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The power of breaking "healthy" routines

When life gets in the way, routines can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy

Are you burdened by your routine?

Routines are extremely important when it comes to the pursuit of good health. When you first begin any type of workout or ritual, whether it be weight lifting, spin class, or a new diet, creating a routine bypasses the natural inclination to engage with your new lifestyle only when you feel like it. By locking into a well-constructed routine, you significantly increase the chance of successfully maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

However, once a routine has been established for a few months and becomes second nature, there comes a time where it's important to re-examine whether or not that routine is optimized for your lifestyle or if it is adding stress and burden to your life. A well-constructed routine should reduce decision fatigue and strengthen your self-discipline over time. If a routine is consistently a burden, then it's not an effective routine.

There are two questions that you can ask to examine whether or not a routine is working for you.

What am I optimizing for?

Why do you want to be healthy? Do you want more energy to play with your kids? Do you want to be more effective at work? Maybe you just want to look sexy for the beach this summer. It doesn't have to be just one thing, but either way, it's important to know why you want to pursue your health goals. Once these goals are clear in your mind it's easier to prioritize your time and build routines that help obtain these goals.

Is this routine helping me grow?

Being a healthy individual should emphasize our toughness, not our fragility. It's bolstering the mind, body, and spirit to be as effective as possible. This doesn't mean being effective under perfect conditions, it means effective under any conditions. If you only run on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays and a blizzard hits on Wednesday, your routine should have the flexibility to not fall apart. Maybe you run on Thursday instead. Or maybe you need to diversify your workout routine with a different cardio exercise. If you become frustrated or grumpy when you don't get your protein on time or when life gets in the way of your workout, then your routine is no longer serving you, rather you are serving your routine. This is ok when you're just starting out, but after awhile it's important to re-examine.

Navy SEAL Jocko Willink always responds to obstacles with one word. "Good". This doesn't mean that he's happy about the obstacles that he has to face. It means that obstacles present an opportunity for growth, and growth is always "good".

When examining whether a routine is helping you grow, I recommend trying it out for at least a quarter (3 months). This way it's not dependent on a particularly rough week or a bad mood. Three months gives you enough data to make an objective decision about a routine.

It's all training

I typically like to have a good balance of running, weight lifting, yoga, and meditation throughout the week. Right now I'm balancing three jobs (two of them new) and a few pet projects. Since taking on these new jobs I've maintained a good running/yoga schedule but I haven't been to a proper gym in about 3 weeks. It'd be easy for me to become frustrated and say "Well, my circumstances dictate that it's impossible to get the workout I want right now!" Believe me, it's still tempting some days. Yet, all things considered, if I truly care about my health then I know I have to find a way to make it work. I've skipped a few meditation sessions to get enough sleep. I've eaten out a few times so I can bang out enough work and then done a solid body weight exercise in at home. Time management isn't easy. But it's a lot easier if I prepare myself mentally that being a healthy individual means being flexible emotionally as well as physically. If you take the time to know your routines inside and out then it's easier to remember that it's all training. Every single day is an opportunity to learn and get better. Get better for what? Better for life. Because it's all training. All of it.

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