Planning Workouts 101: “Pair” your workout. Here’s how.

A pair of blueberries. (Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
A pair of blueberries. (Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I got this idea from Gretchen Rubin when she spoke at the lovely UPOD Academy for writers in February. If you’re having trouble getting something done (say, a workout), “pair” it with something else so that it gets a little tastier, a little more attractive, a little more fun.

Important! Pairing is not a reward.

A pair of tablet computers. (Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
A pair of tablet computers. (Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

It’s a tool to help you associate something you love with something you want to love a little more than you do right now.

This does not mean, by the way, “rewarding” yourself by pairing your workout with something that undoes the value of the workout – say, by having a treat! That’s not the way it works.

So, for example, I pair my long runs with my big band jazz orchestra albums. I only listen to Buddy Rich when I’m running for an hour or more (preferably more). If you pair your strength workout with putting a few dollars into a jar that, after a month or so, you’ll use to buy a new top you can wear at the gym that shows off your newly-sleek arm muscles, that’s a pairing (and it’s fun to watch the jar fill up!).

The important thing with pairing is to realize it’s never really about giving yourself a “reward” at all – because exercise is its own reward. It’s just more fun when I get to listen to my big band jazz while I’m exercising, so I pair the two things together.

A pair of eggs. (Image courtesy of nixxphotography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
A pair of eggs. (Image courtesy of nixxphotography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

What I really like about pairing is that it’s all about linking two actions and making the two of them more fun as a result. It’s not about looking for a particular “outcome” and then rewarding that outcome – which might have been very much a function of outside influences. So, I don’t pair “losing 5 pounds” with “buying a new outfit.” I pair “getting my workout in” with the two dollars I put into my new-outfit jar after getting my workout in.

A pair of happy kids. (Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
A pair of happy kids. (Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The weight loss bit will happen on its own, if that’s really something I’m working towards with decent nutrition as well as exercise. But I want to pair the action – getting my workout in – with a second action – saving up for a new gym outfit. That helps the workout get done.

So, in a nutshell (or an eggshell), that’s what pairing is all about. Try it the next time you’re having trouble planning your workouts and see if it helps you get going a little faster.

Yesterday’s #Every48 workout: An unplanned REST DAY. I was really, really trying to get out for a yoga class or a bike ride at the gym, but got all wrapped up in work-‘n-stuff. Yet another piece of evidence leading me to the inescapable conclusion that I need to exercise first thing in the morning, or things just get…complicated. Onward.

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