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  • Writer's pictureCharmaine Sheen

The Power of Habit in exercise

It takes 21-days to make a habit, or even 6-weeks depending on the literature and the research you follow. Not the point. The point is that changing our behaviour is complex. So is breaking old habits and creating new ones.

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Our habits are the little decisions we make, the actions we perform over and over again. According to research, these habits account for a staggering 40% of our daily behaviours. As James Clear explains, we are simply the sum of our habits; what we repeatedly do shapes the person we are and the things we believe.

In other words, our feelings, thoughts and BEHAVIOURS associated with being active and exercising are a result of our habits. Are you feeling in or out of shape? Evaluate your habits.

Those who exercise are healthier, more energetic, more productive, and have more willpower (who doesn't want more willpower?) The key to getting active, to finding 30 minutes every day to thrive, requires us to build some new habits.

1. Start small

Start with something so small, simple and easy that you will not fail no matter what you do. For some, this means genuinely just getting dressed for gym in the mornings! I'm a fan of starting with just 5 minutes of exercise. It is easier to convince yourself to do something for 5 minutes than to do something for 30 minutes. By thinking small and not failing, success will inspire you to build on this new habit, making momentum over time.

2. Set the right kind of goals

Setting the right kind of goals flows from starting small. Running a 5km trail marathon is a goal, as is committing to 5 minutes of exercise every day. However, for many, only one of these is sustainable.

You know your goals have to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based). Setting the right kind of goals focuses on behaviours that are attainable and manageable. Super stretched goals, especially when it comes to complex behaviour changes, can leave us feeling disheartened if (when) not achieved. Micro goals, which become increasingly challenging over time, are the key to a happy, healthy and confident version of you.

3. Focus on the habit, not the results

We need goals because we need a sense of direction and purpose and a point of reference to measure progress. However, I'm going to ask that you focus more on the system than the goal. When exchanging stubborn habits for new healthy habits, what matters most is establishing a new routine that can (and will) stick. Seriously, you won't be seeing any results in the long term if the new regime doesn't stick. Once it is ingrained and you have become the kind of person who never misses a workout – then, and only then, can you concentrate on goals to improve and challenge your exercise regime.

Exercise not only changes your body, but it also changes your mind, attitude and mood. Instead of feeling overwhelmed at getting fit and active, rather focus on a series of small habits (one at a time) aligned to some over-arching micro goals and make yourself a priority. Focus on the process and not on the results, and allow yourself to #Thrive this year.

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