Don't Hit That Wall- Work Around It

Jesse Irizarry


Strength and Conditioning, Strength Training


In New York City, where I’m from, it seems impossible to get around quickly. It’s hard to express to someone not from here, the heartwrenching feeling of despair you have when you miss the train and have to wait another ten minutes for the next one. In New York, a ten-minute setback might as well be a forty-five-minute wait, because now you will probably miss the next train or bus for your transfer.


So there you are, up since 4 a.m., a tired New Yorker, on your way to the gym after working a ten hour day; you do the math and figure it will be dinnertime by the time you get to the gym. So you’ll have to go home first to eat, not to mention get your gym clothes so that you don’t skip dinner, but in the back of your head you know you’re going to get to bed late and you have to be up just as early tomorrow. You get home, eat, look at your gym clothes and then glance at the clock and decide its too late to go back out.



Maybe you can’t relate to this pretty extreme example because you don’t live in a city like this and you drive to work instead. Suppose you live just twenty minutes away from your gym. But it's the opposite direction from where you work. You’re cruising along, and you get held up on the interstate because of some construction.


Because of this, you get home much later than you planned and when you go inside, you sit down at the edge of your bed, staring at the closet where you keep your shorts. You think about opening that closet, but you feel like someone put up an invisible wall that you’ve already bumped into with your face.


There’s no way you’re going to open that closet and get dressed for the gym, and you know it. Everyone knows what wall I’m talking about, and when you hit it, there’s no going through it. So how do we learn to begin with to go around so that we don’t walk into it in the first place?


What Makes You Stick?

Skim the progressive self-growth corners of the blog and book multiverse, and you’ll come across no short of advice on habit-forming tips and practices. These tips are usually for positive financial, business, or productivity practices.


But you’ll often hear these same champions talk of building positive personal habits that sometimes extend their rules to physical health and fitness. But many of them have a limited scope into what daily actions can be truly effective and helpful to someone struggling around the wall this particle wall.


Don't Hit That Wall- Work Around It - Fitness, fitness, motivation, exercise plan, energy, discipline, reinforcement system, hitting the wall, meal timing, healthy habits



If the conversation is about making your physical health an unnegotiable part of your daily life, then we do have to talk about habit forming. But before trying to grit your teeth through twenty-one days of some new discipline, or however long the new standard is for habit-formation, you need to figure out first what makes you tick. And there’s no shortcut or sage wisdom I can give here.


All I can do is call attention to the truth that you probably have no idea what makes you tick. None of us do at first. You need to have a patient and ongoing conversation with yourself as to what reward system would work to keep doing the same thing for just one week, let alone twenty-one days.


What do you enjoy? What can you not endure? What would keep you excited long enough to lay down a foundation for a habit that you’ll carry through, even after the excitement is gone? Do the work to figure it out, take the time.


Make It Easier on Yourself Before You’re Tired

We all know what makes us tired and we know at what point we shut down and yet we lie to ourselves when we still have energy and tell ourselves that we’ll be able to carry on with our tasks and responsibilities when we’re in that moment.




We leave things that we can do when we know we have the energy and enthusiasm to do them for when we’ve used up all that self-discipline. For most people, self-discipline is a daily finite resource. I say for most because there are some real outliers who defy this and can seem to push themselves endlessly. To what end I’m not sure, but that’s not a discussion for now.


So when we’re talking about laying down habits, you first need to figure out when you’re most inspired and energetic and stack actions and situations to be done during your high moments to account for the low. For example, if you wake up every morning motivated and ready to go but can’t get to the gym before work, do as many things in the morning as you can to make it easier for you later that day. You can:


  • Pack your gym bag ahead of time.
  • Make your dinner in the morning and throw it in the fridge.
  • Grab a snack to eat before the gym on your drive to work.


This way, when you’re tired and your self-control wanes, you already have everything you need to take the last step. Your gym bag is in your car or waiting for you at your apartment. When you get done with your workout, there’s no stress about what you’re going to do for dinner; it’s in the fridge at home.



Do you take classes or work with a coach? Schedule it at the beginning of the week when you’re well rested and excited about the week. Don’t count on yourself to make a Thursday morning appointment on Wednesday night when you’ve been working ten hour days three days in a row.


Pick a gym with a convenient location. It doesn’t matter if a gym has better equipment or nicer people if it adds a half hour to your commute. You’re not going to it anyway.


Stop Being a Tyrant to Yourself

Studying behavior and self-examination seems pretty straightforward when you read about it, but carrying it out and pulling back layers can be pretty arduous.


To get around the wall, you have to see first what your willing to do. But then you have to see how likely you are to follow the plan you outlined. And if it’s not likely, you have to modify it and create a better structure that you will actually follow.


Even if this new plan seems flimsy and meager, it’s better than setting out to do too much and carrying out none of it. Truly doing one thing to completion builds you up so much more than continually missing an elaborate plan with too many steps.


If you set out to improve one thing and accomplish it, reward yourself. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you don’t need to set up a structured reward system for yourself to keep going in the right direction. We all do, even those of us that enjoy living out a story of the faithful martyr.


Tell yourself that if you keep to the schedule, add the new practice, do the work, that you will reward yourself with something positive that you truly love. And when you follow through, don’t tell yourself that you don’t deserve the reward because, on second thought, what you did wasn’t significant enough.


Of course, it wasn’t enough, but that’s not the point. When you build from this and accomplish more and then build from that and accomplish, even more, it can one day be something of which you’re genuinely proud.


Don’t punish and deny yourself of something you said you’d get if you followed through on your plan. This isn’t how you’d deal with other people who you care about, so don’t deal with yourself this way. Reward yourself, so that you can trust yourself, and so that you can build a better pattern. Tell yourself: If I do the right things, I get the things that make me smile.


Jesse competes in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, and he was also formerly a competitive powerlifter. He was featured in main strength and fitness publications. You can read more of his work on his website.

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