Stop Working Out and DWYLT Instead (It’ll Change Your Life)
In my series on conscious eating, I make an argument for adopting amicable strategies over antagonistic ones. For example, willpower is an antagonistic strategy while improving your relationship with food is an amicable one.
The premise is that working with yourself instead of against yourself makes you much more likely to sustain the behavior. The question is, where does the concept of “working out” fit into this mindset?
Here’s a common email I receive…
Monica basically summed up what so many people feel. How often do you hear that someone started a new plan or program and then “fell off the wagon?” This concept of “staying motivated” is a symptom. A symptom of a condition that I believe I’ve cracked the code on.
I did a Pinterest search for “workout motivation” and didn’t have any trouble finding plenty of reinforcement for this antagonistic mindset.
“Don’t stop when it hurts, stop when you’re done.” It’s page after page of this type of messaging. That’s because “working out” has a very specific connotation.
Beat yourself up to make yourself stronger. Stop being weak. If you miss a workout, feel guilty. Why are you so lazy? You can be sore tomorrow or you can be sorry tomorrow.
CrossFit is hugely popular and still a rapidly growing sport. It’s being embraced en masse by everyday people seeking a “great workout.” While the workouts are short, they’re extreme. The mascot is a puking clown.
For most people, this type of mindset and approach to “health” (that in itself is debatable) is unsustainable. Let’s face it, working out isn’t fun. Treadmills, StairMasters, hitting the weights yet again, slaving through another bootcamp class, following along with another P90X DVD, and being pushed by your personal trainer probably aren’t examples of things you look forward to. You’ll do these things (even if only for a short time), but you probably don’t long for them (if you do, that might be a symptom of a deeper issue).
I felt the same way about my workouts for a long time. They just didn’t call to me. To try and combat the problem, I tried developing a smarter workout schedule. Then I refined that approach. I reduced the length of my workouts while increasing the effectiveness. While all of that helped, I was still fighting with myself and struggling to maintain motivation.
Earlier this year, I decided that I’d had enough. I was fed up. I was out of willpower. Out of energy. It was time to permanently say goodbye to working out. I had a new paradigm for an active lifestyle that I wanted to experiment with. It was based on amity rather than antagonism. I named it DWYLT.
Working with yourself rather than against yourself is so key. It’s the basis of Total Body Reboot. It’s the basis of everything I do. And it works. Not just for a few weeks or a few months, but forever.
I Ditched “Working Out” and Converted to DWYLT.
Based on all the above thoughts, I went cold turkey on workouts. The purpose of moving was no longer going to be “to maintain a healthy weight” or “to get stronger,” it was to be a happy human being.
Human beings have to move to survive and flourish. And there are a myriad of ways we can accomplish that. We’re also programmed to play and explore. And we have personal preferences for how to do that.
So, here’s what I did. I sat down and made a list of all the activities I love to participate in with a little description of my thoughts. Let me give you the list and then I’ll talk about what I did next (this list is in no particular order).
- Walking. I love walking for clearing my head and getting away from work for 30-60 minutes. And there’s a few different and extra exciting ways that I prefer to do it.
- Sprinting. A couple times a month I crave running really fast. I love how I feel afterwards as well.
- Cycling. This is something I’ve recently started. Cycling is rather therapeutic when it’s not lighting your legs on fire. It’s exhilarating though. And I mostly use it for travel rather than cycling for the sake of cycling. I’ll bike to Starbucks to work one to two times a week.
- Swimming. I used to be on the swim team when I was a kid. It still feels good to jump in a pool and swim some laps every now and then.
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I love this sport. I love the technical nature — the chess match. I love the competition. I love the game. It’s a great “workout” but it’s not a workout for me. Simply, it’s fun as hell and it taps into the primal nature of wrestling/play.
- Taekwondo. I’m a 4th Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo. I’ve been doing it my entire life, but I don’t actively train anymore. Every now and then I’ll get an itch to train, so I’ll train (kicking pads, doing kata, etc.).
- MMA. I’ve recently started MMA training because I miss the contact sparring aspect of Taekwondo that I don’t get to do anymore. MMA is much more dynamic and since it’s new to me and plays off my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training, it’s pretty damn exciting. More play.
- Slack Lining. This is something I’ve only recently started to explore. Slacklining is very meditative while greatly enhancing functional movement. And it’s a great form of play (keep coming back to that magic word).
- Rock Climbing. There’s an awesome indoor rock climbing facility not far from where I live. So I figure, why not stop in every once in a while and climb shit? It’s fun. And since I’m afraid of heights it’s a little bit of mental and emotional expansion as well.
- Hiking. I love hiking and exploring new places. There’s a lot of hiking to be done in Georgia. Amacalola falls, Stone Mountain, and a laundry list of other great places. This also fits in nicely with my newfound interest in foraging for wild foods. It’s also a perfect fit for when I travel.
- Yoga. For me, yoga isn’t something that I like to do a lot of. But again, I’ll get this itch every now and again. So I scratch it.
- Running. I’ve railed against running on my podcast and on this blog. I’ve also mentioned that I personally run from time to time. I think that shows that there’s no dogma involved. Sometimes I get an itch to run, so I run. Usually I don’t go more than 3 miles or so.
- Flag Football. There’s nothing better than getting a group of guys together and playing football on a spring or fall morning. The competition is exciting, I love playing QB and WR — it’s fantastic play. I’m planning on joining a league every fall.
- Ultimate Frisbee. More exciting, fantastic play. Nothing more to say.
- Sandbag Resistance Training. Once or twice a week I have an urge to lift something heavy. That’s when I hit the sandbag. It’s extremely versatile and functional. I’ll be adding a lot of my sandbag workouts to my YouTube channel, so stay tuned.
Okay, so that’s my list. You’re probably thinking, “Kevin, there’s only 7 days in a week. How on Earth do you do all this?”
Here’s how it works. It’s very simple. Are you ready?
I wake up in the morning, eat breakfast (or not, it just depends), make coffee, and then ask myself, “what do I FEEL passionate about doing today?” And something from the above list pops into my head, so that’s what I end up doing. No schedules, no planning, no tracking performance, no nothing.
#DWYLT. Do what you love, today.
If you notice, there’s a side connotation here. And unlike working out, it’s a positive one. DWYLT is about doing what you love TODAY, not tomorrow. It’s about prioritizing yourself. It’s about doing something with yourself rather than to yourself.
You get the benefit of being active with the side benefit of nurturing yourself, engaging yourself, and building yourself up. That’s a huge paradigm shift from forcing yourself to tear yourself down.
I was really surprised at what happened psychologically when I made the transition to DWYLT.
When I was in “workout mode,” there was a lot of resistance. At many points, I’d lose motivation and end up doing nothing. I’d go multiple days without doing ANY activity whatsoever because I felt antagonized by the pressure to workout and guilt for not doing so.
When I switched my mindset over to DWYLT, the resistance was immediately gone. Rather than “go workout,” my brain was translating DWYLT as, “go have fun,” or “go decompress,” or “go have some me-time,” or “go compete,” or “go fill that craving for X.”
How can you lose motivation when that’s the paradigm you live in? Those are visceral human needs. They’re things you’re intrinsically motivated to do every single day of your life.
In the “workout” paradigm, one of the newer leaders in the health and fitness industry who is very popular espouses a “two day” rule. That rule says, “I can miss one day, but not two.” That’s how they recommend consistency. This person also recommends a “cheat day” for eating.
That’s more antagonism. It might work (for a while, and depending on how you define “works”), but it’s still not fun.
My question is, “how do I create a life where I don’t need a two-day rule?” It’s kinda like when I was younger and everyone talked about “going on vacation.” Instead of following in their footsteps, I asked, “how do I design a life I don’t need to vacate from?”
Sometimes, it’s not the answers that are right or wrong, but the questions. “How do I stay motivated to workout?” is the wrong question. The right question is, “what do I love doing and how can I do it today?”
Stop hammering yourself. Stop looking for “tips and tricks.” Stop pinning motivational shit on Pinterest. List out what you love and go #DWYLT.
p.s. — We created a free guide called “Fitness Sanity” that shows you how to convert your fitness plan over to a much more sane approach. You can download it here.
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Kevin Geary is the founder of Rebooted Body and host of The Rebooted Body Podcast. He helps men and women finally get a body and life they love with his unique blend of real food, functional movement, and psychology. To work with him personally, choose a program.All stories by: Kevin Geary
Love this!!! I find the same issues come up for myself – and I find it challenging sometimes motivating clients. So today – after reading your article, been fighting with myself re getting a run in – I will be close to the beach later this afternoon so am going to run along the beach! Now I feel excited about it 🙂 thanks for the info 🙂
Kevin, this is a game changer. Seriously…
I live in New Orleans, so the climate and geography (flat) keep me from mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and other cool things you can do with hills. BUT Here’s some things on my list that I’d like to add (along with many you mentioned):
BMX track riding, levee sprints, running with the dog, motocross racing, beach volleyball.
The other day I had a fun walk around the park and climbed a tree, played on the jungle gyms, did some pull ups, speed walked a narrow curb around the play area, threw pine cones over trees, and alternated sprinting and crawling up and down a hill. It was a blast and I was sore for 2 days!
Kevin, I post your articles and send out your videos.
This one really hit home. I realized I have a list of things I love to do and the gym is not on it. There are not enough days to do what I like to do so I will pick one and go each day:
Walking – I look forward to the silence. No iPods, no phones, just me and the water and the trail.
Hiking – Sometimes make a night of it. 8 miles along Town Lake in Austin, TX or 8 miles along the boardwalk in Miami.
Biking – Biking in Austin is easier than Miami so I save it for there.
Kayaking – Kayaking the Everglades brings me so much joy and peace. When out early enough, you see more wild life than any boat can show you.
Yoga – my sanity. my reset button. I get this urge 2 – 4 times per week! After living in India and studying there for two years, I can still lay in shavasana and hear the rickshaws and cows in my mind.
Golf – I walk most courses. There is nothing like that perfect drive calling me back for another round.
Scuba Diving – peaceful, quiet and serene navigating the unexplored sea.
Zumba – It is fun. It is loud. It is alive.
Pilates – love the challenge of me and my body working together.
I will still go to my fancy gym but you made me realize it is not my passion so maybe I should just let up on myself a little. 🙂
Hi Kevin. Just joined the Rebooted family which I found while researching Low Carb High Fat diets. I have always felt the guilty need to pound away excessively almost daily on the treadmill, or do some form of weight training. i am fit, but have seen little benefit in terms of fat-loss. At last – on the LCHF diet, the fat is peeling off and my energy is phenomenal, as are my previously dodgy cholesterol and sugar markers. Whilst I am enjoying gym a lot more, I love the idea of DWYLT. I am beginning to see the light about doing more fun exercise that is not usually as intensive as gym, and a lot less boring. Clearly, my old gym mindset was not very effective, so I am really looking forward to to adopt the DWYLT minset, starting NOW..
Alan G (South Africa)
I really appreciate this post… It uses a strengths based approach which is awesome!
My question is, what if you are so stuck that you cannot think of anything physical that you love? My relationship to physical exertion is antagonistic at its core, such that even going for a walk (with the sole purpose of walking as opposed to walking down to the post office for example) does not feel fun. I can’t get past “you need to exercise and if you don’t you’re a fat failure”. I want to replace that with “DWYLT” but I have no love, no love for using my body. The only way I can find motivation is when guilt gets unbearable, and of course then the vicious cycle continues.
You’re right that the aversion to physical activity probably comes from the guilt-driven mindset you’re in. While I can’t give you any breakthroughs in a blog comment, I would suggest that you take a look at your relationship with yourself in general. How often do you do things for yourself? What’s the ratio of negative self-talk to self-compassion? When negative self-talk does go through your head, who do those words belong to?
Lots to look at…hope that helps.
love this so much! reminds me of a book I read titled “Play”. When I adapted this way of thinking to my busy day my anxiety levels lowered immensely. That paired with my paleo diet, its how I function best. Ive been off both for a little while and feel like crap again. Glad I stumbled upon your blog tonight. I made a new menu for the week off your guide with no FodMaps or nightshades, those were my biggest problems, as ive been strict gluten-dairy and refined sugar free for three years. But those darn inflammatory foods still get me.
That and I need to make time to #DWYLT
Making my list of “fun” tomorrow.
Just saw your response, I never got an email alerting me. I have verified that nightshades effect me negatively, but FODMaps, I’m still learning about and not sure what else brings my system down. I know they arn’t problematic for everyone. Just learning by trial and error and a lot of food diary entries to figure it all out 🙂
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