Like most busy men, Ben found it hard to make time for fitness. He was overstressed and out of shape, running from meeting to meeting and living in a constant state of chaos.
That was quite a contrast to five years ago when Ben was in great shape. He was a beast who did CrossFit and could kick ass in the gym with dudes ten years his junior. He was strong, athletic and pain-free.
This was before Ben’s business and family grew. He’s now the president of a commercial real estate firm and has two small children.
He had the same twenty-four hours a day as the rest of us, but suddenly he had to cut corners. Taking care of his body was one of the first activities to go.
Gone were the days of getting six hours of sleep. The sound of crying kids rang in Ben’s ears nightly. Soon, he was tossing and turning, awoken by the sporadic cries over the baby monitor ever few hours.
Ben’s health and energy had fallen off a cliff. He gradually gained weight over the five-year period. An inch here, some annoying low back fat there, and all of a sudden…
…Ben was 20 pounds overweight.
Ben’s once bulletproof body creaked and groaned like an old door hinge. When he woke up and stumbled into the bathroom, he hardly recognized the reflection looking back at him. Where had the spare tire around his waist come from?
And why did his back lock up when Ben picked up his son? Sometimes, the back pain lasted for days and made it tough to focus at work and enjoy time with his family.
Finally, Ben had enough. He was seeing a physical therapist who happened to be a client of mine for his back pain who quickly referred him to train with me.
So, as you can see, Ben’s goals had changed. Now 40, he still wanted to lose fat and get jacked, but that wasn’t nearly as important as being pain-free and having the energy to dominate at work and enjoy time with his two sons.
What Happened Next
Ben was apprehensive to jump into training. Except for the occasional spurt of Crossfit, he’d always trained himself. First, Ben improved mobility through his hips, ankles, and shoulders. Ben reinforced his new movement with greater stability, as you can do by following my Warm Up Every Damn Day protocol.
After a few weeks, Ben had more energy and the annoying aches and pains were gone. He could play with his kids without pain shooting through his spine like fireworks.
No longer in constant pain, Ben was sleeping better and eating healthier. He was revitalized and declared himself ready to “get back into my old shape.” This meant adding a bit of muscle and regaining the coveted “v-taper” look while dropping about twenty pounds.
Not so fast.
The same nagging problem kept coming back: time. I went back to the drawing board to pull out the oldest trick in the book.
Setting Up Training Triggers
Triggers are an event that prompts the beginning of habit or activity. According to behavioral expert, Dr. BJ Fogg at the University of Stanford, three elements must converge at the same moment for a trigger to occur:
Think about when you wake up in the morning. Your alarm “tings” repeatedly. Stumbling out of bed, you rub your eyes and meander to the bathroom and try not miss your mark. Next, you make a cup of coffee, take a shower, get dressed, brush your teeth, and head to work.
Waking up is the trigger, and each subsequent activity triggers the next.
Like these events, time-based triggers help you stick with routines over and over again. Whether your goal is losing ten pounds of fat or simply starting to exercise again, creating triggers simplifies the process so you can become, and stay, fit.
Ben’s insane schedule meant he had to set triggers to train more often and nail his diet to help him lose the annoying body fat hanging over his waistline.
Ben’s gym sessions are now scheduled events carved in stone. He comes in Mondays and Wednesdays at 3:00 pm, right after his staff meetings.
The end of his meeting is his trigger to head to the gym.
Ben also has meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When they end, Ben no longer frantically answers emails. Instead, on his way home, he stops at a beautiful park and runs two miles around a lake.
Now, Ben has two triggers to exercise. Mondays and Wednesdays, the trigger leads to a gym workout. Tuesdays and Thursday, the trigger leads to a run.
Ben is no longer wondering, “how will I fit exercise in today?” There is no decision to make as workouts are no longer options. They’re planned events in his day.
You have a select amount of bandwidth to make decisions. The more decisions you have to make, the more likely fatigue sets in and you end up saying: “fuck it.”
Setting up triggers and making workouts a scheduled event eliminates the dangerous question “When can I workout today?” Working out is no longer a choice; it’s something you do.
Use Triggers to Make Time For Fitness
If you’re a busy guy like Ben, look at how often you’re training. To lose fat, feel better, and make all the #gains, it’s better to train for ten or fifteen minutes per day rather than train once per week for 60-90 minutes.
- More frequent protein synthesis to help you build muscle.
- Exercising more often increases in insulin sensitivity for better health, faster fat loss, and more muscle.
- Training often improves motor learning. Meaning, you’ll improve exercise technique quicker for safer, more effective training.
- Most importantly, it builds the habit of working out consistently.
If you can set a daily trigger to work out at a consistent time you can work out more often to improve your health, physique, and performance.
Start with Morning Workouts
I know morning workouts don’t sound fun. But here’s the deal: if something is important, do it first in your day before meetings, emergency emails, and fatigue keep you from training. At a minimum, you can make five or ten minutes each morning to do push-ups, squats, and lunges in your living room. Here are the triggers and actions you will use to workout first thing in the morning.
- Before you hop into bed, lay out the workout clothes in the bathroom.
- When your alarm goes off at 5:00 am, you’ll get up and go to the bathroom. Do ya bid’nas (pooping, ya know?), and throw on your clothes.
- Walk into the kitchen and drink a glass of water while your coffee brews.
- Drink your coffee on the way to the gym or for 15 minutes while you read something to get fired up for the day (I recommend Striking Thoughts by Bruce Lee.)
- Workout either at home or the gym. At the gym? Do biceps curls before you leave. You know you like them.
As you see, one action leads to the next. Morning workouts are the best method to be proactive in your health before your reactive to the constant inputs from work, life, family etc. during rest of your day. With constant practice (most research points to 21-28 days to develop a habit) exercising daily becomes a mindless activity.
Be Accountable To Someone
Training triggers aren’t magic. Ben still has his tough days and occasionally misses a planned workout. In those rare cases, I’ll send him over a substitute workout he can do on his own.
For Ben, consistency is still a struggle and as he admits, if I wasn’t on his ass he’d skip workouts every week.
What’s kept him on track, losing weight, and having the pain-free energy to enjoy time with his family?
Like Ben, you don’t need to go it alone. That’s the quickest way to fall off track and fail your goals. At minimum, I recommend joining a Facebook group like our Minimalist Muscle community,
The community will hold you accountable. Skipped workouts? Well, I’ll let you know it. If you need a modified workout because you’re traveling? Cool. I’m here for you and will customize a workout to keep you on track.
Nail your workouts? Even better. We’ll quote Predator and bust out epic handshakes…or exchange flexing biceps emojis.
You and I both know you’re sick of going it alone and wasting your most precious resource: time. Do you have the time to waste another week, month, or year without making progress?
So, it’s time to ask yourself, “what do you want?” Do you want to stay as you are, or do you want to get in the best shape of your life and build a long-term, sustainable approach to fitness?
The Takeaway: Ben And You
All in all, Ben is nearly back to his “old shape.” Sure, he still wakes up nightly to care for his youngest son. But his old back pain? It’s gone.
The spare tire around his waist? Gone. Now he sees “jacked Dad” in the mirror, and not the dreaded Dad Bod. His wife has noticed, too.
And his strength? Well, he’s not deadlifting 405 anymore, but he doesn’t need too. He’s happy, he’s healthy, and he’s regained control of his fitness.
You can do the same by…
(1) Setting up training triggers to workout consistently.
(2) Scheduling your fitness like anything else. Discipline leads to freedom and eliminates decisions.
(3) Joining a group that provides you with the accountability to take action. Join the FREE Facebook Community today, and we’ll help you get in the best shape of your life. Join the Minimalist Muscle community today.