Getting off the couch. It's as simple as 1-2-3.

Have you ever set yourself a goal to “get fit” only to find after a few weeks that your running shoes haven’t moved from the cupboard, you haven’t washed a sweaty gym outfit in weeks, and you are berating yourself yet again for starting something you didn’t finish?

Resilient people know that the best exercise for a healthy brain is physical exercise. It increases blood flow to the brain, promotes neuronal growth and survival, and supports the formation of long-term memories. So if exercise isn’t yet a regular part of your life, the 1-2-3 model will help.

Many years ago I attended a conference and one of the speakers was Stephanie Burns. There were three key pieces of information from her presentation that I've never forgotten.

I’ve always been into exercise so whilst her presentation wasn’t necessary in terms of “getting me off the couch”, it helped me train for some significant endurance events. You know, those types of events that when you explain it to someone, the response is usually “and you do that all in one day?” The type of events where you need to get up in the dark to train, train a minimum of 6 days per week, and where one training session can last 4-5 hours. So you need a good dose of positive “self talk” a lot of the time.

This is not a training plan. This is about maintaining the discipline to follow your training plan. So if your goal is to run 10kms, I’m assuming you are physically able-bodied to run 10kms, you have the belief you can, you have the necessary shoes and clothes, and you have a training plan.

So here’s the 1-2-3:

  1. Don’t think about it

  2. Just start

  3. Think about it

Now if Stephanie Burns ever reads this blog, she’s likely to say that these were not her exact words. Highly likely. But thank you Stephanie for your original research. This is the 1-2-3 that has worked a treat for me for many years.

1. Don’t think about it

This is the really important one of course because it gets you off the couch or out of bed.

Imagine this. The alarm has gone off at 6am for you to go for a run or a bike ride. This is where you start creating excuses such as “it’s look like it might rain” or “I don’t think I pumped up the tyres on my bike” or “my legs are still a bit sore from yesterday’s session so maybe I shouldn’t overdo it” or “my running shorts are still in my gym bag which is in the back of my car so it’s all a bit too hard”. Do any of these ring a bell?

You have to put ZERO space between you and your excuses. What that means is this. The night before you go to bed, you have EVERYTHING ready so you “don’t have to think about it”. Your shoes, exercise outfit, watch, everything you need is to be right there. Your tyres are pumped up, or your gym bag is packed and ready to go. If you have a snack before you head out, it’s also sitting on the kitchen bench ready to pick up. So as soon as the alarm goes off, don’t think about anything except putting on your exercise clothes. You are aiming for a Formula One style exit from your bedroom to the footpath. I even have my socks separated and sitting on top of each shoe. If an excuse even starts to creep in (before you have your feet off the mattress and on the floor) you’re a good part of the way to being doomed. You just can’t afford to let one tiny morsel of an excuse grab hold of your mind.

2. Just start

If you’ve successfully made it through “don’t think about it” then you’re well on your way to completing your training session. Now your only focus is “just starting”. Just start running, or cycling, or swimming laps, or jumping up and down in that gym class. The trouble may come when it starts to hurt. Now if you do start to wobble with your willpower to finish this training session, then this is when step 3 comes in.

3. Think about it

Think about how you will feel when you successfully complete this training session. You’ll be a step closer to your event, your weight loss goal, or your improved strength. And what a great feeling that is. Finishing a good training session that has required commitment and perseverance is a fantastic feeling. If you’ve struggled through weather elements, even better. You’ll be able to use that strength of mind in other aspects of your life besides the next tough training session. I’ve called on tough physical accomplishments during tough mental challenges many times.

The 1-2-3 model will give you a mindset that is like teflon to excuses and gives you a much bigger opportunity to complete your training plan, one session at a time. It’s worked for me for many years and for many of my training buddies. Occasionally (but rarely), I may have let an excuse grab hold but hey, I’m only human.