The Pursuit of a Workout Routine: Creating a Habit
If you want to make exercise a habit, pick an activity you actively enjoy! If you do something you love, the joy you derive from it will help you to maintain the commitment to it. Many studies explore the science behind behavioral formation, and they focus on the psychological pattern called the “habit loop.” Any routine is made up of this three-part loop: a cue, a behavior and a reward. The cue, or the "trigger," is what initiates a particular behavior, the routine is the actual activity itself and the reward is the stimulation/enjoyment the brain likes in order for it to remember the habit loop in the future. Within this particular structure of habit formation, the reward is key to maintaining a habit, as the reward ensures that the habit loop is remembered. If an individual enjoys an activity, then the pleasure he/she derives from it can function as the reward part of the equation that is needed to form a habit. So choose an activity you enjoy, do it, and the fun you derive from it will keep you going!
Our Two Cents Worth!!
START SMALL! If you haven't exercised in years and want to get in shape, start slowly. So if you like or used to like running, please do not go out and run five miles "cold turkey!" If you like swimming, don't spend an hour in the pool the first time you dive in again! And give yourself permission to "rest" during any group class you start. If you start small and work up to your desired exercise goal, you're more likely NOT to get discouraged and quit for good. Do you remember the movie “What About Bob?” (1991)? Bill Murray’s character, Bob, fully embraced the concept of “baby steps” to change his unwanted behaviors and instill new ones…and it worked! Of course this was all done in the spirit of comedy, but in reality, we find it to be very true. Small, incremental changes do work, and they serve to keep you motivated as opposed to discouraged. So, take your cue or trigger to start a new exercise routine, but please DON’T plan for or expect a grand overhaul. Rather, introduce new routines and behaviors a little bit at a time. A new routine of fifteen minutes a day will do more for you than an attempt at 60 minutes a day that turns into a once a week, 60 minute-a-day workout! Workouts that overdo it and render you too sore, too tired or too frustrated to workout for the next three or four days are not good ways to start. Don’t be afraid to ease into a habit so that it is not a shock or an impossible addition to your LIFE routine.
Most important: don’t forget the REWARD! The “Pleasure principle” trumps what we all call "will power" EVERY TIME. Please reference the Psychology Today article below for more proof of this! You simply MUST find something above and beyond the exercise itself to motivate you to stick to your routines and not just give up. As we mentioned in the last blog, movement is meant to be JOYOUS! It is meant to make you feel GOOD! It is meant to make you feel ALIVE! But if that alone doesn’t yet do it for you, here are some ideas:
1) Plan to give yourself a “reward” for every time you complete, let’s say…. 10 minutes of exercise…. This can be a point system, a star system, or anything you want it to be (but try not to make it a "food" reward!). Then, decide what you will REWARD yourself with once you hit a certain number of points, stars, etc… NOTE: No cheating and, more importantly, no skipping the reward!
2) Try to start with something you enjoy -- Then it can be something that you look forward to, as opposed to something you dread. If there is one part of a workout that you like more than the other, save that part for last so that you end on a high note!
3) Add in activities or workouts that you’ll actually DO – You may NEVER love cardiovascular exercise, but you know you NEED to do it! So the trick is finding the type of cardio that you actually will do! Don’t get discouraged, and keep looking until you find something that you like.
And finally! Remember that doing SOMETHING is better than nothing! Don't have time for 45 minutes? DO 15!
15 minute workout! Strong, Svelte and Savvy: Legs and Butt!
We’re continually offering a two-week free trial at UltimatePilatesWorkouts.com. You can stream videos from 10 minutes in length to 55 minutes in length! Read more about it here!
Here are the articles used in the research of this blog:
Aeon Magazine: http://www.aeonmagazine.com/being-human/mark-rowlands-play-childhood/
Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201112/the-neuroscience-perseverance
NPR Books: http://www.npr.org/2012/03/05/147192599/habits-how-they-form-and-how-to-break-them