna get in the car and take pre-workout, and if we get to the gym and we still feel like this, then we’ll walk or we’ll sit in the hot tub or we’ll go in the meditation room and do 30 minutes of stretching and mobility and meditation,” and almost every single time, I have gotten to the gym, and by the time I get to the gym, I’m over it and I’m ready to actually do the workout.
There have been a couple days, like I was on my period this past weekend, and I really wasn’t feeling it. And so, I did just go to the gym and fulfill my promise to myself, and I literally just walked. But it was still so worth it, and it helped my cramps so much to go there. I have noticed immense, immense changes in my mental health and ability to focus, which corresponds with a lot of the research. Again, I’ll talk about that in The Academy. But the cognitive benefits, the immediate cognitive benefits of a single exercise session are nuts, and it’s something that I don’t know why we don’t talk more about that because everybody’s like, “Oh, yeah, you have to wait a while to see results from exercise.” Yeah, physical results you do, but mental results, you don’t. Mental results, immediately — there is an immediate benefit of 20 minutes of exercise on your mental state that is unparalleled from basically anything else you can do for your attention.
Anyway, I’m not gonna go into that, but all that is to say I am really enjoying these six days per week. I was almost hesitant about coming out with this podcast because I think, for a long time, I’ve been influenced by sort of this very, very well-meaning and even important dialogue about, “You have to take rest days,” and, “You don’t have to be working out six days a week,” and I think, like I said, those are really, really important messages, and at the same time, when I started working out six days per week, it really did help solidify that habit, it helps me listen to my body, it helps me be more flexible in my thinking, and I am a month in and am absolutely loving it more than I have loved the gym in a really, really long time. So, that’s my story for you today.
Regardless of how many days you’re working out or how many days you aren’t, I would encourage you to think about if there’s a frequency you haven’t played with that maybe you want to experiment with and what could it be like for you to kind of start implementing a workout frequency experiment in your own life.
PS: if you are on a journey to become a better you, and you want to learn the tools and techniques that will actually help change your life, make sure you check out my Change Academy Membership. Each month, we do a 1.5-hour workshop on a different psychological topic, but we also provide resources like journal prompts, worksheets, and trackers. We host community events and more. If you’re struggling to close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it, this membership was built for you. Go to www.bodybrainalliance.com/change-academy to learn more!