How Long Does It Take For a New Workout to Stop Being The Worst?

One of the first pieces I wrote for Hello Giggles was about going to barre class and how long it took for me to become confident (and competent) in this ballet-pilates-yoga combo platter exercise regime. The thing about barre is it’s much more about muscle-building than it is about cardio and even though I want to plead, “But isn’t ANY exercise better than NO exercise” as my defense, I’ve been having this nagging feeling for months that I should really bump up my cardio. And by “bump up my cardio,” I of course mean “do any cardio at all.”

So as luck would have it, a Soul Cycle studio opened up in my neck of the woods. For the uninitiated, Soul Cycle is basically a cult where you pay through the nose to ride stationary bikes in a dimly lit room to cool music while your instructor yells out choreography and aspirational poster-like encouragements. It is exactly as awesome and silly as it sounds.

I was expecting the awesome and the silly. What I wasn’t expecting was how BAD I was going to be at spin class. I’m the worst ever at riding a stationary bike. I kept accidentally unclipping my feet, banging my lady bits against the seat, rocking the bike forward out of its stationary base, I think at one point I may have done all three of these things at the same time.

I completely blew at the choreography, I was always on the wrong foot (at Soul Cycle it’s VERY important to be on the right foot, otherwise you’re letting “the pack” down, the horror, the horror!). I failed completely when it came to upping my resistance wheel, I stayed at the lowest level the entire class. I dropped my water bottle AND my towel and I couldn’t reach down to get them because my feet were trapped in fitness hell for all eternity clipped to the wheels.

I made all these mistakes and STILL my ass was kicked. I got out of that class and looked in the mirror and I didn’t even recognize myself. My hair was so sweaty it didn’t even look like hair anymore and my face was so red it looked like spin class had given me the worst sunburn.

I’ve learned enough about exercise at this point to know that being bad at the outset doesn’t mean you’re going to be bad at the exercise in question forever. The question of course, becomes, “Well how long is it going to take for me to stop being THE ABSOLUTE WORST?”

Answers vary. Conventional wisdom tells us that it takes three weeks to form a habit, but research actually points to a more significant gap of time (re: anywhere from 18 to 254 days) for habits to form and behavior to become automatic. This makes more sense than “It takes three weeks for any human being to get into the habit of doing anything!” We all have different strengths and weakness, we all move at different paces, our learning styles are different, these factors matter!

What I can say from personal experience and anecdotal evidence (re: talking to friends who also suck at exercise) is this: if you’re committing to the same regular regimen (let’s say 3-5 days a week) for a couple of months (let’s say three months to be safe) you are going to suck SO much less than you sucked when you started. But give yourself a solid week to suck-suck and give yourself a solid month to basically suck. Expecting awesomeness immediately is expecting the impossible, and expecting impossible things is a Grade-A way to discourage and disappoint yourself and be tempted to abandon your fitness goals. And you don’t want to be a discouraged, disappointed quitter. No one wants to be that girl. So get comfortable in your suckage. Just put your nose to the grindstone and get the work done. Then check back in with yourself in a couple months and celebrate hard about how much LESS you suck. That’s a thing well worth celebrating.

So I’m going to keep trying to conquer the bike, a most worthy opponent, and I wish you guys the best of luck with the fitness dragons you in turn are planning on slaying.

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