June 22, 2007

Getting Off The Couch

For the past couple days at Cranky Fitness, we've been discussing the issue of screwed-up priorities, and how to maybe stop putting all our energy into one thing at the expense of everything else.

So today's topic is Getting Your Ass of the Couch to get moving in some area of your life you've been neglecting. Crabby herself is really bad at this. But every now and then she manages, and when she does she feels so smug and virtuous! And Crabs love feeling smug and virtuous, almost as much as they love cupcakes.

So here is a list of Sneaky Tricks and Sloth-Busting Principles.

(And by the way, you already know this stuff. Crabby is just recycling the same self-help advice we've all been reading for years. But it works! And we all need to be reminded every now and then).

1. Acknowledge that Inertia is Huge Obstacle.
Getting started, (or getting started again) with something is way harder than doing more of what you already do. It takes more will power, more planning, more pep talks and Much Bigger Rewards. You're going to have trouble motivating if you don't give yourself Huge credit right from the get-go for taking on something you've been neglecting.

2. Break it Up.
As the always sensible Katieo warned earlier in the comments section: Baby Steps, people! When you've been on the couch, even standing up next to the couch for a few moments, looking around, and then plopping right back down for a Gilligan's Island marathon is progress.

This means the first step might merely be planning to make the change. Picking the date, say. Defeating procrastination is a huge chunk of the battle. And the subsequent steps should be really, really easy too. Need to clean up your house, car, garage, life? Start with the silverware drawer--and stop there. Get some momentum going before you take on anything that's going to take longer than a few minutes.

3. Rewards, Rewards, Rewards.
This seems obvious, but how often do you actually reward yourself? Do it, it helps!

(Note, however: the reward is for after you do your little task. Crabby often has trouble with this part. "I'll have a nice cup of coffee and a bit of dark chocolate after I do X," she says. Then she goes and drinks the coffee and eats the chocolate anyway, because it's on her mind. Will X get done? Don't bet on it. So don't make this dumb mistake like Crabby does. Rewards are for after.

4. Expect Backsliding.
It's gonna happen. Good time to work on that "all or nothing" thinking. You're gonna screw up, what are you going to do next? Give up? No. Don't do that! Swear a little, then figure you're human and do your best the next day.

5. Gripe if you Want To!
So this isn't on most lists. If it is, they usually frame it much more positively: get support from your friends! Yeah, yeah, whatever. Here at Cranky Fitness, we encourage complaints about How Hard It All Is. Cheerfulness is not mandatory, as you may have noticed. So if you're making some new healthy change and are feeling grouchy about it, come here and whine about it! Change is hard and Crabby totally gets it.

So these are just a few lame all-purpose type tips. You folks no doubt have much better suggestions, which Crabby hopes you'll share. Or interesting experiences, successes, or failures trying to start something new. Or complaints! Crabby loves to hear complaints as she agrees that so many things in life are a pain in the ass.


  1. One of my tricks to 'get off the couch' is to just stop thinking too much. If I start to get into a mindset of "Maybe I shouldn't go running this morning, the sky is cloudy, maybe it will rain, maybe this and that and I'd better do that or this"... well, I never get started. So I just get up, drink some, go pee, slide into my sports clothes, go run, and then I'm back before I've even realized that I was gone. :)

    And if it indeed does start raining, then there's an incentive to run even faster. XD

  2. Hi Kery!
    Good point--sometimes "just do it" can be a great mantra even if its also annoying athletic wear slogan.

    Because you're right, it's easy to let the "maybe's" talk you out of something you've got plenty of resistance to anyway. Thanks!

  3. If I'm having trouble getting started with something I know I'll feel better for having done (like running or writing), I follow kery's advice of not over-analyzing it, plus I remind myself that I've never regretted doing the task in question, while I've nearly always regretted not doing it.

    When we're talking about something with rewards that are less clear, like a messy data analysis project at the office, my mantra is, "What one thing can I do right now?" Even if it's just, "Open the document," hey, that's one thing! Yay, me! Now, is there one more thing I can do? Just ONE?

    Pretty soon, I've either gotten a lot done on the project or someone comes along with something more time-critical and rescues me. Either way, I've done more than just sit and do nothing. And that feels good! :-)

  4. I've used something similar to Bunnygirl's approach and your silverware drawer idea. I'll do one thing, even if it's just check a file for corrections or adjust the page numbers or check the word count.
    I'm big on rewards, too. Very big.
    Naps, chocolate, sitting outside.
    My biggest lag area is housework.
    However, everything does get done and I rarely good worked up about anything.
    I haven't gone for as many bike rides yet this year as last so I'm kind of backsliding there. But I did so yesterday and I do some yoga stretches every morning so it all works out.
    Excellent tricks and sloth-busting ideas, Crabby.

  5. Remember that you will never regret doing that "thing" that you keep or want to put off. You will never regret going back to college or getting up at 4:30 am to go running or organizing the Tupperware drawer in the kitchen. You WILL regret not doing that "thing" however when you find out how much more $ you can make or your jeans become too snug or when you can't find the top to that bowl.

  6. I get so fixated on the reward that I go and get it and then maybe I do the thing I was supposed to do to get it. I think in a way that is lying to yourself.
    I have found, for me rewards don't really work. I just have to find the things I like to do, and those things motivate me to do the things I do not like to do.

  7. Personally, I find it so rewarding to cross tasks off of a list, it puts it into perspective. So I'll write down EVERYTHING I have to do, even little things that take 2 seconds to do, that way I can cross more things off, and feel like I'm on a roll. Also, if I did something that wasn't on the list, but is also a task I needed to complete, I'll write it on the list and cross it off right away, so when I look at the whole list, there's all these things already crossed off, and I feel great about it! GO ME! This is big when it comes to studying for multiple exams at once, or even studying in general because you can write down the subjects, or page number ranges in a book you have to read, and cross them off as you go! Then I treat myself after I cross a certain number of things off... like, with coffee, chocolate (this is a recurring sentiment... rewarding with chocolate!), playtime with my kitten, reading for fun, or half an hour of watching the food network (best channel ever, although so tempting to cook things! I'm a sucker for baking, I love to bake!). Sorry for this post, kind of like a long run-on sentence! I hope it makes sense!

  8. I've picked up enough ideas in your post and everyones comments to surely put a bomb under even this slothful kiwi!

    I am a reformed woman! I write, I exercise and I blog. That is the order of importance!

  9. I love #5 Crabby. Venting makes things so much easier....

  10. Hi guys!
    I was off getting a haircut for both me and the cat. (We both look pretty silly right now, but we'll get used to it). She's a 17 year old long-haired cat who's not able to keep her fur unmatted herself anymore, plus she's been hacking up hairballs lately. TMI?)

    Bunnygirl, you and Kery are so sensible about not over-analyzing. I over-analylze EVERYTHING. Part of the problem in getting things done sometimes. And yes, I resort to steps like turn on the computer, open the document, too--anything to keep it small!

    Hi leah,
    Great ideas! And I love this: "I rarely get worked up about anything." Sort of a major key to happiness right there.

    Good point, goinggone! You always feel better after accomplishing something, and rarely feel better after putting something off. (But wow, you get up at 4:30 to go for a run? I'm way impressed!)

    Hi Samantha!
    Glad you've found the method that works for you! I don't know if rewards really "work" for me, or I just like having them. But I do use them a lot.

    Okay, back in a second...

  11. Crabby,

    I just want to thank you for this series. I have always had a very unbalanced life and then a few years ago I started to restructure. Once I retired from real work and got a smaller part time job, things fell into place. Then I started slipping and sliding.

    Now I try to accomplish something each day and that makes me feel good about myself. However, I think it would help greatly if I could identify my running, walking and couch potato areas and see if they are really as I wish them to be.

    And to you I say (in answer to something that came up a few blogs back) work the blog in anyway that you are comfortable, but I certainly don't expect to receive a personal answer to my comments.

    Have a great weekend, Terrie

  12. Lauren, thank you so much for writing that! And yes, it makes total sense! I don't always do lists, but when I do, it's not so much to keep track of what needs to be done--it's more 'cause I just love to cross stuff off.

    I was afraid I was the only one who wrote things down I already did just to cross them off. And I'll even put stupid stuff on there like "take out garbage." Thank you lauren, I'm so glad I'm not the only one!

    Yay Dawn!
    (Just make sure cream-filled apple donuts remain on the list somewhere. Rewards, rewards!)

    Hi Sera,
    Well, this may not be the most informative blog out there, but it's the whiniest! Please come here anytime you want to vent. (But actually you always seem to me a very even-tempered and pleasant person!)

  13. Hi Terrie!
    I love the idea of accomplishing something every day that makes you feel good about yourself. I think that "feeling good about yourself" part is so important! We just can't do everything we'd like to do; better to celebrate what we are doing than bemoaning what we're not.

    And on the comment thing--thanks! I think it's inevitable that there are going to be some days where life intrudes and I get behind and end up doing a group thanks, & maybe just say hi individually to the newcomers. It really helps that the "regulars" here are so forgiving!

  14. OMG, Lauren, that's me in a nutshell! I drive my husband nuts with my lists. I think it's a combination of the "small steps" idea and the rewards. Being able to cross something off a list is almost orgasmic for me (ok, I need to get out more...)

    To add something to the mix: One of my biggest obstacles is my perfectionism. As in, I have to do something Just So, and since I can't, I might as well not even try! Being able to do something half-assed, or not to completion, has been a huge revelation in my adult life. Before, cleaning the house was a weekend long job lasting until 3 AM with me scrubbing the windowsills. Now, I throw out the junk mail, toss in a load of laundry and vacuum the middle of the floor, and I'm done until tomorrow! Over the course of a week (or month) it all gets done, but what a liberation to be able to leave some things until tomorrow. I can work out, even if I don't have the "right" equipment, I can balance the checkbook even if I did blow $100 on clothes last weekend, and I can be happy, even if I'm not perfect.

    Yay for good enough!

  15. Kate, that stuff about perfectionism is so, so, true! (And yay, another list crossy-offy person!)

    "Half-assed is good enough!" At least for a lot of things, like housework. (From what I understand, a lot of men seem to already understand this principle. We women lag behind in this important area of slackitude).

    Vacuum just the middle of the floor--what a great idea! That's where all the crumbs are anyway.

  16. I have the dumbest rewards ever -- books. If I ride my stupid exercise bike I get to read the whole time. I love to read in my free time (hahhahahahaha - free-time) so it's a good reward. It makes me ultra dizzy but it works to get me on my bike.

    I hate exercising if it's a, "Hey, let's go exercise" deal. So besides the bike trick I also play Frisbee every day with my son at the park -- we're actually getting pretty good (look out Frisbee Olympics) and we in-line skate. Skating is tough until you get the hang of it then it's super fun. The only issue I have with skating is it can take forever to get ready.

    PS Hersey kisses although well-known for their reward qualities tend to x out the exercise portion. Sad, I know.

  17. Ooo, so much wisdom here. I've found myself thinking on these posts over the last couple of days; in a very good kind of re-focusing way.

    Thanks Crabby!

  18. Jennifer,
    Okay, so I'm impressed:

    1. Books are a far classier reward than say, a scoop of chocolate ice cream covered with marshmallow cream topping, which happens to be one of my favorites. And,

    2. Frisbee and Skating with your Kid covers both Good Parenting and Healthy Exercise. You get double credit! (For me the downside of skating is not that it takes time to get ready but that it hurts like f*ck when you fall down. I'm getting too old and cranky to do anything that involves falling down.)

    Hi Katieo!
    Crabs are not known for wisdom, only carefully disguised griping. All the wisdom happens down here, in the comments. But thanks! Your blog is not only wise but amusing, and it's always such a treat to visit.

    And to both Jennifer & Katieo, both a bit under the weather: hope you both feel better soon!

  19. More well-balanced wisdom - thanks so much, Crabby and everybody.

    Kery's comment about "just do it" reminds me: You might also enjoy a great article I found the other day at the Complete Running Network.

    And let's face it - perfection is so boring...

  20. I'm definitely related to a slug - I hate exercise - but I do it. Though lately I have slacked off too. I did work out with my fluidity thing once this week and walked with my daughter for about 30 minutes, and did a few misc. things here and there. But I NEED to get back to doing it regularly again (I was up to 30 mins a week five days a week). I'm so good at keeping my food journal - I need to apply that same discipline to the exercise too.
    Lady Rose

  21. Hi Cassie,
    Thanks so much! You've been collecting some great motivating tips on your very fine blog too! (Readers--be sure to check out the The Rector's Wife Revamp).

    And thanks for the tip on the Runner's article as well.

    Hi Lady Rose,
    I'm amazed you have time to exercise at all, what with the incredible job you do on all your blogs. I still have to figure out what this "fluidity" thingy is, though Crabs aren't very fluid and would probably not be very good at it. But I'm glad you're finding time to do at least some exercise. 'Cause as we're now fond of saying here, thanks to Kate: sometimes half-assed is good enough!

  22. Great post! I think we tend to blow things up in our minds to monumental proportions when instead what we need to do is just get out there and walk a bit, start an exercise program slowly, whatever. We don't need to run the whole marathon all at once, but thinking like that makes us less and less likely to start something new and beneficial.

    I think the key is priorities -- if we want something to be important to us, we need to make it important to us -- that is, make the time to do it and kick our own butts when they need kicking.

  23. Good point, Thomma Lyn!

    I think the "you have to run a marathon all at once" thinking is the excuse for a lot of inertia!

    And you strike me as someone with very balanced priorities!


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)