How the power of habit can help you keep your training on the right track

Right now I am reading Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I previously read The Happiness Project by the same author and loved it so much I decided to give this one a go. These two books have a fair degree of confluence, as though the habits book is the guide to making permanent the “happy-making” actions of the Happiness Project.

One of the biggest overarching messages in the book is that habits eliminate the need for self-control. If we consistently repeat what we want to see as a change, it ceases to take self-control to make it happen, it simply becomes part of a daily routine. The auto-pilot nature of habits removes the need for us to decide whether or not to make a healthy choice because it is just what we do every day. Through a series of self-analysis, Better than Before will help you understand your personality type and what motivates you, thus creating a framework to form permanent habits. Any goals for better living can be reached by finding the right combination of motivators to match your personality.

So how does this help you keep your training on track? Here are a few nuggets from the book to help you start setting the autopilot button for healthy habits:

  1. Scheduling: Scheduling is a healthy habit’s BFF. Doing the same things at the same time every day locks us in to a routine. If you always run at the same time every day, you will make sure to block the time in your calendar for it and make it happen more consistently. For example, I schedule to run every weekday at lunch and have a permanent date with my running buddy for a long run on the weekend.
  2. Cues: Using cues can become an extension of scheduling and is very useful when trying to create habits. Cues allow you to pair two things so that by associating them they lock into habit. A good example of this is if you were a treadmill runner, you could allow yourself to watch a favourite show when you run. But only when you run, not just when you are sitting on the couch. Or deciding that you always have a full glass of water with each meal, pouring it when you are reading to eat and finishing it before you leave the table. The author notes that she brushes her teeth every day at the same time in the evening as a cue to her body that there will be no more eating that day, thus avoiding late night food binges.
  3. Monitoring: The idea of keeping a record of habits you want to lock in can work for almost everyone. A physical record that makes you understand how many servings of vegetables you have eaten that day, or how many days in a row you have stuck to your strength training routine can’t be ignored.
  4. Accountability: Holding yourself accountable for your actions is really important, but some people require the added layer of having outside parties holding them accountable as well as themselves. Consider asking friends or family to help you be responsible for your goals. Sometimes simply stating your intention is enough to gain accountability, like telling your coworkers that you aren’t going to eat sweets at work anymore. You can be sure that my coworkers will ask me what time I am leaving for my run at if they see me still sitting at my desk past noon.

Do you have any habits that help you stick to your training? Share them with us on our Facebook page and inspire others to give them a try.

United Way Winnipeg