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Does 5 Minutes Even Matter?

What you say to yourself when you want to give up makes the difference between success and failure

The argument between "It's not good; it's good enough" and "Don't let perfection get in the way of good enough" is the difference between consistency and not achieving your goals.
I love movies and television shows that explore parallel universes. Quantum Leap was a favorite as well as a show called Sliders starring Jerry O’Connell.

I think what appeals to me about them, is how one decision can impact our future. Sure – that seems obvious for big decisions – like, should I change jobs, marry this person, move across country, or even just buy or rent my next house.

But what really makes me curious, are the seemingly insignificant decisions we make on a daily basis that we don’t even realize have a huge impact.

An example of that is the movie Sliding Doors with Gwenyth Paltrow – although the fate of her character was not determined by a decision, but rather, something random – catching the train doors. In one scenario she barely makes the train as she scoots in as the doors are closing, arriving home to find her boyfriend is being unfaithful to her. In the parallel scenario, where she doesn’t make the train, she never finds out about his infidelity and stays with him, trapped in an unfulfilling life.

Her life is completely changed because of a small, seemingly insignificant event. But through that event, she’s forced to make a decision that transforms her future.

I live in an area where it’s really hot, and over the past few months I’ve been working out outside. I do prefer to exercise in a nicely air conditioned gym, considering that my body’s cooling system is in-tune (aka: I sweat a lot!). And I prefer AC because sometimes sweat will get in the way of properly performing an exercise that I’m trying to do – specifically things where I need grip strength.

Add to that over the past few summers, my drive to exercise shifts from beast-mode to doing the bare ass minimum to retain my fitness levels. To give myself a mental break, I like to keep my workouts short and simple – usually about 20 minutes.

One of my go-to workouts is a 20 minute Tabata workout. If you’ve never heard of Tabata, it’s simply a timed format where you alternate work and rest intervals for the duration of the workout: 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest. If my mental focus is waning, Tabata is great – I only need to get through the next 20 seconds of an exercise, and then I get to do something different.

Do It Yourself: pick 5 exercises. Use a clock with a second hand. Start at the top of the minute & 30 second marks, stop at the 20 second and 50 second marks. Rotate through the circuit as many times as desired.

As far as the mental aspect of exercise goes, if I’m struggling, this format helps.

But this morning, after I completed 15 of the 20 minutes I had planned, my brain screwed everything up by thinking:
“My hands are slippery”
“I’m tired”
“This is hard”
“I can’t keep my grip”
“I don’t want to do this anymore”
“Well, I don’t HAVE to keep doing this.”
“I CAN quit”

And so I paused my timer.

On one hand, 15 minutes was SO close to 20. It’s only 5 minutes. Would it matter if I didn’t complete my planned workout? I mean, I did most of it.

But on the other, I only had 5 minutes left. It’s only 5 minutes. Surely I could exercise for another 5 minutes & finish? It’s not like I was pressed for time, and I had plenty of energy.

And so I felt myself at a critical decision point: I could either walk away from the workout – after all, 5 minutes isn’t that big of a deal – or I could stick to it – the 5 minutes would reinforce my commitment to myself.

What would YOU do?

Now again, 5 minutes in the grand scheme of life and my health is no big deal. If I had stopped, there would be no implication to my health.

But I wasn’t worried about my health. Granted, my cardio typically takes a hit in the summer, but I was more worried about my discipline, work ethic and my confidence in myself that if I say I’m going to do something that I follow through with it. I think that given my current attitude towards my fitness, that cutting my workout short by 5 minutes could be a slippery slope that I didn’t want to risk.

Then, I thought of this saying: “Feed the habit that you want to grow.”

I hear from so many women that they just can’t make themselves workout, stop eating from the bread or chip basket, or go to bed on time.

Feed the habit that you want to grow.

If you want to change a habit, the first thing we need to do is start trusting ourselves. And we learn to trust ourselves through making commitments and honoring them.

But I also think it’s important to point out that when we make a commitment to ourselves, that the commitment is completely doable. Make sure that we’re thinking realistically when we’re setting expectations for ourselves.

Don’t promise yourself that you’re going to run for an hour 3 times a week if you haven’t run in a year. We need to ease ourselves in to those commitments. Not only because we risk injury, but also a huge goal like that can seem overwhelming in the moment, and result in a lack of motivation (aka: just blowing it off).

One technique I use when I’m feeling unmotivated to get my butt off the couch, is to give myself 10 minutes to warm up in to the workout. If I’m still not feeling the love, then I give myself permission to stop.

10 minutes. Start small.

Again, the idea is to have self-compassion: don’t workout if you’re really not feeling it. If you’ve worked out consistently for the last 5 weeks, and this is a blip, then go for it. Take a rest day – and don’t beat yourself up for making that choice. But don’t let yourself off the hook – recognize the difference between a blip and a pattern. Be honest with yourself – is this something that you CAN do? Then do it. Hold yourself accountable.

So often we don’t think that small, incremental changes will amount to anything. And that way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. Small changes, done consistently, lead to big results.

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