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.
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?
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.)
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.