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Big Man, Tiny Habits: Baby-Stepping Your Way to a Solid Routine

We’re all starting to look a little crazy, like Bill Murray in What About Bob?, getting ready for work in the morning, only to work from our living rooms, horrified when it’s time to go out in public and hyperventilating through a brown paper bag every time we have to get in an enclosed room with people or, god forbid, an elevator.

At this point, your dumbbells have become massive paperweights and your running shoes have collected a level of dust that archeologists could spend weeks studying, and we assume your couch has a groove in it the exact length and width of your body. But who could blame you? When the sky is falling, it’s much cozier to lie in the fetal position and pretend all is well outside your window, but if your anxiety and the “quarantine fifteen” you’ve gained these last few months are starting to get out of hand, you might very well be in the market for a solid routine change. But how?

Baby steps.

Exercising, eating well and the occasional pass on all things doughy sounds like staple doctor’s advice, but “get eight hours of sleep” and “scream inside your heart” are popular for a reason.

In this edition of Big Man, Tiny Habits, we’re breaking down the simple strategy of going from zero to hero with itty, bitty baby steps. The idea is not to focus on going from zero routine to having an intricate, trainer-approved regimen that goes against everything your couch groove holds dearly. No, it’s more about starting small (from the very beginning) and tagging the tiniest new habit on at the end until you’ve built something for yourself: a completely personalized routine that maybe doesn’t involve orange Cheeto-dust fingers.

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From the Top, Everyone

We all have someplace we wish to go, even if it feels like our lives aren’t going anywhere at times. Whether you want to get back to past greatness or go after something new, these things we desire for ourselves can be a lot easier to accomplish with less talk and more walk. And that’s really where it starts — simply walking out the front door.

Let’s say you want to get back to running marathons. You loved doing it when you were younger, getting that runner’s high and feeling like you stuck with something and accomplished a goal. That’s great, no reason you can’t still have that feeling, but now you’re a little older and it’s just easier not to run. But after not doing something for long enough, you forget all the other added benefits that follow. You have more confidence, there’s pep in your step, beers and hamburgers taste like they were earned, and you sleep like a baby.

Things is, you don’t have to get back to running marathons right now. But you can get into that mindset. Maybe it’s late at night and that motivation will have dried up by morning, but you can read something inspiring before bed, set an alarm and put on your running shoes when you wake up. The best part is you don’t have to go running. Just put on the shoes, walk around the house for a few hours with them on, see how you feel. Maybe go out and get the mail, feel the pavement under your feet.

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Baby-Step It Up

Maybe the next day you put on some shorts and a shirt you used to wear back when you used to run more. A little memory trick. Doesn’t fit? No problem, cut those sleeves off! See, now you’re reusing old things and feeling sustainable. How about this: On day three, if you haven’t hit the road yet, go for a walk or quick jog around the block. Dollars to donuts, we bet you don’t stop there. Maybe go twice the following week, then three times the next. Before you know it, you might actually be in shape and start feeling pretty good about yourself. By the time you get feeling fit enough, you can start challenging yourself to run organized races. Maybe you even raise money for a good cause at each marathon. Now you’re giving back. Not bad, huh?

No matter what we do with our lives, there’s an opportunity to grow and make something special out of it. It doesn’t always have to be a competition, although that makes it interesting, but it can be a challenge between you and yourself. You want to get back to playing basketball? Join a league with friends you’ve lost touch with. You want to learn to surf after living in California for 15 years? There’s nothing better than the ocean in the quiet morning.

Anything you want really to do in your life is an opportunity your subconscious knows is good for you. And you don’t have to do it all at once. That’s the beauty of learning an instrument, writing a book, learning to paint. Everyone is awful at first but the more you do it, you get to look back and see how far you’ve come. That’s the slow burn that keeps you coming back for more.

So before you go tossing out your shoes, try them on once more and see if there isn’t a little something left to give. You might like what you find, lest you wake up with those dusty orange fingers yet again.

Or, if you want to get into sailing, start tomorrow by wearing a life preserver around the house and then tomorrow, let someone tie you the mast of their sailboat. Just like Bob.

And away we go.

Cover image: Buena Vista Pictures

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