Discipline when the novelty wears off
April 25, 2017 7:18 PM   Subscribe

When I do yoga or run or meditate after a long time away, I’m so good! I’m diligent with my form and stay focused. But when I try to make them regular parts of my routine, I get so sloppy. I let my mind wander and cheat the clock. I suspect this is partially because I can sense the diminishing marginal return, but I intellectually value long-lived habits and want to make this work. Have you successfully fought this? How do you make sessions 2, 5, or 20 almost as good as session 1?
posted by estlin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Early mornings do it for me. The less awake and functioning my brain is, the better it feels to me. YMMV.
posted by Marinara at 7:31 PM on April 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

For running and ballet, new locations help me out. I have so many parks in my area that I can go to a different one every other day and see new things along the path. I also switch up my hours of exercise - some days it will be a dawn run, some days a noon dance session, others might be an evening stretch out. I try to keep the length of the exercise consistent and just change up location and time occurrence. If I need more of a challenge, I add in harder steps, faster runs, or difficult terrain. It works for me. I also have a stubborn streak where even if I get bored with something, I tend to charge through because I made my mind up and nothing's winning over my own mind, darn it. :P
posted by missh at 7:39 PM on April 25, 2017

Find something to measure. It's an important part of goal setting - a good goal needs to be falsifiable (something you can pass or fail) which requires having a measurable metric. Doing anything past the novelty phase is just doing more of the same. It's very difficult to pay attention to something you do repeatedly with no challenge or expectation of improvement.

Like blinking. If you're not already having pain in your eye you probably didn't notice that you blinked several times while reading this comment. If you are in pain you know the exact flip side of this argument and, hey, please go do something else - this isn't helping.

If you want to pay more attention, and it's proving hard to do, you need to find a smaller subset of the activity to pay attention to. Something specific, something measurable, something non-artibrary. Generally just paying attention to stuff is hard, difficult to get right and tiresome. It's the difference between spotting the one swimmer on the beach who needs attention out of thousands or missing it because the canker on the tip of your tongue is annoying*

That or provide yourself with more sources of manufactured novelty. Like never running the same path twice or using several different excercise routines/activities in rotation. If participation is you're only goal this can be easier to accomplish.

*Not my personal experience but, still, I wish I were joking.
posted by mce at 7:42 PM on April 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Other people. Find a running partner, a meditation group, and so on. Social pressure can keep you motivated.
posted by Leontine at 7:55 PM on April 25, 2017

You're not sensing diminishing returns. You're sensing acclimation. If you haven't meditated for a while, the contrast--or relief--can make for a heady subjective experience. And that does become much rarer, generally, with regular practice. So if you are in it just for that subjective right-now rush, I don't really think there's a solution. But if it's for the long run, then you just sit down every day and say, "Here goes nothing." And then years later you look back and see what's happened in the meantime.
posted by bricoleur at 8:36 PM on April 25, 2017 [13 favorites]

For PT, I totally do cheat myself unless I use a timer. Because I mostly find it boring. When I use a timer, I'm like, "Crap, an actual 30 second hold is much longer than my personalized 'count to 30' hold. Maybe I'd better be serious about it". And then it all feels more serious and important, and I do the 3x15 or whatever I was supposed to do instead of 2x10. I use Simple Workout Log (Android; iOS coming), which has a timer and is where I've input all my PT exercises (as a routine).

(At this point, the sequence is running to 40 minutes, and I'm not allowed to do the things I'd prefer, so I'm forced to treat it like a real workout. Which is easier to accept since it's programmed in, and next to my old actual workouts.)

I find that music also helps for pacing, quite a lot, also helps me get into the right headspace. Make lots of different playlists with lots of moods and purposes.

Also find it helps to just have things ready and out (clothes, gear, whatever), and to do things at roughly the same time most days.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:26 PM on April 25, 2017

But for yoga or circuits or running (which I no longer do, should say), or really anything, I'd switch things up every few sessions. Do different yoga sequences, use alternative lifts or even whole routines, take a different route, do intervals instead of steady state or vice versa. I'd always be on the lookout for something new to learn - if choosing an off-the-shelf program, I'd go for something with variety built into it. Definitely could not do the exact same workout every day or every other day (without having to structure things to force compliance, like I described above).
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:42 PM on April 25, 2017

For meditation, accepting that experience you're having and letting it be okay that your mind wanders -- just bringing it back gently and compassionately every time you notice -- is The Thing. The goal isn't to have a perfectly still mind, it's to get to KNOW your mind, including the ways it tries to run away.
posted by spindrifter at 3:14 AM on April 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Both of these practices cause exactly what you describe. That is part of the work. Yoga and meditation are fun but they are also WORK. The process of returning to the practice, becoming aware of resistance, is all part of the benefit in my opinion. I lose interest about the same time in my home practice of yoga, and there is value for me in understanding why. It increases the benefit of these mindful practices to really observe the way we try to thwart our efforts.

So to answer your question, you don't make session 20 as good as session 1. Instead, you acknowledge that session 20 doesn't feel good, that your mind is resisting it, that you don't wanna be there. You sit with that. And then over time the goodness of session 1 becomes something even better.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:23 AM on April 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

Getting an accountabilibuddy can help a lot. You both keep each other motivated.
posted by TomFoolery at 3:37 PM on April 26, 2017

In addition to all the insightful and helpful responses offered so far, let me go ahead and out myself as a shallow AF person and say that I sometimes deal with this by imagining how lame I think it would sound to say that I sat around all night & rewatched four hours of The Office vs how impressive it would sound to say I spent the evening running/meditating/practicing an instrument. It doesn't always work (sometimes I'm totally comfortable admitting I had a whole bag of Doritos & a beer for dinner), but sometimes vanity works where purer motivations fail.
posted by Tentacle of Trust at 9:39 PM on April 26, 2017

For both starting and staying focused I tell myself "I don't have to feel like doing this to do it".
posted by Homer42 at 10:40 PM on April 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Expanding on Homer42's excellent point: the only thing that has ever worked with me for maintaining a physical routine is to do it every single day, getting up early in order to do it first thing in the morning. If I set a goal of, say, "three times a week", then I find myself negotiating myself out of doing it on any given day - "Oh, today isn't looking so great, I'll do it tomorrow instead" - and within a few weeks it's obvious that I've missed the goal comprehensively, and I give up on that push altogether. Getting the exercise out of the way first thing means that I'm not letting myself wait until I'm "in the right mood", because that's another opportunity to negotiate myself out of it. My forms of exercise don't involve much focus so I don't know if these techniques would help with that, but once the exercise is underway, I never find myself resenting it or wishing I was back in bed, and most of the time I positively enjoy it.
posted by kelper at 2:25 AM on April 27, 2017

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