Workout Program for People that Hate Working Out

The idea for this workout program dawned on me the other day as a way to slowly (very slowly) get into a fitness routine that you are meant to keep going the rest of your life.

We are discussing our progress, challenges and successes in the comments below if you would like to join us!

I was sick of training schedules and programs that were so extreme I could only keep them up for a few weeks or days before collapsing under the time or mental pressure. I mulled the problem over for a while and thought: “If I had to come up with a workout program that I kept doing for the next 5 years… what would it look like?” and this is the result.

The Basics

The gist of the workout is 3 parts:

  1. Start with a painfully easy workout, like “1 pushup” or “2 squats”, that’s it. Be sure to pick an exercise you like (or can tollerate in small doses).
  2. Do it every day for 1 week.
  3. Every 7 days, add something new (but simple) to the workout and keep doing it for the next week.

The purpose of the workout is to be very long term, something you might do for years. So be sure to start with something very simple and move up from there because every 7 days you must add something new to the workout. Take care not to add something so taxing or time consuming that it impedes your ability to keep doing the entire workout every day.

For example, hold off on adding things like “run 1 mile” to your workout until you are months into it. For the first few weeks/months, keep the additions so easy that the “workout” almost makes you laugh.

Life is meant to be enjoyed you know :)

Too Easy?

No, even if you start off with something painfully simple, keep in mind that you have to think where that workout will be in a year after 52 additions or more.

You might start off with “3 pushups” but after just 4 weeks, you might add a few more pushups to that, some squats and maybe some walking. By 6 months if you progressed too quickly you might be looking at a workout that takes 2 hours to complete and undoes the purpose of this workout; which is to keep you engaged in fitness for years to come.

Smile and relax.

There is a huge mental component to accepting the workout and physical movement into your life, don’t try and shove through that. Just giggle at the fact that your workout is 2 pushups, 5 squats and 1 situp.

Get Started

Give it a try:

  1. Go to the store and pickup a simple calendar you can thumbtack to the wall.
  2. Write your workout down in the Sunday box.
  3. Start doing your workouts!
  4. Add an ‘X’ on the calendar every day you do the workout (similar to Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret)
  5. Enjoy your life!

That’s it, nothing more to it.

The key to success is remembering not to add too much every Sunday; keep it simple, add an extra pushup or an extra squat. Try and remember what your workouts will look like after 52 additions!

If you find modifications to the workout that works better for you I’d love to hear about them!

What about Diet?

Don’t worry about changing anything in your diet for a while. Give yourself 6 months to get the feel for your workout.

When you do decide to focus on your diet, don’t focus on taking things away, just work on adding a few good things like raw foods, veggies and high-fiber foods.

Don’t walk into the job of modifying your diet with the assumption that your goal is to love eating raw soy beans, steel cut oats and tree bark. That just sets the bar in an impossible position that does nothing but demotivate and crush your spirit.

If you end up liking tree bark, great. If you still love cheese burgers and pizza, great too. Just try and add some veggies to that over the next few years. There is no “race to the finish line” with this stuff, just enjoy what you are doing.

As far as portion control goes, don’t worry about it for a long time. Let’s get some successes under our belts first.

Addendum

The spirit of this fitness plan was actually born out of the “death by” workout concept I got introduced to from CrossFit.

It is such a simple concept… start a clock, and at the top of every minute, do X number of reps of some exercise (like a squat or burpee) where “X” is the minute you are on.

So when the clock starts, just do 1 rep that entire first minute. When the 2nd minute stats, do 2 reps. When the 3rd minute starts, do 3 reps and so on.

If you finish your reps quickly you just stand around doing nothing (much like the early months/years of this proposed workout) and it feels too easy. There is this urge to do more or do some minor exercise while you wait like a jumping jack because it feels wrong to just be standing there and not suffering.

The funny thing is, by the 15th or 18th or 20th minute, you are finishing your reps RIGHT as the next minute begins, so you no longer have any time to rest. As you gasp for air you would give anything to be back in Minute #1 or 2 or 3.

It makes you appreciate patience, consistency and perseverance and that is all I want to do with this workout (which I am doing myself; I’m not trying to be an internet-Buddha with this or anything).

I am sick of 8-minute abs and 12-second arms and 30-millisecond shoulders. All these transient, immediate, nonsensical hand-wavy solutions to things that I no longer think are problems.

I just want to ride my bike, hike, eat some burgers, go for a slow ass jog, play tennis with my friends and smile as I’m going to sleep at night.

I am becoming a lot more conscious of my right to happiness.

Update #1: My wife keeps referring to this as “The Calendar Workout” — what do you guys think of the name?

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About Riyad Kalla

Software development, video games, writing, reading and anything shiny. I ultimately just want to provide a resource that helps people and if I can't do that, then at least make them laugh.

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38 Responses to “Workout Program for People that Hate Working Out”

  1. Luke October 13, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I love this! So many people go into fitness with a complicated diet and exercise plan, only to burn out on it entirely three weeks later.

    • Riyad Kalla October 13, 2011 at 11:40 am #

      Thanks Luke, you are exactly right… I can’t count how many times I’ve burned out on something. In the past I’d be good for years at a time, then it became months at a time, then weeks… now it is days/weeks.

      The last thing I stuck with for 8 months was CrossFit, which was amazing, but SO intense it was always intimidating to get out of bed and head into class every day.

      I’ve been off the wagon for months now and you get so down in the dumps about how you look and feel it just gets old feeling *bad* all the time. So I changed my perspective from “losing 8 pounds” to “being able to play tennis at 60″.

      With those goals in mind, life just seemed easier… and out of that came this idea.

      Sometimes I feel like the ultra-focus we put on the short term is somewhat… disrespectful towards what we have and never appreciate.

      Like someone that is perfectly healthy but 15lbs overweight; they OBSESS about losing that 15lbs instead of traveling and doing things they love. Then one day they have an accident and can’t walk anymore… *NOW* all they wish they had was their legs back and they fret and fret and fret about it non-stop until one day they start losing their hair and develop uncontrollable back pain. THEN all they want is their hair back and no back pain and on and on.

      It is this vicious cycle of “the grass is always greener” and you never stop and appreciate how awesome your own grass might be.

      I want to appreciate what I have. I don’t have 6-pack abs, but I have many other things that are a lot more important when I think that someday I might lose them.

      Have a great day!

      • TEW March 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

        Riyad,

        It’s been 5 months since you posted this. You still doing it?

        T

        • Riyad Kalla March 20, 2012 at 6:52 am #

          Yes, but I had to restart twice due to two different weeks I stopped after loading the workout up too much over a multi-month period time.

          First time made it 3.5 months, the workout had gotten decently hard that it was becoming a pain to do and then we took a big trip and I shelved it. When I got back I restarted.

          Right after that I started again and just recently bombed out after joining LA Fitness and getting into a more regular workout regimen (spin class 4x a week, weights 3x a week) — no excuse to quit, but I somehow justified it in my head.

          So just restarted recently and am back on my 10 PU 10 SU.

          • TEW March 21, 2012 at 7:00 am #

            Riyad,

            Actually, I think that’s excellent. It seems the purpose of this workout regimen is to give you something you’ll stick to and if you “fall off the wagon” it’s easy to get back on without feeling like you’ve lost a ton of ground. Since you’ve successfully done that, I’d call it effective for you. Also, it seems it’s gotten you in the habit of working out so that you felt you could engage at a bit higher level at a gym. Well done.

            Best,
            T

  2. Rebecca October 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    i love it. Great idea im doing my one sit up right now. I totally have the problem of over assigning myself work and then i get so overwhelmed I give it up.This, im sure will stick.

    • Riyad Kalla October 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

      Rebecca, I can related. I hope this helps or is at least another tool in your toolbox.

  3. Maria October 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm #

    Simply amazing! This is something that i will actually remember, and do for long months to come! Thank you for motivating me!

  4. Matt October 14, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    I mean I can easily motivate myself to workout, the endorphin rush afterwards is totally worth it plus the boost of self confidence! Honestly people! If you really want to see results hit some weight training 3-4x a week alternating muscle groups, watch your diet carefully! LIMIT FRUITS I know everyone says “If you wanna lose weight eat LOTS of fruits and vegetables” FALSE, fruits have a TON of sugars and fast absorbing carbs! unless your going to workout 30 minutes after you eat them then have an apple! completely cut off carbs within 3 hours before bedtime, carbs=energy when you sleep you dont need them! 30 minutes of constant cardio and a diet high in protein fiber and slow digesting carbohydrates.. you will lose significant weight! Stock up on Greens, learn to enjoy them! I am studying at the University of Northern Iowa to be a personal trainer, I hope not to press too much but to motivate others! No matter what it takes get in the gym! I guarantee you will enjoy it more than you think!

    • Darrel October 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

      Just wanted to say, Matt, that slow digestion is actually not healthy, according to my biology professor. The faster you digest it, the better for your overall health.

      But you are right about fruits having lots of sugars. Carbs before bed, I don’t know. I actually worked out with cardio thirty minutes every day, two months straight, watched what I ate, and cut out soda completely, yet didn’t lose a single pound. It’s frustrating, and when university picked back up I was too exhausted to work out.

      I want to give this exercise a try. The worst that can happen is that I don’t see any results.

      • Matt October 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

        That is entirely false.. Sorry I should have worded it better but slower digesting carbs can also be called ‘complex carbs’ and they are the healthiest for you because they do not spike insulin, they fill you up, they are the least prone to fat storage, and they give you good energy. Everyone has a different metabolism and their bodies function differently, but stay persistent anything you do will help! If you want more info on what I’m trying to say Darrel check this link out! Hope it helps! http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/zaino14.htm Also I entirely agree kettle bells are awesome workout tools don’t get me wrong! They are great! If you want to see faster results, assuming most people do, switch up the diet sooner eat more often and never go hungry, just ‘eat better’

    • Riyad Kalla October 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      Matt,

      I think your enthusiasm is fantastic. This plan is not a tool someone like you would need, but maybe down the road in your fitness career you might run across someone that just has a hell of a time staying motivated and consistent and this tool might help them.

      I like that you recognize pushing too hard can sometimes be a turn off for folks that have problems with self-motivation, I think that will make you an excellent trainer (empathy for your client’s positions).

      Best of luck!

  5. Steve Wells October 17, 2011 at 9:26 am #

    Kettlebelt swings are actually one of the most effective ways to lose fat. And here’s why it actually makes sense to workout (and it’s not about health benefits): http://www.thepickupdiary.com/looks-do-matter-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/

    • Riyad Kalla October 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

      Steve, I appreciate the link. I’m thinking about picking up some more information on kettlebells (the Russian one that is so popular seems to be recommended to me a lot) for some better understandings of core and full body workouts like thrusters that I can slowly add to my workout.

  6. mitsk2002 October 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Excellent suggestion, Riyad. Especially the Jerry Seinfeld productivity sheet.

    One major thing I would add to this exercise routine is this:
    Do a physical activity you ENJOY. This will ensure longevity in your physical activity, and encourage you to branch out to other physical activities, to find out what else interests you.

    This exercise routine sounds like a great way to START being active, but I can see some people getting tired of it in the long run, after they have added more exercises to the routine.

    • Riyad Kalla October 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

      mitsk2002,

      You absolutely nailed it — I’ll need to go back and add an edit to the workout that people focus on things they like.

      This recommendation (program? not sure what to call it yet) is really all about learning to love movement and develop good habits and you are right, if you chose something you hate then it won’t be as effective of a journey.

      Thanks for that feedback.

  7. Curtis Sulaski October 18, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    Wow. Thank you immensely. I START TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    GOD Bless,

    Curtis

  8. Karl October 21, 2011 at 3:39 am #

    Hehe, I came up with a very similar concept intended to get me to be able to do 100 press-ups. It came about after I heard that sumo wrestlers train by picking up a calf and carrying it around a field every day. Eventually, the calf grows into a cow, so the wrestler gets very strong. I think that story is a load of bull (pun intended), but the theroy behind it is rock-solid. I too have struggled with weight-loss. I went from 100kg to being so ripped I got on the front of a fitness magazine, yet I was training so full on I eventually went back to burgers and beer and now find myself at 120kg and around 30% bodyfat!!! I have decided to do it SLOWLY this time (I have lost in excess of 20kg several times… funny how I keep putting it back on!). Awesome idea and I’m gonna start with my one press-up!!! Cheers! Also, I think Matt up there completely misses the point.

    • Riyad Kalla October 22, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

      Karl,

      I really appreciate you sharing your own fitness journey and giving folks insight into how someone, even in crazy-good-shape, can slip back down the path of weight gain just like anyone else.

      As you pointed out in what you said, it all comes down to not giving up, staying focused and moving forward.

      I also like the alegory about the cow — I’ve heard that ninja’s train by jumping over a corn stalk… same idea, probably false, but if you boil down the concept it is the same one presented here — constant slow progression that never stops.

      I’ve love it if you came back and kept us posted on your journey and how your workouts look.

      I’ll post my own update below after I finish replying to the other comments (nothing impressive, but just sharing).

  9. Captain Tigersex October 21, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    I started doing something very similar this year.
    After many false starts at getting myself fit – one morning I spontaneously decided to do 20 sit-ups and 20 press-ups before breakfast. It was probably 4 minutes worth of excercise, so it was easy to do it again the next day, and the next.
    After a week I discovered an old set of dumbbells and incorporated 15 dumbell flys, and a couple of weeks later I added 20 bicep curls. About 8 weeks in I decided to start doing sets of related stuff to keep it interesting
    Anyway – now it’s 10 months later and I have a stable excercise regime for the first time in my life. The whole thing now takes me 30 minutes in the morning and has done me the world of good. As I said – I started with a four minute pre-breakfast pressup/situp combo that was as easy as brushing my teeth.

    If it worked for a lazy fool like me, it probably works for any lifetime excercise avoider.

    • Riyad Kalla October 22, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

      Captain,

      I love it! That is exactly what I am hoping to find myself doing weeks from now so I get a boost of energy from your story (especially since you are a few months down the path).

      Are you still add/changing the program, or have you found something that works really well for your routine and sticking to it?

      How has the weight control and overall health of your body responded to the workout? You feeling better? Stronger?

      Keep on rocking!

  10. Riyad Kalla October 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    UPDATE
    ==============

    Ok so a quick update from when I wrote this, we are nearing the end of week 2.

    Week 1 was 10 pushups. On Sunday, for Week 2, I added 10 squats (just using body weight and Crossfit form) and still sticking to the exercise every day.

    My wife actually added 10 pushups to her Week 1 and for Week 2 she changed it up by making 1 of her pushups a full pushup (instead of pushups from knees or “girl pushups”).

    Nothing impressive and it only takes about 60 seconds to do, but I have to stay calm, focused and relaxed and remember that after 50 more adjustments by the end of the year it will look VERY different.

    I am going to add some shoulder exercises this coming Sunday I think, I’m not sure what because anything that requires weights may make it hard to always be able to do the workout so I need to pick well.

    Best of luck to everyone!

  11. Leopold October 23, 2011 at 6:38 am #

    Riyad, Thank you.

    “Being more active” has been on my mind for a long time. My path has been similar to Karl’s, and I’ve had a heck of a time getting myself to motivated enough to do anything at all. So I did nothing.

    Today, I did 3 sit-ups, which felt like nothing, but I did them. I did it because it was easy. It was 3 sit-ups more than I did the day before, or the day before that, or the day before that. Heck, it was more sit-ups than I’ve done in the past month. And my reaction when I was done? That was easy! Just think how easy it will be to do this again tomorrow when I know it is easy instead of hard.

    I’m sure I’ve read (or skimmed or even skipped) many articles on fitness but nothing motivated me to act. Your words have inspired me to get off the dime. Thank you.

    • Riyad Kalla October 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

      Leopold,

      I’ve been trying to find the right words to respond to this and I can’t, but I’ll just say that your message lifted me up in a big way. It really meant a lot to me.

      I like how we can all motivate each other starting from similar places in our lives, all wanting better and wanting more. Please come back and post at different times to let us all know how things are going (good or bad). You never know when your words will motivate someone passing by this story and reading it for the first time and thinking “Wow, my situation is exactly like Leo’s, I am going to try and do what he is doing.”

      For what its worth, after reading your reply I felt infused with this responsibility to stick to my guns, so I did my workout right after. I am looking at a calendar with 2 weeks of X’s on it and starting to feel compelled to keep the chain going unbroken.

      Today (Sunday) I added 5 situps to my workout. Just like you said, gotta keep it easy and make you smile every time you think of the workout you have to fit into your day :)

  12. Karl October 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Right, three days in, three workouts done. 1 push-up, 1 sit-up and 1 squat! Hahaha. But the thing is, keep it up and I will be one fit 45 year old, as in ten years I’ll be doing 520 press-ups, 520 sit-ups and 520 squats ;-)

    • Riyad Kalla October 24, 2011 at 8:15 am #

      Karl, nice job! Are you marking the X’s down on the calendar?

      Do you already know what additions you want to make next Sunday (or whatever your start day was?)

      • Karl October 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

        Hi again :)

        Nah, not adding every workout to the calendar. I’ll just mark it down if I miss one.

        I’m simply adding a single rep to each exercise every Friday.

        I also just started my own cardio training but I’m treating it as an “if I feel like it” workout. I just did it this morning and it was great! Here it is for anyone else who wants to give it a go:

        http://www.online-stopwatch.com/full-screen-interval-timer/?c=i22ubsbalp

        Everything is just done “on the spot”, man, I’d better go… I’m sweating up a storm!!!!!

  13. Riyad Kalla October 26, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    For anyone interested here are my notes from this week:

    * I am currently on week 3 of this program.

    * My workout is 10 pushups, 10 squats (body weight) and 5 situps.

    * I noticed the other day that I think I have ramped my workout up too much too fast, because I felt burdened by doing it. This is the warning sign you should look for meaning you are doing too much or going up too fast. As a result, I am only adding 1 situp this coming Sunday.

    * 2 days ago I was bursting with energy, so I added a jog and some extra pushups/curls into my workout. The following day I felt wiped out and as a result my workout that evening felt REALLY hard.

    As Karl and I were talking about, you will probably want to take advantage of days you feel really energetic, but don’t kill yourself because it will subtract from the *following* day or days and mentally demotivate you if your followup day doesn’t feel as awesomely easy as it did the day you were all amped up.

    Just be aware of these ups and downs so they don’t derail you. They will happen, they will disappear, and they will come back again.

    The key is to keep the workout so laughably easy that even on a bad day, you can knock it out without much mental gusto.

    Cheers to everybody’s health!

    • Leopold October 26, 2011 at 9:06 am #

      Riyad, I believe that’s a problem I’ve had in the past. Trying to do too much at a time. I’ve completed day 4 today of just 3 sit-ups. It is so ridiculously easy, I want to do more, but I keep myself from doing more. I want to prevent myself from getting to the point of demotivation. I had once been doing over 100 sit-ups at a time, and doing them quickly. I could do over 80 sit-ups in two minutes. I know we aren’t going to do that right now. But know I used to do that really makes me want to do more, which I have to resist.

      I’m going to ramp up REAL SLOW. This Sunday, we are going to add just one more sit-up per day. I’m on the fence about adding a single push-up. Help me out here. What should I do?

      • Riyad Kalla October 29, 2011 at 9:16 am #

        Leo, you are exactly right. Just add the one situp. I guess just think of this by next November, you’ll be at 52 situps (at least) and if you want to keep doing this workout for 5 years, you are only 1/5 of the way through it.

        I got carried away and my workout is a bit too much too quickly, so now the next 4 weeks or so I”m just going to add 1 rep of each thing to “slow” things down. I regret upping it so quickly before I was mentally ready for it.

        While I wasn’t in magazine-shape, I do have a history of fitness that my ego associates with strongly from many years ago which makes the tendency to rush things much too fast and unproductively forward.

        I have to remember to keep my eye on the prize (prize = doing this workout for 3-5 years unbroken).

  14. Ilana November 10, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    I’ve been struggling with motivation and with finding time to exercise and really take care of my body (I recently started a new job and it leaves me exhausted), but this slow-but-steady workout seems like it should fit into my new life. I feel like eating better can fit into it too – after a couple weeks maybe my weekly add-on will be something like 5 more situps and eating 1 more serving of vegetables daily. I’ve printed out a couple calendars this morning so I’m planning to start tonight!

    • Riyad Kalla November 12, 2011 at 11:45 am #

      Llana, don’t even worry about going *that* fast. I would recommend doing the exercises only for 2 months before you start looking at diet.

      Remember, the scale of time we are shooting for is like 3-5 years… that is 156 to 260 *additions* to your exercise you’ll eventually be making. Even if you just do 1 extra situp every week, that is 52 situps by the end of the year.

      I moved too quickly early on and ended up with a workout that got too hard too fast, so now I add 1 thing at a time. I’ve been doing the workout since I posted this (5 weeks or so) and my workout currently looks like:

      10 pushups
      10 squats
      8 situps

      I will do 2 more weeks where I add 2 more situps and then I am considering adding individual sets of: planks or knee-ups/high-knees just to mix things up.

      Those two new exercises alone will be 20 more weeks of additions.

      It is odd to think of things so long term, but it is the core tenant — this program is as much about “doing something every day, even if its small” as it is about psychologically training yourself.

      It isn’t about weight loss and looking better — it’s about health, functional muscle and enjoying fitness… to some extent it is about creating a permanent pattern in your life so strong (I do something physical every day) that in 2, 3, 4 years it is no longer a workout program, it is just *what you do* because psychologically you can’t stand the idea of not doing something small each day.

      I hope that helps; don’t stress yourself out or get down on yourself. That doesn’t accomplish anything.

      Also, you have that new job — that’s enough stress. Just relax :)

  15. Olivia January 6, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    Cool idea, just thought I would mention that this idea is useful for other areas besides exercise. It can work on pretty much everything you do daily that you can break down into smaller tasks. I’ve been using it for music practice. I’ve been adding 1 minute to my required amount of practice every day, and for the first time in my life I’ve been consistently going above the minimum, and leaving my sessions wanting more, but not exhausted. I plan on writing a post about this idea on my own blog when I reach 45 minutes and I’ll be linking to your article.

    • Olivia January 6, 2012 at 10:47 am #

      oops, wrong article, please delete this (:

  16. Roxana Ryder February 19, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    I thought I would get less hungry and all I could think about is eating when I started doing P90X. The reason is somewhat obvious, the program has a low calorie diet, not to mention a restricted diet. I would also crave junk food. Food is just like any other addiction. It takes a few weeks for the cravings to subside.

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