The following article offers a further illustration of the power of habit and the slight edge principle, which I had already mentioned on previous occasions on this website.
Master the mundane
Like most members of the 21st century workforce, I spend the majority of my workday in front of a computer monitor (currently I’m a student, but there is no practical difference) and additionally several hours commuting to my workplace.
That’s what I have been doing since approximately ten years now.
Despite the lack of physical activities during these hours and the bad eating habits one is usual prone to, I’ve managed to maintain my appearance and my weight since almost twenty years, and I was more successful with this than virtually everyone I know around my age (the 37-42 year olds).
Apart from some hair loss, my appearance (which is not awesome by the way, but decent I assume) is very similar to my 20s.
For this article would be worthless without any pictures, here are two photos with one of them one and a half decades older than the other:
Except for a brief period after my military service when I spent too much time playing video games, I’ve never struggled with my weight.
I can’t offer anecdotes how I dropped from 120 kg to 75 kg, because I never exceeded the 79 kg mark, or felt below 73 kg in my adult life (presently I am about 76 kg).
My story is not very exciting. An article about the same monotonous routines since decades is uninteresting and quite unusable from a sellers point of view.
Twenty years of sports in a nutshell
I’ve once counted the kilometers that I ran the last two decades as part of my trainings-regime. I’ve been running almost daily, 10 km the bare minimum. That makes 365x10x20 = 73.000 km, at least.
Almost twice around the globe.
I bought new shoes every three months, that means four pairs a year or eighty tattered pairs for the dustbin since 1999.
I’ve been making 100 push-ups and 20 pull-ups every day for ten years. I’ve been doing rope jumping since five years regularly.
I spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours on the Judo or the Yoga mat. I biked countless times to Bamberg (70 km), to Regensburg (100 km) or through the Pyrenees when I was in France.
An average of two hours of exercise per day since twenty years.
The lazy beginnings
First, I don’t think I am genetically gifted. I am rather short (something between 1,7m and 1,75m) and gain weight, in principle, very fast (which has however some advantages for building muscle).
There was one thing in school that I hated, and that was the sport-lesson.
I had asthma and other severe lung problems as a kid. I was too weak to finish one single 400 meters lane. I couldn’t throw anything properly, or jump very wide. The only thing that I was capable to do all right was kicking a football.
As teenager I was bone-idle, ate a lot of junk food and played too many video games (like most teens still do these days).
Only the membership in a football club with regular training spared me the fate of getting a fat and pimpled teen back then.
What is your benefit reading this
Okay, you are still here.
The question emerges if there is more than anecdotal value in this short article, since I have no magic pill to sell and simply boast about my self-discipline.
But maybe it is interesting, how I started with about age 19.
Released from the military service, I had a small belly from eating too many pizzas and sweets during the night-shifts in a military police unit.
Then one day I decided to make a short run for 10 minutes, because the weather was so nice. I didn’t enjoy it, but I felt somehow good afterwards . The next day it was 20 minutes. A week later it was an hour. And half a year later it was my first half-marathon (time was almost two hours, but anyway).
Running became my second nature. It was no longer an effort to run or think about it, I simply did it because it was part of my normal daily routine (the scientists would describe this as: cue – routine – reward) .
Do you think you can copy a habit of that kind?
I have a sequence of of morning rituals since a couple of years, deliberately chosen exercises that I hate most: e.g. push-ups. After I made a short work-out, everything starts to flow.
It is little effort afterwards to take a cold shower or memorize some vocabulary in the train when I commute to my workplace, and even less effort to do tedious paperwork.
It is no effort to run in the evening, and then do rope jumping. That is all part of my second nature.
The habit loop
Besides the illustration of the slight edge principle in this blog-article, you might consider questioning your own routines, and identify the bad ones.
The cue is rather tricky to find, but sometimes it is boredom or a certain time of day when – for example – people surf social media, watch TV or eat candy bars (the routine).
The reward is also not always so obvious. In my case (when I make my workout) it is exhaustion and feeling every muscle.
In other cases, it could be a distraction or simply a short opportunity to socialize.
The key is always, to replace the unwanted routine for the particular cue and the particular reward.
The power of habit, the slight edge, procrastination. In principle, that represents a continuum within the human nature.
We can try to outwit laziness and bad habits, as I do it more or less successfully.
But the fact of the matter is also: absolutely nothing replaces hard work. There are no shortcuts: only persistence and consistency over a long enough period of time.