I have a history of failing to exercise, and as a consequence am a bit out of shape.
A few years ago I managed to get in shape through means of a personal trainer. After about a year and a half of that I was feeling much better about myself – both in the sense of how I looked and how I felt.
The whole experience was awful. It was expensive, it was painful, and in the long run it just convinced me that I hated exercise even more than I’d previously thought I did. So when I moved away from the company that put me in the area of that personal trainer I lost all motivation to go to the gym. I then spent the next two years losing all that fitness I’d managed to build up at great pain and expense.
I’m now trying again, and this time I’m reasonably committed to not back-sliding. I’ve been tinkering with how this works and I think I’ve hit on an approach that works for me. I thought I’d share some of it in case others have similar problems.
It’s all centred around the basic principle that the single most important thing of an exercise program is that you keep doing it. A minimally effective exercise program that you’re doing can be turned into a more effective one. An exercise program that you’re not doing probably won’t be. Moreover, an exercise program that is great for you but you stop doing after 6 months is much worse than one that is pretty good for you but you’ll keep doing for the rest of your life.
I’m hoping that in the long run I’ll manage both of course, but if I can stick to pretty good for the rest of my life I’ll be OK with that.
You’re going to arrange this as if you’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life. This involves making it into a habit.
Obviously for me “make it into a habit” means “put it into Beeminder”. I recommend this as an approach, but it’s not necessary. A diary, or a recurring calendar event, probably work just as well if you don’t need the kick from Beeminder to help you stick to it.
My current goal is to try to get in about 3 sessions of 40 minutes each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This seems to be a good schedule, but I’m not really sticking to it yet – I mostly manage to make it Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but I’m not really up to 40 minutes. I seem to be averaging more like 30. That’s OK though – I started at much less than that and was struggling to make it to two half hour sessions a week. The idea is to work up to it. Don’t try to do more time than you can really bring yourself to do – start with something you can fit in, when that becomes normal and habitual increase it slightly.
The second stage is to prevent a rapid burn out. I don’t know about you, but I get… enthusiasms. If I start doing a thing I’ll basically go “Woo, I’m doing a thing. I must do the thing more. Let me do lots of the thing”. In exercise this manifests as my pushing myself way too hard, making some good initial progress and then hitting a wall. I then get dispirited and stop doing it.
So, step 1 is to not do that. I know I can make progress. Partly because I’ve done it before, and partly because well bodies are basically designed to be able to make progress at this. I’m not so uniquely bad at exercise that I won’t make any improvements. So, secure in that knowledge, the trick is to make steady progress.
What does that involve? It involves doing things that are easier than you think you can do. The exercise program should be pitched at basically one tiny notch above “too easy”. Sure you can do that level of weight? OK. Cool. Now take 5 kilos off it. Sure you can do that number of pushups? OK. Do about 2/3rds that (actually for me this manifests in the fact that I’m doing the 100 pushups program. I’m confident I can easily do 10-15 pushups, but instead I’m starting myself on the easiest version of the program and repeating each week. I have a history of trying this program and hitting walls). Once this level has gone from “I can totally do more than this” to “this is embarrassingly painfully easy” you can make it harder.
There are a couple reasons for this.
The first is that if you constantly push yourself, it will hurt. Especially the next day. You might be OK with that, but I’m not. Pain is rubbish, and if I’m going to the gym often enough this will mean that I’m spending about half my life in pain. If anything is going to convince me I hate exercise, that will.
(I know you’ve heard no pain no gain. It’s macho bullshit that has no useful grounding in biology. Your muscles will improve fine without constant agony).
The second is that it stops you hitting a wall. What I’ve found in the past is that the degree to which I can push myself does not improve as fast as my baseline strength. If I’m constantly pushing myself to my limit then my strength will improve, but each time I increase my strength the rate at which I can increase my strength will drop significantly. This will cause frustration
Finally, we’ve already established that you’re here for the long haul. It doesn’t matter if your progress is a bit slow because you’ll get there in the end, and when you do you’re much more likely to stay there.
Step one is to find a gym to go to. You can do this at home if you like, but I’ve found having a place which puts me into exercise mode really does help.
You’ll need a program design. For this you probably do want a personal trainer, but only for a session or so, to design a custom program for you which will be exactly like all the other custom programs that they’ve designed for everyone else. They can show you some good exercises, give you a basic framework to fit everything into, etc. Make sure to ask them what exercises are actually for.
Now you’ve got that program you can basically throw it away.
Well, not throw it away, but basically redesign it to actually fit your needs.
First, take all the exercises you hate, and replace them with something vaguely similar you don’t hate. You don’t need a good reason for hating the exercise, there are just going to be some you don’t like. That’s OK. Replace them. Do some searching online to try to find equivalent exercises that you’re less likely to hate (Example: I really hate situps. Turns out I think leg raises are perfectly fine. I don’t really know why. I also hate plank and have no problem with push ups).
Will this result in a sub-optimal program? In one sense, yes: You’ll probably hate some really good exercises and lose out a bit by not doing them.
In another, more important sense, no: If you hate your workout you’ll resent doing it, you’ll do it less, and then you’ll stop. A slightly sub-optimal workout that you do is infinitely better than a great work-out you don’t.
Also figure out which bits of the program you want to skip at first. Chances are your personal trainer will have over designed for you. Personal trainers are like estate agents for exercise: “I’d like a half hour session design” “OK here’s one that will take you 45 minutes. It’s got a really nice view of the lake”. They’re probably right about how much time you should be doing, but you’re almost certainly going to want to work up with that.
So now you’ve got a gym, you’ve got a plan. Go to that gym.
While you’re going to that gym… Figure out everything that makes it annoying for you to go there. Try and find the best way to fit it into your schedule, try and find all the other things that get in your way (e.g. for me it was bringing the gym kit to work, so I changed things around to just have enough clothing in there for several visits to the gym and only do a wash when they’d all been used. The whole process became much more pleasant).
You shouldn’t follow my advice here. I can figure out the bits about motivation, and some of the bits about biology, but exercise design there are probably way more competent people than me and if you can find them let me know. There are lots of people who say they know what they’re doing but I struggle to take the “BECOME RIPPED IN JUST SIX MONTHS” posturing seriously.
But, for the sake of illustrating what this looks like in practice, here’s my current program:
- 3 minutes on the exercise bike to warm up. I tried replacing this with skipping today and it basically destroyed me. Skipping is hard. I’m going to try to figure out how to integrate that into my workout, but I haven’t yet.
- Do the current week of the hundred pushups program (I’m currently on my fourth week, which is actually the second week for the second time)
- Do a super-set of 3 sets of 10 barbell squats (no weights on the barbell right now, it’s just the bar. I think the bar is about 10kg but I’m not really sure. It might be more than that) with 10 bent leg-raises.
- Do a super-set of 3 sets of 15x 10kg barbell bench press with 15x35kg underhand pull-downs.
- Do about 15 minutes on the exercise bike.
To be clear again: I don’t know what I’m doing and you probably shouldn’t follow the same program as me. I mean, eh, if you want to you can, it’s probably not awful, but don’t take this section as advice.
Also, does this program sound too easy? Do you feel like making fun of me for my puny bench press? If so, I don’t think you’ve been paying attention to this post…
What next is simple: You keep this up forever, because nothing else is going to work.
Keep increasing the amount of time you spend in the gym until it hits the point you want to achieve. When exercises get too easy, make them a bit harder. Keep practising until they get easy again and repeat the process.
Does it work? I don’t know. By all rights it should, and based on initial results it seems to be putting me in the right mindset and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to stick with it, but ultimately I’ve only been doing it for about a month and a half and I intend the rest of my life to be a lot longer than that. I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes.
On similar lines, I’ve found that the single most important feature of a gym is proximity. My current gym is in the basement of my office building, and I’ve been going every weekday for half an hour at lunch. My last-but-one gym was about 300m from my then-flat, and again I used to go a lot. In the period between moving out of the flat close to the gym and moving into the office close to the other gym I did a lot less exercise.
On exercise routines, I like classes from a motivational standpoint. It doesn’t particularly matter what kind of class; the important benefits are the sense of shared suffering with the other participants and having someone else make the decisions about what level and type of exercise to do. The actual exercises are probably deeply suboptimal for improving performance at the things I care about (mountaineering and related activities), but like you, I reason that a suboptimal exercise routine you actually do is much better than a perfect one you don’t.
Agreed on proximity, with a caveat: I found proximity to home worked *very* badly for me, because the result would be that I would get home, flop and go “feh, can’t be bothered to move. Will gym some other time”. Obviously I didn’t gym some other time. Proximity to work avoids this problem.
I’ve yet to decide how I feel about classes. The one I went to recently completely destroyed me the next day, so that obviously doesn’t fit well into my “avoid pain” plan, but in general I think they’re probably a good additional motivator.
You probably know this, but the “completely destroyed the next day” feeling (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, to give it its Sunday name) only happens the first couple of times – or rather, it happens the first couple of times after a significant increase in workload, particularly if that workload involves lots of eccentric movements (lengthening the muscle while under load). You can keep yourself in DOMS if you constantly increase your workload as fast as possible – and you’ll probably make great gains if you can keep it up – but the classes probably won’t do that.
I think the class might do that in effect because the effort level is increased by my actually being able to do more of it
That being said, I actually hadn’t realised that was how the progression worked. I may give it another try, thanks
It’ll do that to some extent, due to exactly that reason, but it shouldn’t get to the “completely destroyed” level. The classes I’m doing now are mostly bodyweight circuits – back when I was doing a lot of BodyPump classes (or indeed regular weights sessions) I’d get mild DOMS for a day or two when I increased my weights, but nothing like as bad as after the first time. “First weights session after a long layoff” and “first martial arts session” are the really bad DOMS-inducers, I find.
[Once a year my school’s rowing club was tested on our ability to do bench pulls for six minutes straight. Ow ow ow. Afterwards I couldn’t move my hands back to my sides for the best part of a week. I’d walk around with my arms stuck out to the side at thirty degrees, occasionally leaning into doorframes to stretch them back into place.]
I’ve found that making it competitive, or having a lot of data to play with, is meaning I’m more likely to do that day’s workout. Between the Fitbit and MapMyWalk I can’t possibly miss a training session, because my stats will drop!
I also know that if I don’t have an end goal I’m more likely to slip. Currently I have the half marathon to work towards, but I’m already planning on what it will be for next autumn.
So, yes, find something you don’t hate, work out how to get yourself repeating it. And very much “something is better than nothing”
Yeah I have some Beeminder goals which do similar to your fitbit tracking, though that’s mainly just the time goal that’s effective I think.
+1 on the usefulness of end goals. I really enjoyed training for a half-marathon a couple of years ago. An alternative that David might find more interesting is orienteering, which I believe is very popular in Switzerland. Philipp can give you better info on that than I can, though :-)
I stumbled across this recently, which focuses on diet, but covers exercise too:
I suspect dietary science may have advanced a bit since it was written in the distant past, but it speaks highly of motivational tools such as tracking statistics :-)
I lost ~15kg on the Hacker’s Diet a few years ago, and kept it off for a couple of years until deteriorating mental health problems made it All Too Hard. The nutrition involved is deliberately brute-force – calories in vs calories burned – the (small amount of) cleverness is in the signal-processing and control theory. I suspect Hacker’s Diet + Beeminder would be a very effective combination!
My exercise goals are basically “pick something you like enough to actually do it, and then do something at least twice a week.” In the past it’s often been exercise classes, but for the past year it’s been swimming. For maximum progress I should be swimming timed sets but the main benefit for me is stress relief and expending a lot of energy, so 45 minutes to an hour of steady swimming does the job.
One suggestion of how to fit in skipping would be to do it as intervals somewhere in the middle of your workout. Interval training certainly works for me when I can hack doing it, and is very time efficient. The only time I can reliably do it is in exercise classes, but the Tabata protocol (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, repeat 8 times) would probably get you quite a lot of benefit without adding a huge amount of time to your workout. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-intensity_interval_training
Yeah, I need to actually work swimming into my schedule. I have a freaking river I can swim in 10 minutes from my flat and I’m somehow failing to take advantage of it.
Skipping as HIIT is a great idea. Thanks. I’ll try to slot it in as that. Maybe after the other exercises but before the final cardio.
There are various HIIT Android apps, which I’ve found helpful in the past.
I’ve just started doing the Coursera/University of Melbourne exercise physiology course. It’s pushing the limits of my somewhat rusty biology, but so far I’ve found it interesting. The first test is at the end of this week, so you could still join if you think you’d be interested.
I hesitate to pose as an internet expert about exercise. But in the last 4 years I’ve gone from being unfit and physically weak to being in good shape. So apart from my own utterly anecdotal evidence, I’ve spent some time educating myself on the subject.
First of all, I totally agree with your basic principle: You should approach exercise as something you will be doing as part of your life for the rest of your life. You should not only to form a habit around it, but also find a way to enjoy it, so that it enriches your life rather than being a chore.
With that said, I think you can do better than the routine you propose. The main issue is that it’s not clear what your goals are, and how your routine contributes to them. Different forms of exercise are good for different goals. Here are three distinct goals (I could list more, but three will do):
– Getting fit (i.e. cardiovascular fitness: being able to sustain more effort for longer, and recovering faster from exertion).
– Gaining muscle strength
– Gaining muscle size
It is surprising how independent these goals are (at least, it was to me). Even the last two are fairly independent! All exercise will tend to contribute to all three to some extent, but the effects of different forms of exercise are more distinct than is generally understood.
Whenever you perform exercise, you should have a very clear idea of what your goal is, and how the exercise you are going to perform contributes to it. If you don’t focus within a given workout, you’ll find you it doesn’t lead to much improvement, which is demotivating (as a beginner, you will inevitably see some initial improvement in all areas whatever you do, but that will tail off after a few weeks or months, which is not much good if you are thinking in terms of years). Also, the vague feeling of “this is exercise, therefore it must be good for me” is not a strong source of determination.
So my comment on your proposed routine is that it is not focused on a particular goal. If you want to achieve multiple goals, then do different forms of exercise on different days. As your workouts are short (40 mins), you don’t really have time to pursue multiple goals in a single workout.
To be honest, with 2 hours a week to spend on exercise, it might be best to spend all your time focusing on cardiovascular fitness. That has the greatest long-term health benefits, and also contributes to positive mood and cognitive function. But men are conditioned to want to be strong and look muscular, so I don’t expect you to follow this advice.
Onto some specific recommendations:
Cardiovascular exercise: I mostly find cardiovascular exercise in the gym to be really boring, to the point that I don’t perform well (I can’t run on a treadmill for more than 30 minutes, it just gets too tedious). So I run outside. Ideally in a park or the countryside – exposure to a natural environment also contributes to positive mood (and if you associate exercise with being happy, you are more likely to keep up the habit). But do what works for you – find the thing that you can imagine doing regularly for the rest of your life. Many people swear by cycling and swimming.
For cardiovascular exercise in the gym, I’d say HIIT is better just on the basis that it is less monotonous. But am I a bit sceptical that it is the right thing for beginners (I don’t think that four years ago I had sufficient physical capacity to get much benefit from it). So I’d recommend getting to the point where you can keep going on the treadmill/stationary bike/elliptical for 30 minutes at a decent level of exertion before looking to HIIT. Referring to your routine, 15 minutes on a stationary bike (without some form of HIIT) does not seem enough to me (if that is all you can manage, take breaks as necessary, but still keep at it for 30 minutes).
Resistance training: It’s great that you are working with barbells. Stick to free weights and body weight, don’t bother with machines for the most part. The classics are the best: bench press, push ups, pull ups, dips, squats, dead lift, overhead press, bent-over rows, etc. These all tend to be compound exercises to some extent, training muscle groups to work together, and working minor muscles as well as prime movers.
Always concentrate on keeping good form, and a slow measured movement over the full range of motion (for any exercise, you can find dozens of videos on youtube showing you what good form looks like). If you have to sacrifice good form or full range of motion to increase the weight, then it is too heavy.
High intensity vs. high volume: This is how you control whether the focus is on developing muscle size or strength. If you want your muscles to get bigger, do high volume: e.g. 3 sets of 10 or more reps. If you want your muscles to get stronger, do high intensity, e.g. 5 sets of 5 reps, with greater weight than for high volume. In each case, adjust the weight to be as high as it can be while allowing you to complete the sets. For high volume, you should work almost to failure on each set – you should not be able to complete another rep. That’s not the case for high intensity: the weight will be closer to your max, so you need a bigger margin to complete the last rep in the set safely. Also, rest intervals should be shorter for high volume (as short as you can manage). For high intensity, take 1 or 2 minutes between sets, so that you start each set relatively fresh. (There is some science behind all of this, based on how the different types of muscle fibres that make up a muscle respond to exercise).
What if you want both bigger and stronger muscles? Then alternate high intensity and high volume workouts.
I find that high volume involves a lot more mental determination than high intensity, even though the weight is lower (5 reps are over before you know it, but 12 reps is enough time to start thinking “I wish this would stop”). But unless you are a teenage male, high volume is what you have to do to make your muscles get much bigger. This comes back to knowing your goals: If you only want to get fitter, just do cardio, and forget about resistance training.
As someone already mentioned, delayed onset muscle soreness is only something you get as a beginner or after a break. After a few weeks you shouldn’t experience it much (if you get regular aches or pains after workouts in the same place, that suggests a more fundamental problem that you should investigate to avoid injury).
Core exercises: Core strength is really important for everyday life (particularly for avoiding back injuries). Some of the compound exercises mentioned above contribute to core strength (squats, dead lifts), but it is worth special attention with things like planks and the various exercises you can do with those big inflated exercise balls (plain floor crunches tend to work the superficial abdominal muscles rather than the deep core). You can drop these into your routine when you have 5 minutes to spare.
Other things that are worth knowing about: Stretches and other exercises for flexibility and posture. Recovery times if you start exercising on consecutive days.
Research has failed to establish that warm-up exercises do much good, even though they are widespread. They can’t do any harm, but given your time constraints, why bother?
Don’t take my word for any of this. The only point I really want anyone to make is that physical exercise comes in different varieties that have significantly different effects.
Thanks for this, David. This is super helpful.
First I should mention that I do know (and should have said!) that my current program is a bit undirected. I’m largely right now in a process of exploration trying to find things I don’t hate.
My goals are approximately a mix of strength (especially core strength) and cardio. I don’t care about being super strong or anything, but anecdotally strength has been super helpful in terms of alleviating various aches and pains of normal day to day living.
(My actual goals are approximately “feel better”, “look better” and “lose fat”, in order of decreasing importance, but I’m aware that the first two don’t map cleanly to actually useful goals and the third I can’t do without making major alterations to my diet and that exercise isn’t really going to help that much)
I think I knew and had forgotten that warm-ups don’t really help. Thanks. I’ll cut out the initial couple of minutes on the cycle.
Cardio: The main reason I’m only doing 15 minutes is that there is essentially no possibility that I will do half an hour solid cardio in the gym. It’s just not going to happen. 15, maybe 20, minutes is the point at which I get bored out of my mind. I did quite a lot of cycling back in London and I’m pretty confident that I could do half an hour no problem, I just have no interest in doing so. In the end I actually tried to do some HIIT on the bike earlier and it was pretty much OK, so I think I’ll be switching to that.
Core: I was under the impression that the push-ups and leg raises I was already doing were pretty good core exercises! Is this not the case? I’m also planning to add pull-ups in once I’ve improved my strength at the pull-downs (I’ll be switching those to a 5×5 at a higher weight, thanks) and have got a bit further on the
I’m kinda surprised at how constrained you seem to think two hours a week is. How much would you recommend?
Losing fat is a complicated topic on its own. But yes, diet is an essential component. My experience is that it is hard to lose weight through exercise alone, even with a few thousand calories of exercise a week. And in the bodybuilding world it is often stated that it is difficult/impossible to gain muscle without being in calorific excess. I’m not proposing the cycles of bulking and cutting that bodybuilders go through, but I doubt it is worthwhile trying to gain muscle and lose fat simultanously.
Cardio: I totally agree about the boredom of doing cardio in the gym. So the options are, a) try to do cardio in the gym in a really time-efficient fashion, or b) go outside the gym for cardio. (a) has to mean HIIT, I think, but I haven’t done HIIT on a long enough basis to have much personal testimony. I did do 6 weeks of HIIT in the gym last winter when I couldn’t run due to injury, to help avoid losing fitness, and it seemed to achieve that, but I don’t plan to do a control period without any cardio to compare :)
I know that health bodies recommend things like 15 minutes three times a week of cardio, and I’m sure that it’s way better than nothing. But my experience early on in my efforts to get fit was that that kind of level only gave modest improvements. It was only when I started do a few hours of running every week that I saw a significant improvement in my level of cardiovascular endurance. That is a lot of time to devote, but I see it as paying off the health debt I had built up over the years. Maybe it is possible to get significant improvements with less time involved, but I suspect it requires experimentation and determination to find something that works.
Core: I think ithe contribution of press-ups to core strength is limited because everyone can perform a plank for much longer than they can do press ups (a plank is just staying in the top part of the press up position, with your arms locked). A plank is a good core exercise on its own. I missed that you were doing leg raises, they are good too. As the core is a complicated set of many muscles that wrap the abdomen and tie the spine and pelvis together, I’d suggest over time learning a wide repertoire of core execises in order to work the whole system.
Time per week: I don’t think there is a right answer. As you said, it has to become a long-term habit, but what that means is an individual thing and something that takes a while to discover. To be sustainable, your exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore, but rather something that occupies a fulfilling slot in your life. And as part of that process of discovery, you work out how best to balance it with the other demands on your time.
Yeah, losing fat is not a goal of my exercise at the moment, but it is vaguely intended to lay groundwork for it to be easier to do so later. (Hmm. I’ve just realised that if my goal is to raise my BMR I’m probably supposed to be focusing on muscle size rather than strength. That’s annoying).
RE cardio: I think the obvious solution which I’ve been putting off is just that I need to start cycling to work again. For the moment I’ll do HIIT in the gym though. I may end up doing a mix of both.
RE Core: The problem is I really really hate doing plank. I don’t have a good reason why, I just do. I’m currently doing the 100 pushups program, which I’m aware is kinda ridiculous but is nice in that it gives me a concrete goal which if I manage to make a decent amount of progress will help me feel like I’ve done an impressive thing, so I think once I’m a bit further along in that (I’m currently only doing ~25 pushups each day I’m exercising, but that will go up. Really it should have doubled by now but I’m deliberately taking it slowly). It also should be far more time doing core exercise than I’m likely to do planking because of the aforementioned hatred. Hopefully between that, leg raises and pull-ups (*cough* eventually. I don’t know how I’ve managed to lose quite so much arm strength in the last 4 months, but I have) that’ll be enough for now.
I would never be able to commit myself in doing that kind of schedule as I am basically to lazy to endure it and too fun-driven when exercising.
Here are my two cents: thanks to my British colleagues, I got introduced to squash about 2 years ago and I can tell you that, if played regularly, it’s going to make you VERY fit and having a blast at the same time.
The court slots are normally 45-min long, with commuting, warmup and showering you can pack the whole time investment in ~1h 20m, even at lunch time if your job allows you to.
The game is very intense and as you master the basic technique, it will become more and more rewarding and fun to play.
There are many facilities around ZH and once you realize you are playing quite often and it is becoming quite expensive, you can always join a club, have a flat yearly fee and play as much as you can manage ^_^
As a side note, I find it a great stress reliever.
If you’re thinking hard about a problem, take a squash session and come back to it. You mind would be clearer and it will help you approach the problem from a different angle.
The only thing I’ve found to work is finding activity that my brain parses as ‘fun’ rather than ‘exercise’. So I completely failed to do any exercise until taking up climbing and pole fitness, both of which come across as “Ooh, I can turn upside down” rather than effort and have a challenge/progression aspect which is more than simply “repeating the thing you’ve done before more times” (I find 5 is about the maximum of anything I can do in repetition without becoming extremely bored).
Apologies if I’m bikeshedding this post, but I believe you’ve made a quantifier error. You don’t need to find an exercise programme that you can do for the rest of your life, you need to ensure that for all times between now and your death, you have an exercise programme that you’re doing. It doesn’t need to be the same one at all times. Indeed, I believe there’s benefit in switching things up every now and then. The programme you describe sounds like a great start (subject to David W’s caveats), but don’t worry too much if in a year or two you fall off it as long as you fall off it in favour of some other form of regular exercise.
Oh, and something I should have said right at the start: good luck!
Yeah, I do understand that, but it’s good to have it made explicit, thanks.
A lot of this is about establishing a habit and a mindset of being a person who does exercise. In the course of doing so I need to also figure out what sort of exercise I can do and like doing. I do also need to make some effort to making sure it’s vaguely useful though. Doing something which is useless or actively harmful isn’t going to be good for my long term motivation :-)