The Power of Routine

Let me tell you a little secret. I am often not motivated to go out for a run. Or to do my 30-minute strength workout after dinner. I even often feel some reluctance toinitiate a yoga session.

Nine out of ten times, my mood changes after a few kilometers or yoga poses (I never really enjoy strength training while I am doing it). And if it doesn’t, at least I feel good once I have completed my workout.

Power of Routine

I know most people are like this. Whether it is running, learning a new skill or eating healthfully, we often begin a new habit full of enthusiasm, only to lose interest after a few days or weeks.

This is where one powerful tool can make the difference between throwing in the towel and continuing whatever it is you started. Forget about motivation, fancy gadgets or an expensive personal trainer. All you need is a little routine.

Take the 30-minute strength workouts I started doing after having my baby. I feel zero motivation to do them and most of the time I think I am too tired to work out. Yet, I managed to create a routine of doing them several times a week after dinner, making the question whether I feel motivated or not irrelevant. I just do them.

I once read about a runner who said that for him, running was like brushing his teeth. He went out for a run every single day, irrespective of how the weather was or if he was in the mood for running.

Most of us brush our teeth at least twice a day, whether we like it or not and whether we feel motivated to do so or not. Do you ever question yourself if you are in the mood to brush your teeth on a particular day? Or is it just another thing that needs to be done, much like getting dressed or taking a shower?

Saturdays are for stroller runs to the vegetable shop and back, often taking a D-tour to get there and logging about 10 to 13 km.

Saturdays are for stroller runs to the vegetable shop and back, often taking a D-tour to get there and logging about 10 to 13 km.

Once you are able to turn your daily run, workout or other new habit into a routine – by doing it every day for a month, or by assigning a certain moment of the day to it – you are halfway on the way to success.

My 30-minute after-dinner workouts became a routine this way, and so did most of my weekly runs. For a while, I used to go running with the local running club on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Tuesdays were for interval workouts during the winter months. They stopped recently, but I decided to stick to interval trainings on that day. The routine was already there, so why change it and risk not doing it? No need to waste energy deciding whether to go or when – Tuesdays at 5 p.m. I lace up my shoes for my weekly killer workout.

(Needless to say, much like rules, routines are meant to be broken every now and then, and the art is to balance between routine and flexibility.)

Postpartum Back in Shape-1

The only run that has not become a routine yet is my long slow distance (LSD) run. I aim to do it on Sundays but have yet to find what time works best, and week after week I spend most of my energy and time asking myself when to go out for this run. More often than I like to admit, I end up not doing it at all.

Moral of the story? Next time you set yourself to start a new habit, allocate a time, moment or day to it. For instance, do your push ups right before taking a shower, go for a run every other day at 5 p.m., or get into a daily routine of preparing yourself a nutritious breakfast. Once you have completed 30 days of sticking to your new habit, you have created a routine and are much more likely to keep it up.

10 thoughts on “The Power of Routine

  1. Tessa says:

    Hi Selma,
    Great way to look at it. Routine. But I have to admit I am one of those persons who can think and moan to much about brushing my teeth. Lost energy, I know, because I always brush them anyways. This approach of ‘don’t wander, just do’ might be good for me.
    Oh and I like the new lay out of your blog.

    • Selma says:

      Thanks for your comment! I think a great way to commit yourself to something is to take small steps. Like if you’re dreading going out for a run, then tell yourself you only have to go for 10 minutes. Once those 10 minutes have passed it’s up to you to return home or go another 10 minutes. The first step is often the most difficult.
      And I guess to a certain extent everyone wastes energy discussing with oneself whether to do something or not. Take the healthy option or the not so healthy one. The more often you choose the sensible one the more willpower you develop, I believe.
      Btw, glad you like the layout. 🙂

  2. Oksana says:

    Hi Selma!
    You’re totally right, but Maria must be just perfect if she allows you to follow the routine 🙂
    I have a whole list of new habits to have, some will take just 5 or 10 minutes of a time, but whenever I decide to do it – my two energizers have other plans and jump on me till midnight, so making something ‘after dinner’ becomes impossible.
    How do you manage this?

    • Selma says:

      Hi Oksana, Maria is far from perfect when it comes to routines, and maybe Ahmed is partly right – maybe he is perfect by allowing me to follow most of my running habits. The only routine that works really well with Maria is that we put her to bed after dinner, around 7:30h. We give her a massage, sing to her, read a book and put her to sleep. That gives me the time to do my little workouts in the evening. But during the day her naps range from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and lately she has been a bad day-napper! It must be even more challenging with two little ones! Good luck.

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