Paralysis by analysis – The paradox of choice

One of the main issues when starting to exercise, is that you don’t know what you should do. There is SO much information out there, and you want to make sure to do the right thing, which is progressing towards your goals without getting injured. Giving up is not an option, so you start researching, reading, watching tutorial videos, etc… But there is so much different advice going all sorts of directions and sometimes contradicting each other, so which is right? This situation often leads to what is called “Paralysis by analysis“, where you end up spending all your time researching instead of actually doing anything. I fell victim to it as well: I watched a LOT of videos from CalisthenicsMovement. But after a while, I realized that if I spent all this time watching videos about calisthenics, doing calisthenics myself instead, I would certainly progress faster.

Just Start

When you are in this situation, the best advice that can be given to you is “Just start“. Just start somewhere, do any exercises, whichever you want. The nice thing when starting out, is that you can progress even with a bad exercise program. So don’t overthink it: pick something and start with that. Reddit’s Recommended Routine is a good starting place for any people.

Calistree makes it easier to start somewhere, because it gives you a single personalized program (called a Journey) based on your objectives, equipment available and initial level. This way, you don’t have to search through an endless list of cookie-cutter programs: you just do the one that was generated for you. Over time, it will adapt to your progress, to gradually bring you closer to completing your goals.

Be consistent

Whatever you choose to start with, do it consistently for a period of time (say 4 weeks) before trying something else. If you don’t do that, you risk falling into “Program jumping”, where you always let yourself get attracted to another shiny exercise program that promises you the moon. But if you don’t stick to something, you won’t learn what actually works for you and what does not work so well. Remember: it’s not so much about the exercise program, but rather about what you put into it.

The other reason is more pragmatic: to make progress, whether in skill development, strength, flexibility or balance, your body needs regular training. Working on an exercise one time is good, but it won’t do much in the long-run. Repetition is key to get the stress-recovery cycle to repeat enough times to create lasting changes, such as increased muscle mass, or improved cardio-respiratory capacity.

Track your progress

Once you’ve started with an exercise program and done it for a while, the remaining issue is generally to keep the motivation going long enough so that exercising eventually becomes an integral part of your life – something beneficial that will never leave you. An important component of long-term motivation is a regular feeling of progress and achievement. To get that, you should log your workouts, for example with a pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or with a dedicated app. Relying on memory alone will make it too easy to feel like you’re not getting anywhere, especially in the moments where you don’t feel so positive about your life. A personal trainer is a great option, but it’s also more expensive, and the efficiency will depend on whether the trainer’s knowledge and habit fit with your needs.

I personally have a strong preference for using an app, because it will automatically tell you when you are improving (if the app is well made – like Calistree). Whatever makes your progress more visible, is generally a good think that will help you stay on track.

Whenever you achieve some new milestone in your journey, you should celebrate it. You might have a long way to go, but sometimes you need to stop to recognize the progress made along the way.

Welcome the difficulties

In other words: “Embrace the suck”. If things get hard, if you don’t want to do it anymore, then this is an excellent opportunity to train your self-mastery. Forcing yourself to do things that are not immediately pleasant will help develop your self-discipline, which is the control you have over your body and your mind. Self-mastery is a very useful skill that will be beneficial is all areas of your life. Difficulties give you a chance to improve yourself in new ways, so don’t miss that opportunity.

Good luck on your Journey!