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Episode 149: Starting Habits and Overcoming Inertia

Video Highlights

- The skill of breaking inertia.
- The habit of success and showing up.
- Without participation the best program is worthless.

Today, we’re going to talk about embarrassing yourself into exercise.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations with people who will keep asking me the same thing, so I decided to do a blog on it. They keep saying, “Doc, I’m having a really hard time getting started with my exercise program.” These may be trainers, they may be athletes, or people that are new to the whole fitness arena. I’ve had conversations similar, similar conversations in each category.

One of the things I always like to share with people is that we often have a huge problem with what I call inertia and work ethic. Now, inertia, if you remember from high school physics, I believe, basically states that a body that is at rest will remain at rest until acted upon by outside force. I know that sometimes I feel that may. I’m at rest, I’m going to stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force.

A lot of times people wake up in the morning and they look in the mirror and they’re like, “Oh, no,” and suddenly we have an outside force called gosh, I look terrible or I want to lose weight or I’m out of shape. Maybe it happens when you try to play with your kids in the yard and you’re catching your breath after a minute. All of the sudden people go, “I need to start exercising.” The challenge that we run into very often is that exercise is kind of grouped into this category for people, it’s something that they have to do and it has to be hard.

This is now where what we call our work ethic problem starts to arise. One of the things I try to share with our trainers is that when they start working with an athlete, whether this person is a high level athlete or someone that hasn’t exercised in thirty years, the primary goal in the first three or four months shouldn’t be to massive amounts of progress in any given skill, but instead to make progress in the skill of simply showing up.

Showing up and doing work, doing repetitive work is really the key to making change. One of the things we like to get our clients to do is what we call one rep programs. Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but there is a ton of psychology that shows if we can take a task that we want to accomplish, but we’re struggling to find the motivation to do it because it seems like too much work and we can make it smaller and make it smaller and make it smaller.

At some point, we can make it so small that we are actually embarrassed to not do it. That’s what I talked about or what I meant when I said, “Embarrassing yourself into exercise.” If you think about something like, “Oh, I’m going to do some push-ups. I want to do some pull-ups. I want to do some squats,” very often in our heads we go, “Oh, I know that I should be doing that,” but our actual motivation is not high enough to overcome the perceived exertion that’s about to occur.

I love to get people thinking about doing one rep of anything. One push-up, one pull-up, one walk around the block, one walk to the mailbox, whatever it is, because if we can make something embarrassingly small, very often we’re able to encourage yourself to do that much more readily than if we go, “I need to do thirty minutes three times a week.” Ultimately, what we’re trying to first learn is the skill of breaking inertia.

One of the biggest challenges to breaking inertia is believing that one rep of anything is insufficient to create change. Remember, when you start an exercise program where you’re trying to include something new, let’s say you’re already an athlete that trains a lot, but you’re working with a Z-Health trainer and they want you to do some vision drills. As simple as that seems, very often people struggle to do it. Start with one rep.

If they say, “Do ten,” you may need ten, but if you can only get yourself to do one and do one with regularity, you begin to build the habit of success. If you can build that habit of success by making something embarrassingly small, you are now creating a positive behavior loop that can ultimately lead you where you want to go. That’s my idea for you this week. I hope you enjoyed that.

Again, if you have questions about how to make all this work, ask your trainer, email us, because we spend a lot of time in Z-Health talking about how behavior works because we know that we can have the greatest tools, greatest system in the world, whatever that is, whatever exercise system you like, but if we can’t get our clients to participate in it or we can’t make ourselves participate in it, it doesn’t matter.

Like I said, if you have any questions, let us know. Otherwise, good luck.

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