The 10 Minute Rule
Updated: Nov 16, 2020
The best advice I can give anyone trying to exercise more – whether it’s starting from scratch or returning after a hiatus – is the 10 minute rule.
If you’re having trouble getting yourself to the gym, out for a walk, or an at home workout, try this: tell yourself to do just 10 minutes.
10 minutes. You can do that! You can totally walk for 10 minutes, or maybe try a 10 minutes yoga video. I think you can manage that. No - I know - you can manage that.
This is something I did a lot when I was losing weight, and it’s something I still do quite frequently to this day. Committing to a 1 hour workout is tough. But giving yourself a minimum (and an out) helps make it more manageable.
The secret here is, more often than not, you’ll end up doing more than 10 minutes.
Not long ago, I stopped by the gym after running some errands. I didn’t want to. I wanted to go home and watch tv whilst cuddling with my fur-babies. I wanted to be lazy. But, I was already out of the house. And my gym had a 100-workout challenge going on that was really pushing me to get there more often. So I pulled into the parking lot and I said, just do 10 minutes on the stair climber, and then you can leave.
I went in, took my coat off and changed into my sneakers before realizing I forgot my headphones. Ugh. Oh well, I’m already here. 10 minutes without music isn’t so bad. So I hopped on the stair climber and went at it.
Let me tell you 2 things: 1, 10 minutes without music sucks. Try not to forget your headphones. And 2, 10 minutes on the stair climber is tough!
After 10 minutes I felt okay. My legs were sore, but I could do a little more. So I did a little yoga ball body weight workout I learned a few years back. While doing that, a tough-guy looking type started doing bicep curls next to me. And I happened to notice the weight he was doing, which was… less than expected. This is when my urge to prove people wrong kicked in. I have always been a small person, even before I lost weight, and never really gave off a “strong” vibe. So if I have the chance to show somebody how strong I really am, I take it. Sometimes this is not always a good thing.
Now this guy didn’t say anything to me or even give me a look or anything to make me feel like he was judging me. If anything, I was judging him. But that feeling of competition, that thought of “psh, I can lift more than that” is what pushed me just a little bit more.
My arms were sore and I didn’t want to be obnoxiously competitive with bicep-curl-guy, so I went for legs instead. I ended up doing the leg press machine and some calf work, as well as abductors and adductors, and finished off with some weighted crunches.
40 minutes later, I left the gym feeling strong, confident, and accomplished. 30 minutes after I convinced myself to just get through 10 minutes on the stair climber.
Another example of the 10 minute rule comes from two of my wonderful turbo kick students. A few years back I had just swapped to Monday night classes and was hurting for students during my time slot. With only 3 people signed up, I decided to leave the safety of my classroom and try to do some recruiting.
Two women were just starting a workout in the free weight area and it looked like one was showing the other one around. I approached them and told them about my class. They were hesitant, concerned about time and their kids at home and this and that.
“Just try it for 10 minutes,” I said. “If you don’t like it, or you need to leave, I promise I won't be offended.”
Not only did they stay for the whole class, more than 2 years later, they are both still coming to my classes regularly! They’ve even recruited some friends to the class and to join the gym.
I must add a disclaimer.
The 10 minute rule doesn’t always turn into a full fledged workout. Sometimes, if I’m having a really bad day or I just don’t feel right, I’ll walk 10 minutes on the treadmill, and that’s the end. Sometimes, that happens. And that’s okay. At the very least, I can say I did 10 minutes. And that’s 10 minutes more than if I didn’t go at all.
So, the next time you’re feeling like you don’t have it in you to do a workout – maybe you don’t have the time, or the energy, or you just feel like blah – try convincing yourself to do just 10 minutes. And maybe you’ll just do 10 minutes, and that’s fine. But, maybe you’ll surprise yourself.
*Note: these stories both took place before the Covid-19 Pandemic.*