Autopilot Exercise

When I swung my feet out of bed this morning, I already knew they were heading to the gym. It now takes willpower to stop them.

This is a direct result of applying the teachings of Scott Adams, which you can learn in his book, How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.

It was the strangest feeling. For years, going to the gym required a little effort. It was an active decision that required willpower. But this morning, when my feet touched the ground, I already knew I could let my body move around the house without worrying about where I’d end up.

I think I had two pieces of bread and coffee before heading out the door.

Somebody asked me a few days ago what my goal was in the gym. My honest answer is that I don’t have one. Going to the gym is a system, not a goal. (A system is anything that will lead to good results when repeated over and over.) I know that as long as I continue to experience working out as a source of good feelings, I will naturally want to return.

When your experience of going to the gym is unpleasant, your body naturally builds up resistance towards the simple act of heading out the door. It becomes harder and harder as you create stronger associations with the pain of motivating yourself to exercise. Eventually, your hallucination flips from “Wow, I better go to the gym or I’ll literally enjoy my life less,” to “This isn’t worth it.”

By the way, I deliberately chose the feeling you get from pushing through a tough set as the feeling I want out of every trip. I could have chosen something vain like how my biceps look with the pump. Instead I focus on good form and lifting until I feel endorphins being released, in that order. As a result, I have become compelled to warm up, stay safe, and exercise hard enough to cause muscle growth.

This isn’t anything special.

You can do this yourself. You can read the masterful explanation in Scott Adams’s book too. Here is my version of it:

In the beginning, give yourself permission to do whatever feels good while you are exercising. You can take it easy and do low, low weight for your first exercises, which means your risk of injury will be lower (pain early on will make you avoid returning). Your only requirement is that you go and spend whatever length of time feels right for you.

When you do something that feels good, keep doing that. When you do something that feels like it hurts, or like it might hurt, you can avoid it for a while or forever. But you might find that as you keep going to the gym, you create a desire to try different exercises anyways.

The more you experience exercise with good feelings, the more you will want to go back to it. That’s a part of our biology. I recommend choosing a specific time of day when you know most likely to have time to go, or always go first thing in the morning. That way your mind will condition itself to recognize a certain time as the cue for exercise. Eventually, your body will just start heading towards your gym clothes every day.

For more about this, you can check out How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big or The Power of Habit.


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