“On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact.” 1
As we get the ball rolling into March and with 2018 in full gear, how are those “New Year’s Resolutions” coming along? Or the better question might be, how many have managed to survive up to this point?
When it comes to establishing new habits, especially with health and exercise, we know this is historically difficult. Anyone can head over to their local gym and notice how the member traffic over the first few months of the year changes. For the most part it goes from feeling like you’re in a packed nightclub on a weekend in January to being in a quiet library by the time March and April comes around.
The reasons are many as to what exactly prevents us from sticking to new habits, but the one I will try to address today is the idea of having the right cues in place. A “cue” can be defined as anything that reminds or triggers us to perform a desired behavior or habit. Cues are an area of habit formation where we can turn the tables in our favor. In other words, we can start the journey of habit change by walking downhill versus making it an uphill battle from the get-go.
So you want to start a morning gym routine? Great! Now which of the following 2 scenarios sounds more likely to succeed in building an exercise habit:
Scenario 1: You wake up an hour earlier, dig through your closet to find some gym clothes to pack, stumble into the kitchen to grab a water bottle only to realize you can’t go workout without something to eat. So you start going through your fridge and cupboards looking for any quick bite to fuel you for this workout…half an hour later, you convince yourself it’s too late to make it to the gym before work…you’ll try again tomorrow.
Scenario 2: You wake up an hour earlier, walk into the kitchen and grab your already-made overnight oats from the fridge. After devouring that, you walk out the house while grabbing your already-packed gym bag that’s waiting for you by the door.
Now I don’t know about you, but waking up to Scenario 2 sounds much more appealing to me! Having your quick breakfast and your gym bag ready and waiting for you are 2 cues that it’s time for exercise. Over time, seeing those cues over and over again will solidify the habit and make it automatic. The underlying key to this is in the preparation of ensuring the cues are set up and ready. That’s the power that cues can have on helping you stick to your resolutions until they become habits.
If you don't know where to start, I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and I would be more than happy to help build a personalized, realistic and achievable program to help you accomplish your health and wellness goals! At the end of the day I am here to help Build A Better You!
To learn more please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Written by Jason Chung, MSc(PT), CSCS, USAW-L1SP