Just for the Health of It

Columnist, ‘Make it routine’

Routine is so important in life. It provides us with the structure that we need to be the very best at anything we do. Without it, we perform submaximally and do not reach our true potential.

Think about routine in terms of studying for classes. If you approach each class, and its assignments, in a structured and organized manner, succeeding is much easier. You write down frequent assignments, papers and test dates and schedule time each day to take care of these tasks. When you know exactly how much time to spend on each task, you are much more likely to stick to that schedule and perform maximally in all of your classes.

As great as routine can be, many people fail to carry its benefits into different aspects of life—namely fitness. Without a set schedule, and approaching different exercises the same way time and time again, how can one expect to push the limits of their capabilities and be successful? Individuals lacking structure may see some success, but not nearly as much as those that approach fitness with a solid plan of action. This not only applies to the programming aspect, which is the exercises one will be performing each day but also from a form and technique perspective. Replicating the same and correct movement over and over again in specific exercises is imperative for continuing success.

To put my thoughts into perhaps a simpler perspective, I will allude to an illustration. In basketball, the most routine of all shots is the free throw. From a very young age, players are taught to replicate the same routine over and over again to have the right feel and mindset when shooting the free throw. For example, a player may step to the free throw line, set his feet, dribble the ball twice, pick a spot on the rim and shoot the ball—and stick to this same process and mindset every single time. This allows the player to build confidence and will ultimately allow them to succeed in making the shot more often than not. This approach can easily be applied to any exercise.

Think about the way you approach the bar when you squat. Really think about it. Do you have the same approach to the bar? Are your mannerisms the same? Your mindset? Performing a squat, or any other exercise, should be exactly the same as shooting a free throw. Your foot placement should be the same, the way you set the bar on your back should be the same and your hand placement should be the same. Most importantly, your mindset should be the same. Every. Single. Time. Continuously replicating your approach will surely help you succeed in reaching your ultimate goals.

Employing routines largely rests on having the discipline to do so. Employing routine on the macro scale, which is exercise programming, and the micro scale, which is specific exercise setup and performance, can feel mechanical and uncomfortable at first. For the first few weeks, it will take time to create a routine and continue to follow it; you will have to think about every moving part of the routine while performing it. In time, however, the performance of the routine will become second nature. This is when routine is at its finest and will benefit you greatly.