Interesting Lessons From Working Out For 60 Days Straight

A man doing reverse dips on a bar. Photo by Kate Trysh

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ll probably have noticed me spamming your feed with my daily workouts.

As of today, I’ve just passed my 60-day streak, and I did manage to learn some interesting things about myself along the way.

And you know the first thing I’ve realised? It’s that exercising is not about getting washboard abs or increasing your bench record. Instead, it does more for your mental and spiritual growth.

But I bet you already know this. We all know this. The panacea to a good life is exercise and healthy eating. It’s just the doing that’s hard.

I’ve never had trouble with exercise because I’ve never had to think about it. In fact, I never did truly work out, per se. Before the pandemic, all I needed to do was drag myself to a jiu-jitsu class or to the climbing gym, and that was usually enough for all my physical needs.

Now that we’re in lockdown season in Malaysia, however, I’ve found myself having to adapt and turn to—gasp—exercise routines. Do you know how mind-numbing burpees are? Scratch that. Do you know how mind-numbing working out is?

Fortunately for me, I’m more averse to not working out rather than the other way around, so it’s just the simple act of choosing between two evils.

And you know what? I actually think that along the way, I’m not just improving myself, but also the world around me.

The plan

So I didn’t have a real strategy going into this. All I wanted to do was work out every day, and that’s how it’s been for about two months now.

I do lighten the load on Saturdays (technique day) and Sundays (active recovery) just so that I can sustain the daily output. The former includes form practice for exercises such as the kettlebell clean and jerk, while my recovery days involve 20 minutes of skipping or its equivalent.

On weekdays, my workouts typically look like either one of the below routines:

#1
220 kettlebell hand-to-hand swings
16 Turkish get-ups
(16kg bell)

#2
1 min. kettlebell clean and jerk
1 min. kettlebell hand-to-hand swings
1 min. goblet squats
1 min. leg raises 
1 min. rest
(5 sets)

#3
30 six-count burpees
30 four-count jumping jacks
30 lunges
30 four-count flutter kicks
(6 sets)

#4
5 pull-ups
10 jumping lunges
20 six-count burpees
(as many sets as possible in 20 minutes)

Nothing too crazy, as you can tell, but I’m usually dead by the time I’m done. Anyway, now that we’ve gone over the routine, let’s check out the unexpected lessons I’d gleaned from working out every day.

Woman in sportswear sitting next to kettlebell

For me, kettlebells have helped break the monotony of bodyweight exercises. Photo: Chu Gummies

Pain is the best teacher

I know I’m lazy. I’ve spent days doing little else but scroll through social media and watch YouTube. I know that I’m totally capable of throwing my life away. And that’s as much as I can learn about myself through comfort.

When I’m in the pain though? That’s when I have all the real conversations in my mind. Fatigue has ways of convincing you that you were perhaps a little too ambitious with your workout goals. Of telling you that you’re not who you think you are.

I bet you’ve heard it before.

Hey, why not forget the last couple of sets? Nobody’s watching. Nobody will know if you don’t finish your workout.

Seriously, you can stop now. You’re way too old for this.

You feel that? I think your heart just skipped a beat. Omg you’re going to die. Stop!

These are the times when you learn what you’re made of. Every time I choose not to listen to that voice, I gain power over the mind. The trick is that you have to reach that level of suck first. There’s just no other way.

This is the easiest thing to do in your life

Not just for workouts, but self-imposed hardships in general.

Using the phone less, taking a cold shower, waking up early, eating clean—these are challenges you can introduce into your life not just for their benefits, but also to prove to yourself that you can.

They may sound like hard tasks, but are actually one of the easier things to do in your life.

Yes, I hate the few minutes leading up to my workouts, but if I can’t even make myself go through these self-made obstacles, how am I going to go through the real curveballs life throws at you?

That’s the reason why people like David Goggins find peace in pushing their boundaries each day. Because if they constantly thrive in the unknown, then the challenges of life will seem like familiar grounds.

I forget who said this—I think it was from a Joe Rogan podcast—but the more you voluntarily seek challenges, the less intimidating the involuntary ones become.

I’ve begun noticing this in recent days too. On days that I push hard, I find myself more willing to put myself out there, like speaking out in a business meeting, for example. I don’t feel as strong when I simply cruise through my workout though.

Also, there’s a magic to knowing that you’ve brought yourself closer to your life goals from 6–8 in the morning, before most people have woken up. And every time you overcome that inertia of facing the pain, you’re basically telling yourself that you can handle whatever comes next.

One day, your workout will be your warm-up

Think about this for a moment: were you able to measure your progress of learning to ride a bike? Can you write better after one practice session? Or do you feel any slimmer after a day of eating salads?

Most times, progress isn’t linear. Heck, you might even slip the other way and log lower numbers. This is why we shouldn’t put so much emphasis on the results. Instead, we should always remind ourselves that the worth is in the work.

So don’t dwell in frustration every time you fall off the wall in rock climbing, or when nobody reads your articles even after a year of constant publishing.

Just keep honing your craft and pat yourself on your back for trying for the day. One day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come. But that won’t happen until you actually start on your journey.

My personal example is learning the kettlebell during these 60 days. I remember struggling even to rise to my knees in the Turkish get-up. Now I can do ten reps per side, and I don’t know when exactly I’d grown strong enough to do so.

One day, what you think is unachievable will be something you do just for warm-ups. And since we’re on that subject…

A woman in sportswear stretching

That’s right, getting the blood flowing helps get the blood flowing. Photo: Christopher Campbell

Warm-ups help with life

Working out sucks, especially if you do it first thing in the morning. The initial reps feel like they belong in Satan’s playbook, and for that first ten minutes, you wonder why you subject yourself to such torture just to collect material for a blog post.

But you know what helps? Warming up. Start with light exercises. Something that doesn’t require any effort. A little movement to lube up the joints. I like jumping jacks or doing laps on the stairs.

Once you get a little sweat going, you’ll find that your gruelling routines won’t look so intimidating anymore. I mean, the workouts will still suck, but at least you won’t feel like your knees are going to give out every time you drop for a squat.

I’ve since applied this to other pursuits in life. Need to clean the house? I’ll start tidying up a very small portion of my desk. Have to hop on a business meeting? I’ll talk or sing to myself to warm up the vocal chords.

It’s a great way to deal with procrastination too.

Oftentimes, the act of performing these ‘effortless’ tasks builds the momentum needed to take on the real work. In fact, I made myself get into the writing mood for this article by first writing random sentences about my living room.

Help yourself before helping others

You can’t repeat affirmations to change your mood, nor can you body-language your way to success. You can’t sustainably find happiness by shopping or turning to substances either.

But you can earn a day’s worth of optimism by exercising hard. And when you do that, you can basically change the trajectory of your life.

Imagine facing your day with more confidence and patience. Now compare that to if you don’t work out (or earn confidence from other self-imposed challenges).

The only way you can operate from a higher level of consciousness is by taking care of business, and that means nourishing yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Why is this important? Because like they say in the flight safety manuals, when the oxygen masks drop, put on your own one before helping others with theirs. And like the Buddhist monks in Thailand would say, don’t try to brighten the world if you haven’t lit your own candle.

So you see, sometimes it’s not just about exercising. It’s about being a better person so you can help others, be it by adding a smile to their day or to inspire through your actions.

And maybe during those hateful sets of burpees, you’ll find something in you to change the world.


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47 thoughts on “Interesting Lessons From Working Out For 60 Days Straight

  1. Thank you for acknowledging how mind-,numbing and boring working out can be. Working out is repetitive for a reason, and repetition can be boring.
    I know I just need to get started. I can even anticipate how I would start to feel better if I did exercise more. Getting started when you haven’t been active is not easy!

    • Oh yeah. Even with all this ‘experience’ under my belt, it still doesn’t get any easier. So much for needing a month to build a habit. Wishing you all the best with your own fitness journey!

  2. I know you’re spot-on with this and you’ve buttressed your argument with a hundred good points but I JUST CAN’T DO IT, Stuart!! My heart starts pounding with anxiety just thinking about it. I think it’s maybe because I’ve failed to keep up the habit so many times that I get the anxiety from anticipating being angry at myself for failing. There’s got to be a middle way..

    • Oh yes, the middle way is starting with something easy. At least that’s how I coaxed myself into working out when the pandemic just started.

      I would tell myself to do 10 burpees every couple of minutes instead of redlining myself like how the fitness influencers do.

      Or I’d run only as far as I comfortably can and call it a day, even though the recommendation was at least 20 minutes of activity.

      Once it feels fun (or once you stop attaching anxiety to it because you don’t go for pain every time) then you’ll start to do more and more.

      May I suggest you start with as many squats, jumping jacks, and flutter kicks as you can? Like a ‘donate as much as you want’ system, just do whatever is right for you (slightly challenging but nothing scary), even if it’s ten a day.

      Hope this helps, and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Hetty!

  3. 🤣😂🤣 omg, you’re heart just skipped a beat. You’re gonna die… I laughed so hard!
    The work out motto of “mind over matter,” is definitely something I can relate to!
    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. “The initial reps feel like they belong in Satan’s playbook, and for that first ten minutes, you wonder why you subject yourself to such torture just to collect material for a blog post.” HAHAHAHA!

    Congratulations, Stuart!

  5. Great, motivating post, Stuart. I miss so much when i used to run and work out, but that seems so long ago. I am glad you are so much into your routine and getting healthy endorphins. Keep on!

    • I sure do hope you find your way back to it, as it really does better our days, no matter how cheesy I think it is. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  6. Firstly, CONGRATS for being as successful as you’ve been with this 60 day challenge. The part where you spoke about workout becoming warm up just shows your impressive amount of dedication and progress! From not being able to do the Turkish get-up to doing 10 at a time is wonderful progress! Your post was very inspiring to read. There’s so much of wisdom in every single point that you’ve mentioned. Congrats on your great work. 😀💐

  7. Ugh. I was going to finish all the posts in my reader before working out, but there are quite a few left and it’s 6:03am, so I’d better just close this laptop and get moving. Pain cave, here I come! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Good for you! 60 days is amazing! I previously did a 12 week workout program… I enjoyed and hated every Damn minute of it lol gotta get back on that band wagon again!

    • Oh yeah, even though you hate it, it’s always something you look back with pride. That’s the good hate if you ask me. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Hope you do get back on that programme and share your thoughts with the blogosphere!

  9. Such perseverance. I can at best do like 50 pushups a day five days a week – if I’m not lazy! LOL!! Anyway always enjoy reading your ideas for life hacks. Hope I can be as disciplined as you! Cheers man!!

    • Haha, I’m wayyyy undisciplined to be honest, and this habit has yet to leak into my other parts of life (such as work, where I routinely surf YouTube). I’m definitely certain you’re more disciplined than me in other areas of life. Thanks for always stopping by, Kelvin!

    • Aw yis. I think the best thing I’ve been getting from this is the mental strength. It’s still a super hard routine to stick to though. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Jim!

      • I think that you have created a small number of workout routines, it makes it easier to to stick to the regimen. One less thing to worry about or to make an excuse about…

  10. Yes, it’s true that exercise is partly mental. I think the number one area of the mind it improves is SELF-DISCIPLINE. You learn to control your urges to give up and just watch TV, and you do one more rep instead. That extra rep makes all the difference between being a man and being a couch potato.

    — Catxman

    http://www.catxman.wordpress.com

    • That’s true. In fact, according to a research that was highlighted in Nils Salzgeber’s book Stop Procrastinating, willpower is the #1 determiner of your success in life, and every time you exercise (heh) that muscle, you make it stronger. Thanks for your thoughts!

  11. Hey Stuart! This post is a fantastic reminder of the power of working out. Heh, that makes me look like I work out. Lol.
    Thanks for this post and (bc I just started taking my French to the next level) au revoir or whatever.
    Keep going!

      • Aww thanks! I’ve been learning French in school for, what, eight years? I’m still doing it, but I’ve never really taken it seriously until I started taking side courses. Man, they’re fun and they helped a lot with school. I’m so bored today because summer break and no French course on Friday sucks. Hoping to get ahead to some writing and research ‘how to make money online’ to know what are my hopes of saving up for a Mac this year. Lol.
        Fanks!

  12. I remember after I binge watched One Punch Man I got the bright idea to try his exercise of 100 of everything. It worked out a lot better in my head, so now I just stick to a morning routine of planks, push ups, squats, and sit ups. I feel a lot better starting the days with these exercises, and when I miss them, I get grouchy. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, and you get bragging rights when you say you work out every day.

    • Lol the only roadblock I felt that made that workout inaccessible was the 10km run. And not using the air-conditioning (as someone from Malaysia).

      And I’ve found that the harder I work out, the more confident I feel in myself, and when that happens, I tend to make better decisions through the day.

  13. Yeah, you have learned a LOT!! Yeah, it’s true that pain is much better at teaching than comfort. I often find myself manufacturing reasons to give up. Fun.🙂
    But when I stick through and do it, I feel so much better about myself.
    The part about just going through the process is super helpful and true!
    Amazing post!!

    • Oh yeah. Your body is what you’ll be using to get you places, and your mind is what’ll be with you your entire life, so it makes sense to strengthen both.

      Not something that we readily do, sadly. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  14. Pingback: Interesting Lessons From Working Out For 60 Days Straight – Mind Speaks

  15. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing the lessons you’ve gleaned from your workouts! I honestly think that the best workout regimens eventually become conversations with our bodies and with our deeper selves. Unfortunately, I’ve never yet stuck it out a full 60 days with any one routine, but I hope someday I can commit to making that connection, to taking that journey.

    • ‘Workouts eventually become conversations with our bodies.’

      You blew my mind with that quote. That is an amazing way of looking at it. In a way, I AM getting to know my body better through workouts after all. And what better way to do that than by having conversations with it? Thanks so much for stopping by! Always glad to have you here.

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