My workout schedule was formed by one accidental habit.
I don’t know one person who hasn’t struggled with a workout plan that feels like a seesaw. Up and down, with its peaks in January and April; and lows from November to December. Even those who have been able to overcome the seesaw likely remember a time when they too had to navigate that playground of distraction.
A couple of years ago I was on the seesaw. Really, I’d been on the seesaw since I’d been old enough to understand that eating too much and exercising too little was supposedly recipe for disaster. Now looking back on photos from ages 14-22 makes me want to go back in time to tell my younger self to eat those carbs, yes, all of them… Enjoy them while you can… with a milkshake!” Now, at age 26 it really WAS time to cut back on life’s edible gifts. Unfortunately I was also going through a breakup and there was a lot of alcohol to be consumed and fried foods to be had.
I’d been on the seesaw since I’d been old enough to understand that eating too much and exercising too little was recipe for disaster.
I had just started working out with a personal trainer who I had an embarrassingly obvious crush on. Because my new single status also meant I didn’t really have much of a life in the evenings, I found myself… I wouldn’t say stalking…. I would refer to it as innocently visiting the gym on a more regular basis to do really easy workouts. Sometimes I would start my workout, realize he wasn’t there and then force myself to finish because certainly everyone would know I was there to see him if I didn’t.
After awhile I found myself trying a little harder every time I went to the gym. I’d already done the hard part. I was inside the gym, I might as well get in a good workout. I also found myself visiting the gym even when I knew cute trainer boy wouldn’t be there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but finally, all of the inputs I needed to form a habit were present.
After awhile I found myself trying a little harder every time I went to the gym.
While I can’t give all of you a hot personal trainer to encourage you to form a healthy gym habit, I can help you re-create this scenario in your own way.
I’ve been reading a lot about how to start habits lately. One of my favorite takeaways is from BJ Fogg who actually put together an equation for creating habits which is this:
Motivation, ability and a trigger are all needed to create a new behavior. In my case, my behavior was changed because I was motivated by the cute trainer, I always had the ability to workout on a regular basis (and so do you!), and the trigger was his work schedule (he worked A LOT, so I was all set).
The last important piece of creating goals is the reward. My reward at the beginning was seeing the cute boy… and toward the end it was the feeling of accomplishment and endorphin rush I got after a good workout
As I mentioned above, I can’t recreate this, but I find that whenever I want to start a new healthy habit, motivation is what I can’t keep around on a consistent basis. So, my new process for habit creation is all about the mini habit. I learned about this after reading Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. Also, BJ Fogg has a great Ted Talk about his Tiny Habits. The gist is this: Commit yourself to a habit that is too easy to fail. Here are some examples:
- Do one pushup a day
- Drink one glass of water a day
- Walk around the block once a day
- Meditate for 5 minutes
By creating a mini habit you have both the ability and the motivation to move toward your larger goals. Soon, you’ll find yourself adding on to your mini goals and creating new ones. So far I’ve added 2 new mini habits to my daily routine. At 2pm every day I add $5 to my savings account and right before bed I stretch. These habits are so simple… but that’s the idea! Now I have no excuses to skip them.
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