You were really excited…
…in the beginning!
You had signed up for a 6k run in your neighbourhood. You had also joined the local running club.
You were really motivated, weren’t you?
Your willpower was on a sprint and you were geared up to bolt towards the finishing line.
You went for a vacation or a work trip for a week.
What happened when you got back?
Do you still have that initial momentum?
Do you feel like giving up, because starting over is such a pain?
Is it tough to find time?
Sticking to a new habit isn’t easy.
I know! I had tried to make running a habit for ages and failed miserably.
Eventually I got tired of failing.
That’s when I began to read about the science of habit formation. I tried to find smart and simple ways to make habits stick.
Today I can lace up my shoes and go for a regular jog every 4-5 days a week and with ease.
Check out these 5 surprisingly easy tricks that have helped me make running a habit:
1. Create a trigger
According to Charles Duhigg, the bestselling author of “The Power of Habit”, Triggers act as conscious or subconscious reminders to perform a behaviour.
Triggers could be visual reminders. Try keeping your running gear and shoes next to your bed so you see them first thing in the morning.
Triggers can also be action based. I run in the evenings and my trigger is “right after I drink my evening coffee, I will go running”.
2. Be specific
During the first 4-6 weeks of picking up running as a habit specify a time of day (or night), the exact trail you will go for the run, duration of the run and at what time will you leave for the run.
The more specific you can make the action, the easier it is to implement it everyday.
You can use this statement: “I will go running every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at my neighbourhood park in the evening at XX pm (write the time here) for 30 minutes”.
3. Start small
Habit coach Rob Norback strongly advocates the half-and-half rule. If you want to run for 20 minutes every day, cut it into half (10 minutes) then half it again (5 minutes). That’s where you should start.
Doesn’t that sound a lot more achievable?
Even if you can run for 10-15 minutes, stick to a 5 minute routine until it becomes second nature. Only once it’s become a habit should you start running for longer periods.
How does this help?
- You complete your goal in 5 minutes and that brings a sense of accomplishment which is essential to building habits.
- You overcome any procrastination or hurdles (you woke up late, have to rush to office, send the kids to school) that you may face, since you have to invest only 5 minutes.
4. Forgive yourself
If you miss a day (which you inevitably will) do NOT berate yourself.
Missing a day is no big deal. But assuming defeat because you missed 1 day or 2 days in a row (or a whole week while vacationing), is a huge mistake.
Negative thinking will make you give up. If you think you have failed or you are lazy or you are not good at running, it will stop you from taking further action.
Instead of throwing in the towel, try this: forgive yourself quickly and recommit to your running habit!
5. Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep matters! If you are not getting at least 6.5 hours of shut eye every night you will be tired, with little energy to focus on habit changes.
You might make it to the park when your enthusiasm and motivation for running is high, but the moment things get even slightly difficult, you’ll skip the habit because as a sleep-deprived person you wouldn’t have the willpower to push yourself through a little discomfort.
Why 6.5 and not 7 hours?
Because, Tony Schwartz, Energy Coach, recommends that half an hour of exercise can actually compensate for half an hour of sleep and give you more energy in the bargain!
What habit do you want to pick up?
Work out at home, follow a diet, wake up early, learn music, maybe a language, study for a certification?
These principles work for any kind of habit formation. Try it!
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