Fitness for me was never something that formed a central part of my identity. Or any part, really. It was something I did, on occasion, when the need arose. Recently though, I was traveling for work, and I found myself – for the first time – wanting to keep up a fitness routine. Not just wanting to, needing to, even. It was weird!

I have a good thing going at the moment, fitness-wise. Monday, I’m in DSC twice: lunchtime for some movement and mobility. Then I’m in again that evening for a group workout. Tuesday, I go for a run at around 5pm, coming back refreshed for some meetings with San Francisco. Wednesday, I’ll sometimes play five-a-side football at lunch. Thursday, I’m in the gym with Paul that evening. Friday is a rest. Saturday, in the gym with Fiona on for the morning masterclass. Sunday, I’ll go for a climb with a friend. Now, I don’t do all of that every week, but – even when things are crazy – I’ll try get two classes and a run in.

So, when I was away, I found success in trying to replicate that schedule as much as possible. Monday workout, Tuesday run etc. I even went for a climb on the Sunday, corralling some San Francisco friends to join. And it was super fun. 
That’s the thing, which I talked a little about before. Fitness can be fun. But, in my experience, it’s only fun when the habit has been ingrained. When it’s no longer a struggle to motivate yourself to actually do the thing. And you also get positive knock on effects from building that habit.

There’s a book by Charles Duhigg called ‘The Power of Habit’. In the book, he talks about the power of ‘keystone habits’: things you build into your life that make other things easier. I’ve seen this in action with the Saturday morning class. Having to be in the gym for 9.30 on a Saturday morning means I need to be up at about 8.30. Needing to be up at 8.30 means I need to take it fairly easy on a Friday night: I can still go out and have a good time, but it has been a good forcing function to taper things a little. Then, when the class is over at 10.30, I feel super productive, and I have my whole weekend ahead of me. I’ll shower, do a bit of writing for an hour or so, and then meet a friend for coffee. All that done before lunchtime – the time where before I used to only be dragging myself out of bed at.

This is the thing: I find I’m happier when I’m actively doing things, rather than passively consuming content. But I’m also inherently lazy. Sure, I know that I should get up early. But, I could just lie here and scroll Instagram for another four hours. Pre-committing to things, although sometimes a struggle in the moment, is a great way to motivate yourself. For some people, the gym themselves makes them happier – which I’m definitely finding lately. But the gym can also be a great catalyst to enable that that happiness, elsewhere. Want to build better sleeping habits? Book into a morning class: forcing yourself to go to bed early in order to be rested for the morning. Want to avoid eating out all the time? Sign up for a lunchtime class and bring a packed lunch to eat al desko.

Blog by Ben Butler.

Check out Ben’s previous training diary entries here.