When you make your list of spring cleaning projects this year, I’m guessing it will include tasks such as organizing closets and throwing out the boxes gathering dust in your garage. I want to encourage you to spring clean something else this year as well: your health and fitness habits.
We all have areas for improvement when it comes to our health and fitness patterns. A lot of people think eliminating bad habits is simply a matter of willpower. The truth is a bit more complicated. I recently read an excellent book on the subject called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It shines a light on why habits form and suggests strategies for replacing suboptimal habits with better ones.
One concept Duhigg calls “the habit loop.” A habit isn’t simply composed of the behavior itself. Instead, there are three parts to every habit you develop.
The first are the emotions or cues that trigger the habit. A cue is followed by a routine, which is the habit itself. Finally, the reward is the feeling that the habit produces in you.
Understanding this loop allows us to understand why we have certain habits. If you don’t identify what’s causing you to perform a routine, that routine becomes a lot harder to alter. Similarly, if you acknowledge the reward the routine provides, you’ll be able to seek that reward through better means.
I want to illustrate this concept with a habit I suggest that many of clients adopt: drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning.
For many people, the first thing they do in the morning is brew a pot of coffee. The cue is waking up, the routine is making coffee, and the reward is drinking that warm cup of coffee.
Alter the routine by drinking a glass of water. Every time you set up the pot to brew, use that as a cue to drink your water. It might require conscious effort for the first few weeks, but it soon will become natural.
Whatever the bad habit you want to replace, you’ll find that reviewing its habit loop will make the process a lot easier. Try one habit at a time; when a bad habit has been totally replaced with a better one, move to the next on your list. Just like those boxes in the garage, you need to take it one step at a time.
Sprucing up your house provides comfort and organization. The impact of enhancing your habits, though, can be even more beneficial. This spring, ask yourself which habits you don’t like. From there, don’t think about how you can eliminate them. Think about how you can replace them with better ones. Before you know it, you’ll be performing a new routine with better rewards than you ever imagined.
Jeff Tomaszewski owns MaxStrength Fitness. For a free initial consultation, a demo workout and two free sessions, call his studio in Willoughby (440-226-8080) or Westlake (440-835-9090).