Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. -Jim Ryan
Fitness isn’t about finding the right shoes, diet, or gym. While all of those things may be tools in your journey, the battle is won by creating a habit.
New routines take time to become habits and feel right in your day-to-day life. Six weeks into my new fitness routine I’m just beginning to find my equilibrium, and not without some hiccups.
Many resources say habits takes 21 days to create, but according to researchers at the University of London, the average is more like 66 days. Yes, that’s a long time. It’s possible it could take less, or longer, each of us is different. Armed with this information, plan to dedicate enough time to creating your new healthy habit so that you achieve success. During that time, you’ll need razor sharp focus.
Let me elaborate on the phrase, razor sharp focus, before moving on. I’m not a fan of multi-tasking, real gains are made with your eyes focused on one target. I guess that’s why I enjoy the book, The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, so much. It states very well what I have found to be true throughout my life. [You’ll find I pull wisdom from their text frequently, so give it a read.] As I give you suggestions on creating a fitness habit, I’ll only be speaking in the singular. I am telling you that working on more than one at a time is a bad idea. More on this below.
Here are five tips for creating a fitness habit:
- Pick just one – Choose the one habit that will make the most difference to your fitness and go after it with all of your energy. Is it your eating habits? Working out? Whatever it is, give it all of your energy until it’s a habit, then tackle the next most important thing. What may surprise you is that by focusing on the one thing, you’ll start to make better choices in other areas anyway because you’ll want to boost your progress. This happened to me as I began working to get back in shape over a year ago. I was focusing on exercise, but all my hard work made me think twice about eating that tub of ice cream.
- Make it social – If at all possible, get some support. I began my journey on my own and did well, so it is possible, but I hit a plateau. That’s one of the reasons I joined a Crossfit gym. The peer support is unparalleled. However, support can also be informal. Simply a friend who agrees to hold you accountable for whatever habit you choose, or it can be a group taking on a challenge together. Recently I have been taking part in a fitness challenge with a group on Twitter. We report in our progress each day via Tweet. Get creative. If you can’t find a partner, message me. I’ll do my best to hook you up or harass you myself.
- Reward yourself – Yes, I’ve said this before. Set small performance-based goals and reward yourself for reaching them. An example would be skipping all fried foods all next week, or lifting 10 pounds more on your hang cleans. Reaching a number on the scale is not performance based, and isn’t a goal I suggest. Then reward yourself with something like a special meal or a movie night out.
- Have fun – Find fun ways to pursue your goal. Maybe sign up for a 5K or join a cooking class. If diet is your chosen habit to work on, put extra effort into the meals to make them extra special. Splurge on fun unique food items to mix things up a bit. Get a little indulgent. This could also serve as a reward.
- Plan your habit into your day – Your new habit isn’t going to make time for itself in your day. You need to carve that out deliberately. Put workouts on the calendar, set times to prep meals for the week and shop. Don’t leave this part to chance. Your existing habits will be very effective at pushing the new guy out. This means when someone asks if your available during those times you either say “no,” or find a time to reschedule your new habit to, before saying “yes.”
Of these suggestions, I struggle planning the most. I’m terrible at organizing my day and tend to be reactionary when left unchecked. Knowing this I try to be more vigilant in that area.
Over the last six weeks my focus has been strength building; specifically my upper body. The hiccups came with a trip to TBEX in Toronto and returning home sick. That cost me a full 10 days of workouts and it was so hard to walk back into the gym after that break. I knew it was going to hurt and that I would find I’d lost ground. However, just two days back, I feel comfortable again, albeit sore as heck.
Good tips. What I do is sign up for a marathon. This forces me to get in shape or die. I would rather get in shape.
I love your “sink or swim” technique!
Travel is the one thing guaranteed to mess up all my good workout habits – and lately it seems like I’m just getting back into a decent routine when I leave again. I’ve been trying to plan better, deciding before I leave what routines I can make work when I’m away from my normal exercise options – but it’s definitely a challenge.