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26.2 Reasons Why Talking to Users Is Like Exercising

Or, the surprising connections between user interviews and hitting the gym.

Over the past few months, I’ve been running more than ever. Coincidentally, I’ve also been talking to more users than I ever have in my career. Given my penchant for reading articles with silly conceits, especially ones that mix lessons from different disciplines together, it was only a matter of time until my brain started connecting exercising and user research. Low and behold, one morning, during a run no less, I started drawing parallels between the two. So here are 26.2 reasons why talking to users is like exercising, and what we can learn from each to inform our approach to the other.

That's me, 2132.

1. You know it is one of the most important things you can do but it is shockingly easy to put off and justify focusing on other things instead.

2. Making the commitment to do it and showing up are often the hardest parts.

3. It’s a good idea to keep your initial enthusiasm in check.  Focus on building a healthy, sustainable routine rather than burning yourself out.

4. It’s hard to get started but easier to maintain once you're in a good rhythm.

5. Because once you're actually doing it, it is usually more enjoyable than you expected, especially the natural high that follows a good session.

6. You'll still get a lot of out of it, even if you’re not particularly good at it when you’re just starting out.

7. There is almost always a way you can do it by yourself and for free if you're creative and motivated.

8. But it can be more effective to practice with others as you challenge and motivate one another.  

9. And sometimes a few smart investments will be worth every penny.

10. Experiment by doing. Try a variety of things to see what you like and what aligns with your specific goals and constraints.  Don’t let people fool you, there is no one size fits all approach.

11. You'll learn that making yourself uncomfortable is okay and, actually, a good thing.

12. You don't have to specialize either. Variety will keep you engaged, make you more versatile, and prevent burnout.

13. Be sure to pay attention to your form and technique.  By simply being mindful and aware you’ll notice a lot of signals that can help you avoid developing bad habits.

14. When you're just getting started, it can be really helpful to have a mentor or a coach to give you support, feedback, and encouragement.

15. Once you know what you're doing, it can be really helpful to become a mentor or a coach to someone who could use your support, feedback, and encouragement.

16. Even when you've gotten really good at it, there will still be times where it completely humbles you.

17. There will be days where, no matter what, you don't feel like doing it. That's okay.  Show up anyway and often you’ll be surprised at what happens once you get going.

18. Even when things don’t go so well (which will happen), you're still better off by having showed up and put in the effort.

19. If you feel like you're hitting a plateau, set a new goal and let others know about it.

20. It is important and healthy to give yourself breaks. Use that time to rest and reflect.  Don’t forget, growth actually occurs as you recover.

21. Keep a log of your journey, how far you’ve come, and what you’ve accomplished so you can use it for motivation when you're feeling flat.

22. You can’t do it all at once —progress takes time and happens in small increments—but the compounding effect over time is profound.

23. Measure yourself against yourself. It can be defeating to constantly compare yourself against other people.

24. Doing it consistently will lead you towards other positive unexpected and seemingly unrelated outcomes.

25. Look for ways to find efficiency in your process and improve how you prep, but don’t mistake shortcuts and hacks as a replacement for doing the work. 7 minutes abs can only take you so far, after all.

26. You know there is a difference between people who say they could do it if they wanted and people who actually do it.

Lastly… c’mon, you didn’t actually think there would be a .2 item for this silly clickbait title, did you?

Alright, alright: fine, here is a closing thought. The big .2 finale.

26.2. At some point, you'll inevitably annoy the people around you as you talk about how great it is and how everyone should do it.

Want to contribute to User Interviews content? Here’s how.

John-Henry Forster

Product leader who enjoys learning new things and is working hard to read fewer productivity articles.

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