Winter is Coming Again (The Myth of Perfect Conditions)

A client of mine recently said “Once the weather warms up, then I’ll start walking more.”

They had struggled to reach their walking goal for the week. The cloudy, chilly days made walks unappealing. And, like many people, their mood and energy dipped in the winter.

I said to this client “You know winter is coming again.” The point being, that conditions are never optimal.

If it’s not winter, it’s some other circumstance. Moving to a new city. A busy period at work. An injury.

Waiting for perfect conditions feeds the formula of “Once my life is in X condition, then everything will be better”. It hinders us from making progress, even if it is slower than we would like. It hinders us from taking any action at all.

We cannot wait for conditions to improve, we just need to do the best we can given the situation.

We cannot wait for conditions to improve, we just need to do the best we can given the situation.

I’ve seen this mindset in my own life. When I was first getting into barbell training, I told myself “Once I have squat shoes, Olympic micro plates, and a lifting belt, then I’ll be ready to train.” Unfortunately, this led to months of not lifting, since I wanted to lift in supposedly ideal circumstances. Waiting for those “optimal” conditions led to me doing nothing at all.

Fitting in exercise (or any other behavior), even in sub-optimal conditions, is critical because:

  • You create blocks in your schedule for exercise. For example, if you walk 10 minutes, 3 days a week, you now have three blocks of time for walking. The hard part, creating the blocks of time, is already done. Those blocks form a strong foundation that can be built on later. Once you have the habit of walking for 10 minutes, adding 5 more minutes is quite easy.
  • You can progress, maintain, or at least minimize losses. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had limited access to barbells. So I did weighted push ups in place of the bench press. Push ups maintained some degree of strength and muscle, until I could get back to a barbell. Had I simply stopped exercising altogether, I would have lost significant muscle and strength. And the return to the bench press would have been that much harder.
  • You maintain a sense of control over your training. It is fragile if your whole exercise routine depends on the perfect set of external conditions. Changes in equipment availability, time, etc. can easily derail you. By continuing exercise, you maintain control over your training, even when circumstances force a change in plans.

So instead of waiting for winter to end, get started, even in small ways. Then the arrival of spring is just a bonus, rather than a prerequisite to exercise.

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