The Difference Between Failing and Quitting

A few months ago, I wrote about the habit of waking up early to exercise before work. At the time, I was using an app called Centr to plan protein shake meals and find new exercises each morning.

I still recommend what I said in that post. Besides that there are countless benefits to working out consistently that many Americans are in desperate need of, you will feel like the master of the friggin’ universe if you can consistently convince yourself to wake up before work and go exercise. Just think about how daunting that undertaking is!

The problem is that I stopped doing it.

Internet personality versus reality

I tend to write new blog posts when I have a victory to talk about. Like most other folks, I want to flaunt my successes more than I want to be vulnerable about my weaknesses. My social media feed contains the happy parts of my life just like everyone else’s.

But I want to be honest about this.

I failed.


I tried to ramp up the difficulty of my Centr workouts several weeks in and fell so far off the wagon that one might wonder if I was ever on it. I think my failure can be attributed to several factors:

  • I tried to raise the difficulty bar before I was really comfortable at the easier levels. It sounds appealing to be able to complete difficult workouts from Chris Hemsworth’s trainers, but it is hard to convince yourself to dive right back in when you are still exhausted from yesterday’s exercise.
  • I sabotaged my efforts with poor eating habits. I ate several of the breakfasts Centr recommended, but did not change other parts of my diet that needed fixing (news flash: energy drinks and eating out a lot are not good for you). There is no question that I had less energy than I otherwise would have because of my eating habits.
  • No one was holding me accountable. It was easy to tell myself that I was skipping it today, but would try again tomorrow.
  • In fairness, building good habits during a misery-inducing global pandemic is a big ask.

What it takes to build an exercise habit

I forgot several of my own learnings about exercise habits when I started with Centr. One of the major ones is that you should start as small as you possibly can if you were not exercising at all before.

Remember, all of the following options “count” as exercise:

  • Walks
  • Weight lifting
  • Training for a triathlon
  • Running a 5K
  • Running so slowly that one of those fast walking people would beat you in a race
  • Martial arts
  • Jump roping
  • Playing soccer with some friends
  • Skiing
  • Skiing so poorly that you mostly just fell down the mountain

There is no written requirement that you need to start with the hard ones.

Exercise will be a chore when you start, make no mistake. Even after years of doing it, you may sometimes find yourself dreading it.

But like any chore that becomes a habit, the way to make it consistent is to not think about it. Instead, make it an automatic thing that happens in your day, like brushing your teeth (hopefully) is. Remove every possible barrier. Make it “just a thing you do” instead of a big event where you “crush it.” Stop moving if you are in physical pain.

And most importantly, do it for yourself. Do it so you feel more energized, live longer, sleep better, and have a much better immune system response to viruses, not to match your friends’ Instagram feeds.

Wait, who are you to give me advice? You just said you blew it

Lifestyle changes are difficult to start, let alone maintain, and I am no exception to that rule. One cannot simply flick a light switch to become an amazing, generous person who wakes up at 4 AM every day, exercises, eats a perfect diet, goes to work with amazing people, solves really hard problems for the benefit of humanity, spends genuine quality time with their family, and goes to bed on time.

This is not the first time I have struggled to make a healthy habit part of my daily lifestyle. I doubt that it will be the last. But I always get back up to give it another shot. I fail, but I do not quit. I am no expert at working out every single day, but I am definitely an expert at trying new things. I invite you to join me!

What I’m doing next

I recently started muay thai classes at Tran’s Martial Arts in Loveland, Colorado.

This time, I’m starting with two classes a week in addition to my daily walks to get myself back up and moving again. My hope is that the sting of martial arts classes costing more money and the accountability of my peers in class will keep me going, like it did for several years when I practiced taekwondo as a teenager.

But if I fail, I will be back to try again soon.

Post number 78.

Originally published at on April 18, 2021.



I write about personal finance, career growth, and making the most of the new workforce. You can find my blog at

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Dan Rice

I write about personal finance, career growth, and making the most of the new workforce. You can find my blog at