The New Rules of Fitness for 2013

By Leo Babauta

We’ve entered 2013, and yet most of us think of exercise like it’s 1991. Let’s toss out the old and welcome the new.

The old: long sessions of jogging, or marathon sessions on the elliptical machine or treadmill, or working every bodypart individually on a dozen different weight machines and dumbbell stations, doing circuits in a women-oriented fitness center, taking dance-aerobic or kickboxing-aerobic classes.

There’s nothing wrong with all that, but it’s not how we live today. Today, we live online, in a world of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest, of Gmail and iPhones. The way we live and think online isn’t at all how we think about fitness.

Let’s take a cue from how we actually live and think today, and change up fitness. Let’s rethink things for 2013.

The New Rules of Fitness

If we take cues from our online world today, here’s how we’d do fitness (and some of us are already doing it this way):

  1. Small. In the world of tweets and SMS messages, long classess or gym workouts or jogging sessions just don’t seem to fit. We don’t have time for all of that. So toss out the workout, and instead think of fitness as small as a tweet. Sprint up a hill after getting off the train or parking your car. Sprint up a flight of stairs as you go into the office. Do some pushups before a meeting. Do some squats after sitting for 30 minutes. Pick up a friend, put him on your shoulders, and carry him for a block. Let’s call it a fitness bit instead of a workout.
  2. Social. We rarely do anything online or offline without sharing it, or collaborating with others. So share your fitness bits, or do them with others. Play a sport. Find a place where others are sharing their fitness bits too (it’s probably where you’re already sharing other stuff).
  3. Distributed. Everything is out there in the cloud these days, not just on one server but distributed across many. But when we schedule a workout, we schedule it at just one time. So 1990s. Instead, do bits throughout the day, distributed among all the other little tasks you’re doing. Do some yoga sun salutations in the morning, a bit of walking or sprinting on the way to work, some bodyweight exercises at your desk (or in front of your living room couches for us work-at-home bums), some basketball or walking/running with friends after work, some chinups at home in the evening. It breaks up all the sitting you usually do, which is a good thing.
  4. Fun. We do most of our stuff online because it’s fun. Or at least, I do. I love reading good stuff online, or collaborating with friends, or sharing something interesting I’ve found or thought about. So why is fitness so boring to so many people? They’re doing it wrong. It’s fun as hell. If you’ve been doing exercise you hate, find something funner: a sport, playing with your kids, walking or running with a good friend, a new challenge with a group of friends.
  5. Open. Let’s toss out the days when companies had proprietary, secret methods for getting you in shape, and you had to hire a trainer to tell you what to do because he had all the knowledge and you didn’t. Instead, let’s share our best methods, learn from each other, improve on each other’s methods and share those. Let’s find a good way, like open-source software has, to collaborate and share our fitness methods.
  6. Exportable. These days, the best services allow you to export your data anytime you want, and you can take that data anywhere you want to take it (yes I know some services don’t do that, but those guys suck). So let’s do the same with fitness – instead of having to do your workout at a gym, or a track, or a yoga studio or crossfit gym or some other specific place … be able to take your workout anywhere. You can do bodyweight exercises anywhere … do yoga poses anywhere … do chinups at the playground or on a tree branch … sprint up a hill or some stairs … walk briskly anywhere. Be fluid with your fitness and be able to adapt to wherever you are.
  7. Fast. We work with unprecedented speed online these days. If a page takes 10 seconds to load, it’s too slow. That was unimaginable 15 years ago! So let’s get our fitness to move at the same speed: remove all the barriers to doing a fitness bit. Page speed comes when you remove all the heavy stuff from a page or app – so remove the heavy stuff that slows you down before accessing the fitness bit. What are some of the barriers? Having to go to a gym, sign up for a class, get some clothes or equipment. Instead, you should remove anything that keeps you from doing a fitness bit right now, or at any moment you want to do it.

Those are the new rules of fitness, and they will keep you active, all the time, if you give them a try.

If you’re interested in starting the fitness habit in 2013, check out my Simple Fitness Habit course, with a panel of fitness experts, a mini-course on how to form fitness habits, and a diet portion called The Mindful Diet.

The Simple Fitness Habit