Want to start a new habit? Focus on the first two minutes

Here’s why I’m counting exercise as a win for yesterday, even though I quit during the warm-up.

One of the best books I’ve read this year is ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. It’s a fabulous book and if you’re interested in making your life better, I’d heartily recommend it.


(If you’re not interested in making your life better, I’d heartily recommend eating lots of sugary carbs and yelling obscenities at Policemen.)

One of the ideas in Atomic Habits is to focus on the first two minutes of any behaviour you want to habituate.

So, rather than aim for completing the perfect exercise routine – hitting that wall, pressing that curl, squatting that bicep (I have no idea what I’m talking about – I’m just throwing out words I remember hearing in a gym I went to use the loo once!), you just focus on the first two minutes – get changed, roll out the mat, press play on the DVD.

…and stop crying.

It doesn’t matter how you finish, it just matters that you start.

You get used to showing up. And it’s easier to carry on and complete the workout when you’ve already shown up.

You’ve got the ball rolling – you’ve done the hard part, so you might as well finish.

Anyway, yesterday, I rolled out my mat, stopped crying and pressed play on my workout DVD.

About one minute in, I felt a niggle in my hip, which became a twinge…which became a slight jarring pain.

I pushed stop. There was no way I was going to make it to the end of 30 minutes of Insanity (literally and metaphorically) without screaming.

(I’m not a fully qualified doctor you understand, but even I know that jarring hip pain isn’t really conducive to a testing plyometric workout!)

I looked at the clock – I lasted 4 minutes (4 minutes and 37 seconds to be precise), but I still count it as a win because I showed up.

My ‘ two-minute rule’ to help build an exercise habit is this:

‘push play every day. Never miss twice.’

…unless your hip REALLY bloody hurts.

That’s all I have to do – show up. It doesn’t have to be a ‘good’ workout (have you ever seen me workout – if “You’ve Been Framed” was still around I’d be a millionaire!) and I’m not competing with anyone else. I’m not aiming for optimum or perfect and I’m not creating daunting goals that stop me from taking action because I’m afraid I won’t hit them.

I just have to show up and press play. Whatever happens next is a bonus.

A big, sweaty, screaming bonus, but still a bonus!

If there’s a new habit or behaviour you’re wanting to add to your life, consider breaking it down into the first two minutes and just do that.

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