When I teach Tiny Habits® for exercise, I usually focus on helping people get initial traction. That means finding places in their lives to insert what we call microworkouts. However, there is a lot more here to unpack. More, even, than the boxes that have been sitting around since your last move. Except you would actually miss this stuff—so let’s get into it.
A quick refresher
We’re going to use an ABC formula here:
Anchor = the existing habit (already in deep rotation) that we’re going to attach your new habit to
Behaviour = your new Tiny Habit
Celebration = giving yourself props for doing the thing you set out to do
A haiku for people who suck at celebrating
Surely not this time!
I don’t count things I’m good at
Or things I’m bad at
Seriously, , you have to cut yourself some slack and celebrate your little wins. If an action taken reflects a value that you have—and you perform it intentionally, then you are expressing that value. You deserve to celebrate that! You also owe it to yourself to affirm the fact that you’re taking action.
Positive emotions are a practice—not some abstract destination. And if I can stray a bit from canon, I am—more and more—coming to the conclusion that your ability to clarify what success looks like is fundamental to your ability to replicate it. In other words, Tiny Habits is not only a useful framework but also a tool for consistent internal dialogue.
Let’s get tactical!
Here’s how you can apply this ABC method to exercise technique and experience. I’ll provide some concrete examples but I encourage you to make your celebration personal and authentic—even if it’s as simple as acknowledging why the behaviour is a positive one. At the end of the day, it’s whatever turns your emotional crank.
Three Tiny Habits for kettlebell technique
- When the kettlebell begins to drop from its peak height, I will say, “Patience,” to myself as it drops (most people move their hips back too soon). And then I will celebrate by saying, “Subtle as a sphinx!”
- After the kettlebell finishes its downswing—and is about to begin moving forward—I will ensure that my feet feel solidly planted so that I can drive straight into the ground. And then I will celebrate feeling grounded and powerful.
- After the kettlebell passes the halfway mark on the upswing (of a 1-arm swing), I will reach forward with my open hand (or place it on top of my other wrist) and say, “Now that’s some immortal symmetry.”
Three Tiny Habits for lunges
- Anytime I notice that I’m fighting for balance, I will pause in my next static position (the top or bottom of the lunge) and celebrate by smiling.
- After I have stepped forward (or back) with one leg, I will touch the ground gently and with control before committing my full weight. And then I will say, “I’m always ready for hot lava!”
- After I have reached my deepest position, I will pause to make sure that all of my weight is on my stabilizing leg. And then I will say thank you to my body for making cool stuff like this possible.
Three Tiny Habits for push-ups
- After I set up at the top of a push-up, I will soften my elbows and dial them back toward my feet. And then I will think of someone I appreciate in my life.
- After I complete my set-up, I will bend my elbows slightly before anything else moves. And then I will appreciate how solid and strong I feel.
- After I reach the last inch of depth, I will notice the sense of stretch I feel in my pecs and triceps. And then I will celebrate by imagining that I’m pushing the earth away from me—Chuck Norris style
A final word
Emotions make habits. And creating positive emotions is a muscle you can train independently. If you have resistance to doing this, I get it because I had a ton. I’m still working through some of it, to be honest. My advice here is simply to observe what that resistance is. I guarantee that this process alone will reveal some diamonds in the rough.