How to form new exercise habits

I’ve misplaced my motivation somewhere between the soft pillows and biweekly Timmies runs.

You gasp and sit up. The alarm on your phone is blaring its obnoxious wake up call, urging you to move your butt out of bed, from beneath the warm, comfortable, soft…..zzzzz…. ARGH, HUH, WHAT???! For a moment, you can’t remember why on earth your eyes are open, or what day it is.

Then you remember. It’s Monday. You’re getting up to exercise. You’re supposed to be leaving your haven of blissful dreaming to get changed, go out in the cool air and run/bike/drive to the gym.

You think about the cold side of the pillow (colder than your ex’s heart), lay your head down, and promise yourself you’re just going to close your eyes for a moment. Just close them to wake them up.

You’re startled awake by your alarm. For work (or school, or a coffee date, or some other appointment). Not exercise, because you fell asleep. Again. Ah well, looking on the bright side, there’s always tomorrow to start.

Yeah, tomorrow, it’ll be different.

Is this you? Is this a struggle you’ve battled and lost multiple times? (Insert infomercial background music here).

No, sadly, life and exercise cannot be solved by an infomercial. Chris wrote an excellent article (read here) on motivation, pain, athletes, and finding what matters to you and using this as your driving force to live stronger, fitter and as an absolute goal crusher. This is a follow up post.

On that note, most of us, in regard to exercise, fall into one of these categories:

  1. You’ve battled the motivation and rocked it. You have this exercise thing figured out, and have no trouble getting out to run/bike/gym/team practice/gallop your horse into the sunrise.
  2. You have yourself convinced you love exercise, but whenever you start on a health kick, the excitement and determination starts to fade around day 16 and a half. Pick your reason: kids, school, work, the game where teamA beats teamB, that project you promised your significant other you’d start a few months ago, the Martians still needing an update on their water status…
  3. Or number 3: You don’t even know where to start. You hated PE class, and are terrified of the thought of gyms, weights, and fit people in Lululemon attire. You’re sure you’ve read somewhere physical exercise is somehow good for you, but it’s so overwhelming you can’t think where to begin.

Like Chris said in his article, once you can answer the question of motivation and keep it within view at all times, it becomes easier to get yourself out there.

The second, crucial part of getting yourself out of the starting gate and into the race (towards your fantastically healthy body), is deceivingly simple.

HABIT.

You’ve probably heard this word. But the people who know things (like Dr. Henk Aarts and colleagues1), define a habit as:

“A form of automaticity in responding, which develops as a person repeats a particular behaviour in stable circumstances.”

In other words, when you have a certain environment, and have repeated a specific behaviour over and over and over, the response to the environment becomes automatic.

When you park your car and start to walk away, you press the remote to lock the car. You’ve done this so many times, that you may catch yourself a few paces later, not being able to remember whether you locked it or not. That’s because the behaviour became automatic through repetition.

Back to the morning and pillows.

When you’ve repeated the behaviour of getting up, changing and heading to the gym enough times, it will become automatic.

It will become easier.

How do we do that?

Hang in there, and check our next blog post about what on earth habit loops are, and what both a man who cannot retain memories for longer than 5 minutes and a chimpanzee can teach us.

Meanwhile, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have steps in place in case you hit a snag…
Check out this AWESOME article written by our very own Chris Collins, on how to Plan to Fail

Until next time!

Rita
Okanagan Peak Performance Inc.

1 Aarts, H & Dijksterhuis, A. (2000) Habits as knowledge structures: Automaticity in goal-directed behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78 (2000), pp. 53-63.

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