We’ve all been there before. It’s 6 a.m., the birds are chirping and inside, your alarm is buzzing incessantly for you to get up and head out for a morning workout. But, instead of jolting out of bed to throw your running shoes on, you lay there, groan, lay there some more, until you fall asleep again and wake up at a much later time, the window to workout now closed. And the night because, let’s be real, if you were unable to workout in the morning, what makes you think you’ll have the motivation to hit the pavement after a stressful day at work?
I’m sure it does as for me personally, I’ve been there before, morning after morning. My fitness wasn’t seeing any improvements and matter-of-fact, neither was my sleep as it was so broken up from me constantly waking up to turn off the 10 alarms I had set, each at 5-minute intervals (another trick I hoped would help, but didn’t). Luckily for me, I have always been fascinated with other people’s fitness and health routines. I wanted to know what sort of magical powers those early birds’ had that enabled them to go for a run while the rest of the world was still in bed, sleeping soundly. So, I looked into several people’s routines and discovered that it was more about self-discipline and less about motivation. But how do you cultivate self-discipline? For so long, I believed that it was sheer motivation that got these people up in the morning. But, I soon learned their secret, and it was all contained in the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In it, he talks all about how we form habits so that our routines can become automatic and powerfully influence our lives.
He believes that the main principles of forming a habit are via a brain loop called the cue, routine and reward. A cue is a reminder of the habit, AKA a trigger. The routine is the actual action of the habit and the reward is the gratifying feeling you will experience after performing the said habit.
So, if we broke this down into forming a fitness routine of running 3 times a week in the morning, here’s how it would look:
Having my running shoes by my bed and my fitness clothes already all laid out for me in the morning. Seeing them, I know I am to wake up, get dressed and go for my run. All the while, to motivate myself, I will think of the reward, which is the endorphins I will experience and the overall step closer to my goal of losing weight and feeling good.
This is me actually making it outside to go run. I will try to be mindful during the experience, such as noticing the weight of my feet hitting the ground and the sound of my breath or birds chirping.
I feel great, but I also may reward myself with a yummy smoothie or a healthy, balanced breakfast to continue starting my day off right.
With these habit loops in mind, all I have to do is keep following the pattern, day after day, until the habit becomes automatic. So long are the days where I struggle to even sit up in bed, much less get laced up and hit the pavement. After a while, the routine simply becomes automatic, to the point where the mere sight of my sneakers will have me craving being outside, going for a run. Try it out and see for yourself. Just remember: stick with it. It happens slowly and with perseverance and self-discipline until suddenly, poof, like magic, you’re already outside for your workout without even really thinking of it.