When Covid hit and most sports were cancelled, I really struggled to keep physically active, which made it hard to feel mentally well too.
I’ve generally always considered myself an athletic person, always enrolled in some sort of team sport or membership to a gym. Before I moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2017 it was bouldering and Gaelic football.
Years before that it was soccer, boxing, and personal training.
When I moved to the Coast we didn’t have access to the same facilities, so I had to find new creative ways to keep my body moving. I did weekly Cardio Cabaret classes with the seniors. I joined Ultimate for a season. More recently this year I discovered Softball and played every chance I could.
I’ve always needed some kind of structured environment to keep me interested and keep me moving, whether it’s a team sport, a class, or a membership.
When sports were cancelled and facilities closed through most of 2020-2021, I just couldn’t muster up the motivation to keep moving.
Having ADHD can make motivation difficult, even when I’m interested in something.
After a particularly challenging month, after softball season had ended, I noticed that I was barely leaving the house, and barely moving my body. I KNOW that moving my body is one of the many ways I can help regulate my dopamine, and I know that I feel better when I move my body. I also know that the human body is designed to move, not to lay on the couch for hours at a time with terrible posture.
I was fed up with feeling like a couch potato, not having any energy, and making excuses for not even trying. I needed to find a way to love fitness again.
Okay, easier said than done, I know. How did I get out of my slump?
First: connect to the WHY.
I needed to reconnect to my WHY. WHY is taking care of my health important to me?
As I age, I want to be strong, healthy, and fit. I don’t want to be in pain when I get out of bed in the morning (or hurt myself doing something basic)! I want my heart to be strong. I want more overall energy. I want to be a good teammate. I want to better regulate my dopamine. Ultimately, I want to BE AN ACTIVE, HEALTHY PERSON (Identity Goal).
Second: identify waterfall habits.
Waterfall habits are habits that create a chain reaction, leading to other positive habits or actions.
I needed to anchor into habits and routines that would make positive change more likely (and find a way to make it fun).
Most weekday mornings I was getting stuck scrolling on my phone, despite all my best intentions. Easily 30-60 minutes wasted in the morning, while also starting the day feeling sluggish.
What if I could replace this crappy energy-stealing habit with a healthy one that would actually give me energy and help build momentum?
WATERFALL HABIT #1: Morning workouts.
After Softball season ended I turned into a lump on the couch. I knew I needed some external accountability and structure, so I invested in the Studio Mirror. Now each morning I get the sweet dopamine hit that comes from the excitement and sheer variety of the guided workouts.
While I mostly do the pre-recorded workouts, it’s also quite enjoyable to attend the live classes and feel a sense of connection with other people who are also challenging themselves just like you.
Now, with a ~30 minute morning workout to start the day, I have way more more energy and a feeling of momentum because I’ve already accomplished something awesome.
I now start the day with “OMG, I AM A BADASS!!” vibes instead of the guilt of having wasted the morning scrolling.
I’m still never going to be the kind of person that can do deep creative work in the morning (I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to do that before 1pm!), but at least now I know I’m going to have energy when I’m ready to hunker down and get creative.
Seeing the activities pile up over time has been incredibly motivating. Find ways to help you visualize and celebrate your progress!
Here’s a quick comparison between September and now:
Basically, I worked out 5 times in September, compared to 18 in the first 20 days of January.
Each day I log the workout in my Notion Dashboard, and connect it to the days’ journal:
Then I add my Oura Stats for Readiness and Sleep:
The different database view tabs allow me to visualize my progress in different ways, which I personally find very motivating!
You may not be motivated by visuals in the same way I am; that’s ok! Find what does motivate you.
I know that not everyone has the resources to invest in something like the Mirror, so it’s not necessarily the most accessible option. If you can afford it and you’re curious about it, I cannot say enough about how much of a difference this has made for me. (You can get a discount with my referral code: marifKiz)
If you can’t afford something like the mirror, consider signing up for something like Steezy (dance), Down Dog app (yoga, HIIT, barre, running, and more), or check out these home workout routines from Nerd Fitness. Get a friend or accountability buddy who is also looking to make change. What other ways can you find to incentivize yourself and make your new habit less intimidating?
Start small; creating a new habit takes time. We’re aiming for progress over perfection.
WATERFALL HABIT #2: Meal Prepping
I love cooking and making food… but not every damn day.
Most Sunday afternoons or evenings would be spent playing video games, running errands, cleaning, binge-watching Netflix shows, or writing/working.
I know that anytime I did any kind of batch-cooking or meal prepping:
- The kitchen would be less chaotic during the week.
- I was much more likely to eat healthy.
- I was snacking/bingeing less.
Meal prepping is definitely one of those waterfall habits that completely sets my week up for success, because my energy doesn’t need to be wasted deciding what to eat, making the meals, and worse: having to clean up after meals. THE WORST.
If I make lots of food on a Sunday when I’m already feeling happy, relaxed, and energized, then I can listen to a podcast or audiobook while making some tasty food, and actually enjoy the process.
I’m not even terribly regimented about what I make, but I try to make sure breakfast and lunch are handled for at least 4 days of the week, with options for easy assembly or snacks.
Tools that make it all easier? A good blender, food processor, and an Instant Pot. Seriously, I use it all the time, for everything from rice to soup, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, squash, etc.
This usually looks like overnight oats, a few salads, and a few entrees and/or number of sides that mix and match well. I keep things simple and focus on modularity. I need to be able to throw it in a bowl, in a wrap, on toast, or as a side.
Some of my latest favorites:
- Avocado Egg Salad
- Chopped Thai salad with peanut sauce
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
- Tomato Basil Instantpot Risotto
Buddha Bowls are also one of my go-to’s. Roast a tray of veggies, batch cook some rice, make a sauce of your choice and you can toss together a quick bowl for lunch or dinner, then add some of the ingredients to tortillas or taco shells with different toppings.
These two keystone habits are the ONLY habits I’m focused on right now, because by taking care of my body and my health, I’m much more likely to take care of my mental health, and make better choices in other areas of my life.
As a result, I’ve been actually taking all those vitamins and supplements I bought with the best of intentions but haven’t been able to follow through on consistently.
Everything else is becoming a little bit easier, which makes it incredibly motivating to keep up.
My morning workout is now something I weirdly look forward to. I never in a million years would have ever believed that I’d be someone who works out in the morning, but here we are.
Once these habits become second nature, then I’ll move on to create goals in other areas of my life.
It’s unrealistic to expect to improve everything all at once, and be amazing in every area of our lives all the time.
For now, I’m focused on keeping up these waterfall habits, because I can see the result they’re having on other areas of my life.
I’m taking it one day at a time.
I still love my couch, but I’m no longer a couch potato.