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I’m not sure if I’m just weak minded, but somehow I have managed to trick myself (with a little bribery here and there) into being the fittest I’ve been, well, ever.

I’ve been swimming most weekday mornings now for over 15 months. I’ve slowly built things up from a gasping, half drowning 0.5km of breast stroke, up to where I am now – a mile of front crawl coming in at just over 30 minutes. I still haven’t cracked the 30 minutes mark, but that’s my next goal to aim for.

iI’m still not a great swimmer, but I’m getting better each week I hope, and I think the key has been all about tricking myself. Getting out of the house and walking the 2 miles to and from the pool in the dark and rain and wind hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve used a little trick to make it easier. Each day I tell myself that I don’t have to swim that much if I don’t want to. I could just do a few leisurely lengths and enjoy it. Then I bribe myself by reminding my sleepy self that I could stop and get myself a treat on the way home too, if I like.

Surprisingly, this, together with a regular podcast to listen to, is enough to get me out of the house even on the darkest, coldest mornings. Once I’m out of the house the magic happens. After a mile of walking and listening, my body and brain are fired up and by the time I get to the pool I’m wide awake and buzzing. Once I’m in the pool some nascent competitive streak starts to kick in and before I know it I’m ploughing up and down, all memory of a ‘nice little relaxing swim’ out of my mind completely.

Forming the habit is the important part of the process, once you have established the habit, not doing it simply feels wrong.

Then, I start looking at the clock, and begin trying to beat my best time – knowing that if I’m too slow the session will end and I won’t be able to complete my mile. This cut-off time means that 99% of the time I complete my mile before the whistle blows (or sometimes as it blows), and it’s time to get out, get changed and march home again. Weirdly, I then decide that I don’t really need or want the treat I promised myself whilst lying in bed (why did I even believe that??)

There is a bribe I always stick to though. If I do 5 mornings in a row, I get bacon. It’s a simple equation, and reward bacon is the best tasting bacon ever. Bacon is a motivator I now use for a lot of things (living in a vegetarian household this doesn’t always go down well) and it’s the most consistently successful.

If there’s something you need to get done and are failing, try tricking yourself in to getting out there and getting started. Bribe yourself if you need to. You don’t even need to follow through on the bribes. Forming the habit is the important part of the process, once you have established the habit, not doing it simply feels wrong. It’s worked for me, maybe you are just as gullable.