Today I wanted to talk a little about changing habits. Changing bad habits into good ones or just adopting some new, healthier habits. Habit change is not an easy thing but can be what makes staying consistent with your workouts or eating plan much easier and more likely to succeed.
When I took my Precision Nutrition course so much of it was about habit change. It was not about making meal plans for people, it was about helping them create healthier habits and replace unhealthy habits with better options. They have found that this is the key to success with their clients, not a strict meal plan.
I have read things by several other authors about habit change but one that I particularly like is James Clear. He has very simple, straightforward ideas for habit change. I want to share some from one of his articles today.
Here is what he had to say about how to build a new habit:
1. Start with an incredibly small habit
If we relate this to our running or fitness it could be something so ridiculously easy that you can't say no to it such as "I am going to walk or run in place 5 minutes every day." (Makes me think of the Godfather, "I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse.")
This is so easy that most people cannot say no to it. No, I am not challenging you to be the one that can find a way that you cannot do this! You don't even need shoes on, don't need to change clothes, heck, you don't even have to put your coffee down if you are walking in place! So, make yourself an offer that even you can't refuse!! I think it is good to give yourself a taste of success right away also.
Woo hoo, I did it!!
Research says that willpower is a muscle and the more you use it in the day the more tired it gets. In their book, Peak Performance, Steve Magness and Brad Stuhlberg report that this is why many successful people have "outfits" they wear all the time like Steve Jobs and his black turtleneck and jeans. Many others claimed to do the same thing because it took one decision off their plate for the day. It allowed their willpower to remain stronger because they didn't use some of it up with a decision about dressing.
Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs in their "outfits"
2. Increase your habit in very small ways
In his article, James talks about how 1% changes add up very quickly whether they are inclines (doing the habit) or declines (not doing the habit). Instead of trying to run a marathon as your first race and place in your age group, try running a 5k first, or walking a mile first. By making consistent but small increments in change for the better with your habit, you will help your motivation and willpower improve. This can help make it easier to stick to your habit.
3. As you build up, break your habit into chunks
You want to keep each habit reasonable. If you are increasing 1% every day then that can add up quickly. He suggests breaking it up into more manageable chunks. This is similar to when we break our race down in our heads into more manageable segments. If you want to run a mile without stopping maybe break it up into two half miles first to make it more manageable. If you want to do 30 minutes of activity without stopping in a day then try two 15 minute segments first and build up. This helps you keep your habit consistent.
4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.
James makes the point that everyone gets off track sometimes, but top performers get back on track quickly. Just because you miss one day does not mean you have failed. He repeats what I have said before, "don't expect to fail, but plan for failures." Think through those things that might you get you off track and how to work around them or problem solve them to get back on track quickly. He suggests trying not to miss your habit two times in a row. What if the weather is so bad you can't get out for your run or walk? Well, go to the gym that day, get on the treadmill, do a different workout, walk inside your house. Think through what you will do when you can't get out for your run, then when it happens you will have a plan.
5. Be patient and stick to a plan you can sustain.
He states that learning to be patient is probably the hardest thing of all but that you can make great progress if you are consistent and patient. Being patient is hard for me and really hard for runners. We want results quickly and often think that if we just do more we will get those results. Usually those runners end up as my patients in physical therapy! I tell my clients all the time that consistency is the key! Keep yourself consistent even if you don't always get your full workout or run in. Keeping consistent will help make your habit stick and help you prioritize it in your life. Make small changes to your habit so you can stay consistent. Start easier than you think you need to with your habit so you can sustain it and stick to it.
I suggest reading his full article because he has some nice graphs that give you a little laugh but also give you a visual picture of what he is talking about.
You can access it here:
Have a great day and I hope the Patriots lose!!! Go Jacksonville!!