Every day…or not?

Every year in early January, there are a host of articles about how to make new habits stick (like in…oh…my Just a Minute newsletter for this month). I’ve been debating the merits, lately, between doing something every day vs. less often. I’m especially pondering this with running.

When people show me their time logs and claim they don’t have time to exercise, I always encourage them to try just twice during the week. Somehow, squeezing in a workout just two mornings a week seems more manageable than every day, especially if you have a normal full-time job involving a commute and looking presentable. You can get up early twice a week. It’s not a huge commitment! Add in 2 weekend workouts, and you’re hitting 4 days a week — far more than the average person, and probably enough for a health boost.

But I can see that aiming to do something every day has its merits too. When you do something every day, you don’t argue about whether or not today is the day. You just do it. It’s like brushing your teeth. And so, paradoxically, it takes less willpower. Most of us don’t stand at the sink every morning arguing with ourselves about whether we want to brush. We just do it. Especially as the weather turns cold and the days are short, and as I’m already feeling like I don’t have enough time to get my work done, it’s easy to talk myself out of running. I’ll do it tomorrow! By committing to do it every day when it’s not actively pouring or there’s a blinding snowstorm outside, I stop this argument.

So which is right? There’s the added issue that with running, if you go fewer times per week, you might go longer each time — thus getting the same amount of exercise, but with lower transaction costs (less time spent getting dressed, showering, etc.). But then again, you might not go longer, too.

Are you an every-day kind of person, or can you keep habits that you engage in less often?

NOTE TO RSS READERS: I know the RSS feed is broken from this site. I’m hoping that some of you will stumble over here on your own and see that I’ve been posting regularly since Dec. 9, the last day the RSS feed seems to have been working. My new website, lauravanderkam.com, should be up and running within a week, and hopefully that will solve the problem. I apologize for this and thank you for reading regularly.


9 thoughts on “Every day…or not?

  1. 5 days a week feels right for me with running. If I can, the other two days I’ll get a walk in. I was doing strength training 5 days a week as well, but due to time constraints I’ve cut that back to 3 or 4. I miss the extra work-outs, but the children are glad to have that time available to them.

    You’ve brought up a good point though with scheduling an activity for a couple of days a week. I know that as a homeschooling mom, when I felt I had to do every subject every day, years went by without some subjects being addressed. As soon as I gave myself permission to do art and music with the children 2 or 3 times a week instead of daily, it was amazing how much more often we were able to work those in.

    I think people should experiment with what works best for them. If the thought of doing something 7 days a week is paralyzing, then by all means start with 2. Maybe the habit will take hold and it will be easier to do more, or maybe 2 times is enough.

    Thanks for writing and have a great week Laura.

    1. @Beth- Definitely, people are different on this front. Some take to the everyday approach, others find that overwhelming. If people can’t get their heads around something as a long-term habit, 2x a week may be a good way to ease in. For running with me, I’m aiming for the 5 weekdays, and then the 2 weekend days may be something different or may involve a run, but the 5 weekdays are at least done.

  2. Well I’m happy to see that your feed finally loaded again today. 🙂

    I have trouble remembering anything that I don’t do either every day or on set days of the week. So for exercise, I have to plan a set schedule. Every other day wouldn’t work because it’s not a fixed day. Every day is almost easiest except it makes it too easy to allow myself to skip (and therefore break the habit again).

    But then maybe I just really hate to exercise!

    1. @LR- scheduling is a good idea, and if it works for you, great. I have no idea what was going on with the RSS feed, but I’m glad it’s working.

  3. my RSS just pulled all your posts from Dec. 9. Yay! I missed reading your blog for the last month, (I read via RSS 99% of the time) but I enjoyed getting a big stack of posts to read all at once.

  4. I love this! I also think that committing to everyday makes something ‘non-negotiable’. In the same sense the idea of doing something less often helps keep the fun factor in tact, not making it a chore.

  5. I recently retired, but when I was working, I walked to work every day. It was a 3.8 mile walk and took me an hour, and it gave me a solitary time in which to think and be ready for my day.

    Because of my walks, I didn’t have to worry about getting exercise. It happened while I got to work. As a result of doing this for more than 20 years, I’ve maintained my weight at the same level it was in my 20s. I’ve continued the walks in my retirement because it feels good and it’s a habit.

    So I’m a fan of every day, and also of integrating exercise with living your life, rather than making it just one more thing you have to do.

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