Over the past couple of weeks we have talked about getting the most from sunny holidays and dealing with the winter doldrums. Both posts are very topical for this time of year, but this week let’s start looking ahead to any physical activities or fitness goals you’re aiming for. If you have decided to challenge yourself to a 10k run or tackle a munro in the coming months, then here are a few things that will help you get a head start on reaching your summer fitness goals.
Bad habits holding you back?
Preparing for a race or cycling trip isn’t just about doing a bit of training in advance. You also need to take a look at the big picture and see what habits or lifestyle choices could stand in the way of your success. Training is a given but bad habits like a poor diet or lack of sleep can impede your progress. You can have a great workout session, but you won’t see the full payoff for your hard work if you follow it up with a pack of crisps for a lunch on the run.
Focus on one thing at a time
If you do have a few bad habits to break, then your initial summer goal can quickly become an overwhelming list of things to work on. Instead of tackling all those changes at once, and quickly failing at them all, try focusing on one thing at a time. Make a plan for how you’re going to build up to the end result by tackling one small goal at a time. You might start by drinking two extra glasses of water each day. Then next week, you can swap a few sandwiches with salads, or add in some 15 minute workouts into your mornings. Check back on your plan often to keep yourself on track and also to see your progress building. It might feel like you’re moving at a tortoise-pace to the finish line, but that’s why we’re starting now. And the tortoise is a lot more likely to cross the finish line than that hare who likes to brag on Facebook about their wild fitness fads or abrupt, but doomed, lifestyle changes.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes a behavioural process that MIT researchers began working with in the 1990s called “The Habit Loop”. The cyclical process has three touch points that shape our behavior: cue, routine, and reward. The cue is what triggers your routine action, like how the theme song to your favourite TV show prompts you to grab an evening snack and settle into the couch every week. The reward is that little bit of enjoyment that tells your brain that the routine is a good thing to remember. So, if you’re trying to reshape your habits, then make sure your brain understands that this new routine is a good thing. Make an effort to be aware of your cues and to close your Habit Loop with a reward that you enjoy. An alarm goes off on Saturday morning to remind you to go for a run and then you come home and devour a bowl of deliciously sweet strawberries. Repeat that enough times and it becomes a habit instead of something that you have to force yourself to do.
With the right approach, a better awareness of yourself, and a good balance of goals and rewards, that dream you’re toying with for this summer might be well within your reach. And won’t that hare on Facebook be envious!
Love and blessings,