Exercise dues are the most effective way to reach all of your fitness goals.
What are Exercise Dues?
Webster defines a due as “a payment or obligation required by law or custom.” Stripped down for exercise dues, a due is an obligation you are required to complete. It’s like a bill or mortgage payment, you owe it and it must be paid!
Dues are a list of exercises/activities you complete in a week for fitness results.
Structure Dues with a Goal in Mind.
Your list can vary wildly depending on who you are and what you’re hoping to accomplish.
A program to help prepare you for a Tough Mudder will look much different than that of someone training for a 100-mile bike ride. The Tough Mudder training would likely include some running, some pull ups, and full body movements like burpees. Where the cyclist should focus on long rides and muscular endurance training.
The important thing here is to recognize what YOU want to accomplish. Looking to shed a few pounds? Do cardio and high-intensity-interval training (HIIT). Want to up your strength? Lift weights (heavy weight, low reps, long rests between sets). Looking to improve flexibility and mobility? Do yoga.
Structuring dues requires having a specific goal in mind. Without a goal you’ll be prone to lost motivation.
What dues look like.
Now that you know what dues are and have a goal in mind the next step is writing down your dues. I’ll give you a warning up front. If this is your first dues list, write what looks like an ‘easy’ list of dues. I got burned pretty bad on my first attempt. Why? Writing “500 push-ups” is easy. Completing them is hard.
Check out the screenshot of my dues from a couple of weeks back. The goals my list is structured around is a work-related flag football tournament and a half-marathon.
Quick note. This was a high load week to emphasize overloading my body. Not every week has a list this extensive. I chose these dues as an example because they give a broad spectrum of implementable ideas.
The first thing that might stand out is that some dues are vague and others are specific. This gives some flexibility within the week to make subtle adjustments. Let’s quickly step through each to see why it’s written that way.
- “12+ mile run” – The half-marathon was two-weeks out so I needed to get in at least one long run. That’s why that one is on the list. I ended up doing 13.3. You can check it out on Instagram @pursuitofexc. [Due target: half-marathon]
- “Run” – This was kept intentionally vague so that I could do a second long run if I was feeling good or just do a shorter run if I was burned out. Built in flexibility is huge! I ended up doing a 4 miler. Semi-burnt out. [Due target: half-marathon]
- “Full body ME workout” – This is the one outlined in the muscular endurance article. [Due target: half-marathon & football tournament]
- “50-50 pushups” – This is a self-made workout of 50 pushups with a 50 lb. sandbag on my back. [Due target: football tournament]
- “30 min yoga” – I had this yoga session in mind when I made the list. [Due target: increased flexibility and general recovery]
- “Explosive workout” – Again this vagueness was intentional. I found a workout on the Nike Training Club app. It’s not the most user friendly platform, but it has a bunch of free workouts. [Due target: football tournament]
As you can see each activity has a goal defined purpose. That is why the first step is to define your goals. Goals dictate what to train and motivate you through the tough parts.
Pitfalls to watch out for.
Another reason to make some dues vaguer is that once you make your dues, they are set in stone! Do not modify them, do not do less than what they say, do not do more than what they say. THIS IS EVERYTHING! If you start going outside the list it becomes malleable. You do not want it to be malleable.
Malleability removes the obligation portion of the dues. And the obligation is the foundation of dues.
For example, let’s say on your list you’ve written down 100 squats. You’re doing that workout and you get to 100 and you think “I’m feeling good, I can do more” and you go tack on another 50. Feeling good about yourself you go to your list and replace 100 squats with 150 squats and then cross it off. COMPLETE! I know this sounds like a good thing. You went above and beyond! But it opens Pandora’s Box for dues deviations.
Having changed the list once you’ll be inclined to do things like, “I completed 150 squats instead of 100 so I can change my 4 mile run to 3 miles.” Or you might convince yourself that doing those extra exercises allows you to delete a separate due altogether. Not cool!
These alterations can also set you up for letdown by ‘only meeting’ your goals. Let’s say that in addition to 100 squats you separately listed 50 pushups as another due that week. Then on push-up-day you reach 50 and are totally spent. You should be thinking “Wow that was tough, but I did it dammit! I am badass!” But what you might think is “Only 50? I got 150 squats when I set 100. How come I couldn’t get more than 50? Weak sauce me!” But it’s not weak sauce. Meeting a goal should never be a letdown. Be proud!
My advice? Stick with your original plan. If you wrote down 100 squats…do 100 squats. If it felt too easy, then you’ll know for next week. Set goal. Meet Goal. Repeat.
Going Outside the Dues!
WTF dude, you just gave me a whole dissertation about staying within my outlined dues. Now you’re telling me to go outside of them?! …Yep! Well sort-of.
All I mean here is don’t limit the exercise you get done in a week to these dues. Your dues are structured to keep you on your fitness path. But that doesn’t mean that exercise is all work and no play.
If your friends text you last minute to join them on a hike…say yes! Don’t think that your dues are all exercise or activity to get in a week. Dues are required/goal-oriented exercise. Funxercise shouldn’t be limited in any way shape or form.
What if you don’t complete the dues?
Uh-oh! Bad week?
There are only two excuses I give for not completing dues.
But what if my dog died?
Use your upsetness to lift those weights with better form.
What if my house caught on fire?
You’ll probably want something familiar to keep your grounded…like your exercise routine.
What if my car broke down and I’m out of time for the week?
Call an Uber, get to the gym, and take better care of your car.
What if? What if? What if? …Sorry folks, you’re not going to get any sympathy from me. I could run through a million different what ifs and could find reasoning or workarounds. Injury or sickness, that’s all.
If you wrote 5 mile run, it’s the last day of the week, there are 6 inches of snow on the ground, and it’s dark out, I promise you will remember that run. You’ll remember to not push off an important life goal until there’s better timing. You’ll remember that discomfort is an investment and you’re making a big deposit in your discomfort 401k. You’ll remember that you went out and got it done because you hold yourself to a higher standard.
Pick a day of the week to create dues and set your deadline so you know when to do them by. I create mine on Sunday and must have them completed by Saturday at midnight. Although if it gets past Saturday morning and there is still something on the list, I get pretty antsy.
Exercise dues are designed to help you achieve your fitness goals and keep you moving forward. Get after it!