Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Chain of X's Workout Technique

Don't break the chain!

Printing out a workout calendar and crossing off the days with big fat X's is literally the only thing that motivates me to exercise on a regular basis.

This productivity concept isn't new. Apparently it's Jerry Seinfeld's Productivity Secret and artist Crystal Moody uses this technique to create something every day of the year. Neither of these sources directly influenced my use of the "chain" but it's uplifting to know that it works for others, too, even across disciplines!

running-calendar-dont-break-chain

The first time I created my own workout calendar, it was for The Color Run. My family were flying out to visit us in DC and my mom and sister were going to run with us in the 5k (3.1 miles) Color Run. I was NOT in shape, and I knew I had to stick to my training schedule if I ever wanted to be able to finish the race and not let down my family. Here's the calendar I made and stuck to:
color-run-calendar
Since then, I've created a few more workout calendars. Sometimes they've been to reach a goal, and other times they're just to keep me working out every day and sticking to that daily schedule. I like to do my workouts at home, and I'm a big fan of cardio and yoga videos.

Part of what I enjoy about using a workout calendar like this is that I get to plan all my workouts in advance. Sometimes I'll take inspiration from a pre-made calendar (like for the Turbo Fire program), but mostly I just make up my own depending on what my goals are. I create these in Adobe InDesign, and I use little gray circles and text to plop down my workouts. Then I can move them around, and it's all very visual. For February/March, I kept my workouts somewhat vague (cardio and squats instead of TurboJam video #12). I like the flexibility of being able to choose my exact workout every day. I can choose something a little harder or a little easier depending on how I'm feeling that day, instead of being locked in to one specific video.

beginning-the-chain

The reason these calendars work so well for me is the chain of X's. Each day when I complete that day's activity, I get to cross off the square with a marker. (I keep my calendar on my fridge and the marker on the top of the fridge.) At first it doesn't look like much, but after a week or so the chain is getting long! And I don't want to break it!

exercise-calendar-progress

Missing a day isn't the end of the world, but my goal is always to have so many X's that from a distance it looks like every day. That means NO GAPS. If I miss a day, whatever, just get back to it right away. Then that gap won't look so big from a distance. If I do part of my workout for the day, or something different than I planned, I'll either write a small X in the corner (partial) or re-write what I actually did. I've also swapped days before. I always include a REST day during the week (just a blank slot), and I get to X those out, too. Even that is motivating :)

workout-calendar-x

If you think creating your own workout calendar and crossing off the day with big colorful X's is something that would work for you, then I encourage you to try it! Here's a 6-week calendar template you can print out. You'll have to fill out the days of the week and the day numbers yourself (depending on the month). I also removed the spots that I usually have on there for inspiration pics*. If you want some workout inspiration pics, you'll have to paste those on separately.
training-calendar-template
click to download a larger size


*I pulled my fitspiration photos from my two Pinterest boards: Strong & Sculpted and Move. I picked whatever was extra-super-inspiring me at the moment!

Side note: One of my favorite workout resources lately is the FitnessBlender channel on YouTube. Their videos are simple, requiring minimal equipment, and they're meant to be blended up - mix&match to create your own unique workout, so it's something new every day.

Do what you need to do to stay active over the long term!

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