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What to Do When Willpower Isn’t Enough

by | Oct 5, 2016
Photo by StepanVrany

Photo by StepanVrany

When I first started grad school I had to adjust to a pretty tight schedule. Classes started at 9am and continued all morning. Immediately after lunch I was expected to show up at my rotation lab and get to work on my experiments. (In the first year each student “rotates” through a new lab every quarter to find a good fit for a thesis project). I’d stay in lab until 5-6pm then head home, make dinner and study.

As a first year student in a new lab this schedule was not negotiable. That meant the only time I would be able workout was in the morning before classes. Factoring in breakfast, a 40+ minute commute and shower, I needed to get up at 5:30am to make it to class comfortably with my coffee.

Waking up in the pitch dark on a cold morning is not fun. And in the first couple of weeks the siren song of my warm, cozy bed kept me from making it to the gym regularly. While staying in bed usually felt like a great idea in the moment, I always regretted it because I could never shake the foggy-headed feeling I had all day if I didn’t get my blood pumping in the morning.

My best intentions weren’t enough. I needed a way to push through my inertia and build a morning workout habit.

It was during this time that I learned to appreciate The Power of One. That is, the value of seeing every repeated event as a new opportunity to experiment with behavior change.

Because I had to wake up and go to class five days a week no matter what, and I was always a little disappointed if I didn’t make it to the gym, every morning was a new chance to get it right.

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