Hack Your Psychology: Workout Every Day

Lesbiup front about this post –

I’ve fallen off the adventure/fitness/healthy/active/climbing/hiking/biking everything bandwagon.

You’re no doubt sick of hearing me complain about being gone for 2.5 months for work, but furreal, it’s not an insignificant amount of time. During that time, I worked substantially longer days and for 6 days/week. If I were brainwashed, I certainly could have made myself work out or run or do something while I was away, but I live in the real world and I was tired. I didn’t work out. Call me human.

Once I finally got home, I immediately started working on the van (another topic you might be sick of seeing?) into the late hours of the night. It went like, work til 4pm, come home to change clothes, go work on the van until 9:30-10:30, come back home and go to bed. And if you hadn’t noticed, I’ve picked up the pace on writing more consistently. That takes time and energy too. Again – real world, didn’t feel like forcing workouts.

BUT I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE CUZ I FEEL GROSS AND NOW I’VE FINALLY STOPPED MAKING EXCUSES!

The Program

I heard about this program from my roommate that read about it on T-Nation. They called it the PSL program…or something like that. It stands for Push-ups/Squats/Lunges.

The concept is that you do body weight PSLs every single day in conjunction with your normal training routine. If your main training regimen is in the morning, you do PSL in the evening, and vice versa. (I’ll science this up in a bit.) You start Day 1 by establishing a baseline number of reps that you can do in a single set, non-stop, of your weakest movement. Given these 3 movements, it’s likely to be push-ups. Every day thereafter, you add one more rep to each movement. Something like

Day 1: (baseline is 3 reps) 3 push-ups, 3 squats, 3 lunges (per leg)
Day 2: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges

Once you get into the higher rep range and can no longer complete all your reps in a single set, you start splitting things up into multiple sets and done in circuit fashion. That is, if you’re supposed to do 7 reps on a given day, but you can’t do 7 in a row, you would do something like this, all in a row, with no rests in-between:

Day 5: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges, 3 push-ups, 3 squats, 3 lunges
Day 6: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges, 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges

Get it?

Physiologically

Physiologically speaking, most body weight movements are not very invasive. That is, they don’t stress your tissues or nervous system like a weighted bench press, deadlift, or squat until you get into very high reps or very advanced movements. This is perfect for beginners or people that have been on a long break. It re-maps the tissues back into the form required to move your joints through these ranges of motion (you’ve likely been sedentary while not exercising) while not stressing anything so much that you have to take a day off.

For intermediate and advanced people, this is still a great idea for two reasons:

  1. It’s a form of active mobility, which has actually been shown to speed up recovery time between training sessions (as opposed to static stretching and massage)
  2. It’s another workout on the day, bringing you closer and closer to your goals, with very little “cost” to your main workout objectives (it shouldn’t negatively affect your main workouts or recovery).
  3. (BONUS TIP, OK?!?!) It increases your total work capacity over time.

Psychologically

So if this isn’t the workout that’s going to give you the body of a Greek Goddess, what’s the point?

Well, as I said, it’s a component of becoming a Goddess, so there’s that. But there’s also the psychological aspect. The part that we want to hack.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced, this part isn’t for you. You can skip down to the next heading. For everyone else THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD BE READING THIS POST!!

Starting something with the intent of making it a habit is often the hardest part. You want to read Atlas Shrugged (the longest book I’m aware of)? Start with Page 1 and read every day. You want to run a marathon? Start with a mile. Starting and staying consistent is the hardest part of forming any habit.

By starting slow and starting with consistency, you’re teaching yourself that working out is fun. You’re teaching yourself that working out is easy. You’re teaching yourself, “hey, this ain’t so bad.” Before you know it, it will be a habit, it will be something you look forward to, and being healthy and active will just become your natural lifestyle.

Yes, starting out with 4 push-ups, squats and lunges is potentially embarrassing, but look at the big picture. If you stick with it, look at where you’ll be in a month, two months, three months. Just after the first month,  35 push-ups is a helluva lot more than 4 (and still really not that invasive for most active people).

My Take on a Better Daily Workout

Of course, if I didn’t give you my take on this, I might as well have just thrown a link up to T-nation and let you read that. But I think there’s a better way. One that you might not think of because it’s largely counter to what you read from “top trainers” on the internet.

It starts with Day 1. On Day 1, I do not suggest you go to failure while establishing your baseline. I don’t want you to go to the point where you’re struggling and twisting and contorting and making faces like you’re going to poop in order to finish the rep. I want you stop much sooner than that. In fact, I want you to stop as soon as it feels more difficult than the very first rep. Yup, that’s your baseline.

This goes for once you start splitting your sets into circuits too. Once you get up to 20’some reps, you’ll find all kinds of different ways to split up your sets. And that’s ok. I want you to stop any given set and move on to the next movement as soon as one rep feels more difficult than the first one of that set. Even if that means you do 10 sets of 2 reps, I still want you to adhere to stopping early, making it easy, and finishing the entire thing without a break. Whether you do 1×20, 2×10, 5×4, or 10×2, the total amount of reps and work that you’ve done is the same.

That’s going to allow all those psychological hacks I mentioned to stick with you. People are lazy. I’m lazy. Actually, I’m the laziest. I hate doing stuff that’s hard, and I really enjoy moving when moving is fun and easy. If I already know that the reps at the end of my set(s) are going to be hard, I don’t want to do it. It’s discouraging. So I make sure it’s easy.

My Turn

Since this is my primary workout for the day while juggling writing, #VanLife, work, life, and freelance, I’ve added more movements than just PSLs. I’m doing pull-ups, air squats, push-ups, lunges, shoulder press with a 16kg kettlebell, ab roll-outs, and hanging knee raises.

My limiting movement is the shoulder press, and I started my baseline with 4. Yup, that’s right. I used to be able to shoulder press my entire body weight overhead, but I can now only press a 16kg kettlebell 4 times. Leave your ego at the door, folks.

I’m at Day 3 and while 6 reps is still pathetic, I’m already feeling better about myself. Not because I’m proud of where I’m at, and absolutely there’s no visible changes yet, but proud that I’m actually moving again, and proud of where I’m going to end up.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to pick 3-5 body weight movements, get a baseline, and do this program for as long as you can. Let me know your results, how long you made it, and why you stopped. Ready, GO!



Don’t Miss Your Chance

I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.

Then I took control.

You can too, and it starts right here.

4 responses to “Hack Your Psychology: Workout Every Day

  1. Nailed it. I’ve been so lazy lately. Thanks for the kick in the pants. 😉

    Actually, being nicer to myself, I’ve had at least four major life changes in the last two months and I’ve let that be an excuse. Time to fix it.

  2. Right on, Beth! Let me know if you need help navigating my “better” methods or picking some movements that are more applicable to your activities.

    Also, I know you’re athletic and will be in the high rep ranges soon. I left out even more ways to make the whole thing even more better due to confusion and length so let me know when you want the inside scoop.

  3. Definitely need to try this! I work at a fitness gym, have a free membership and STILL don’t work out on a regular basis haha. Any tips for easy finger/forearm strengthening exercises? I was thinking you could follow a similar plan to work on climbing specific forearm/hand strength.

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