My exercise approach – have a goal and a consistent routine

Have a goal and a consistent routine

With so many things fighting for our attention these days, it is not unusual for personal health to take a back seat. After all, we all have things that we should be doing, relationships we need to be building, and children we need to feed. However, it is precisely the hectic pace of modern living that made me prioritise my wellbeing.

My exercise approach

When I was younger, I wanted a big chest and arms because… well, just because. These days, my health goal is to have a good level of fitness that is functional for everyday activities. Unlike my younger days, I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone. Therefore, my workout split for the last 3 years has been a full body workout 3 days a week after work, and if weather permits, running in the “real world” on alternate days. Along with eating better, I lost 15kgs in the first 12 months of working out and have maintained my weight for the last 2 years.

Daily stretches

In addition to going to the gym and running, I try to stretch daily. By no means am I a yoga expert or know what I’m doing. I simply stretch out the knots in my body, which are mostly in my back and legs. If it is a workday, I try to fit 10 – 15 mins before going to work and when I have more time, I take 30 – 45 minutes. I’m still relatively inflexible but what’s a middle-aged man gonna do?

Non-negotiable mindset

Despite the frequency of my exercise, I’m not an exercise junkie. I like to be active, otherwise I feel lethargic, and can sleep for the whole day! However, there are certainly times when I don’t feel like exercising however, like going to work, I created a non-negotiable mindset that forces me to do it… just like going to work.

Create a consistent routine


Establishing a schedule to exercise is important because routine forms habit, habits can lead to consistency, and consistency can lead to routine. It’s all self-reinforcing. Consistency is key because almost anyone can go for a walk or run every now and then but to do it on a regular basis is harder because life gets in the way. Consistency will also manage the expectations of your partner, family or colleagues, especially when you tell them about your goals. They will know that you have dedicated “you” time, and in the case of your partner and / or family, they may also want to exercise with you. (Not to say your colleagues can’t but that’s not one for me as much as I like them as colleagues!)


The natural question is how do you be consistent, especially when you don’t want to exercise? It goes back to whether your goals are strong enough. So, revisit what motivated you to exercise in the first place. If your original goal isn’t doing it for you now, don’t feel like you need to stick with it. Set a different goal. Another approach is to reward yourself after you’ve exercised. For me, I have a long-term mind set, so I usually kick myself up the behind if I get lazy for a few days in a row!

But coronavirus…

Have a goal and a consistent routine

Like everyone else, I didn’t have any idea about the extent COVID-19 would disrupt our daily lives. Even the gym in our apartment complex was open in those early days so I was able to exercise but that didn’t last for long when everything started to close after a few weeks.

“Not a problem!” I thought to myself; ever the optimist. Thank goodness for the nearby park, which had basic bars and benches so I could continue exercising but even that was closed after a few more weeks.

At first, I thought the closure would only be a few weeks or so. Maybe 1 or 2 months but never several months. As the world came to grips that gyms weren’t going to open soon, I considered my options, which wasn’t many:

  1. Stop exercising – It would certainly be a good excuse to give myself a break.
  2. Home workouts – which I settled on. I tried buying some dumbbells (Hong Kong apartments are way too small to buy a whole gym set up) but almost all gym equipment was out of stock. I managed to buy some resistance bands and after YouTubing for ideas, I settled on a fully body calisthenic work out. Fortunately, after 2 – 3 months, the gym reopened again, and I was back into the swing of things.

I learnt that if I gave myself permission not to do something, I could very easily find the excuse. But if I scratched my brain a little harder, I could come up with a not-so-bad solution.

‘Roids, sick bros and gym intimidation

Have a goal and a consistent routineI remember the very first time I walked into a gym by myself in my early twenties. I expected to see “sick bros” walking around shirtless so they could show off their ‘roid-ridden bodies to anyone who dared glance at them, and them slamming plates onto the floor to show how masculine they were. As a skinny kid who didn’t have a clue how each of the machines worked and had never lifted a barbell up to that point, I felt like a weak deer walking into a lion’s den. That was precisely the reason I procrastinated so long before joining the gym but through sheer dumb luck, my closest, most affordable gym was a family-oriented fitness and leisure centre, where I camouflaged in with the other weak deers.

As I grew more familiar with gyms, I shed my intimidation, realising that most people in the gym – even the “sick bros” – were focussed on themselves, not some weakling in the corner trying to figure out how to use the leg curl machine. Plus, as I grew older, I cared less about what other people were doing; I wasn’t there to obtain their approval.

Learn the technique and leave the ego at the door

In all the years of going to the gym – probably 10 years on and off – I’ve never had a personal trainer. Therefore, in the beginning, I was conscious to make sure I had good technique. Not only to ensure that I was hitting the right muscles but also to minimise injuries, even if this meant lifting lighter weights. And that’s easier said than done because there’s a little thing called the ego that gets in the way. I mean, who wants to be seen lifting light weights?

I believe that it was this very mentality that prevented me from achieving my first pullup. It was only about 9 months ago after pushing my ego to one side and using resistance bands for a few weeks that I finally achieved my first strict pull-up without any kipping or swinging. Hurray for me.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...

Join the HTP Crew

Sign up to the HTP newsletter.

HTP will never spam or pass on your email address. Also, you may opt-out at any time. 

Join the HTP Crew

Join the HTP Crew to receive updates on Hoi’s novel, Broken, his tips on writing and self-publishing, tidbits about his life, and much more!

HTP will never spam or pass on your email address. Also, you may opt-out at any time.