Getting into a routine is one of the best things you can do to improve your fitness.
Whether you’re following a specific 500 calorie diet or not, sticking to a plan will allow you to build a habit over time. And once you’ve built a habit it becomes automatic.
This is where you get into the realms of life long changes. Living a healthy lifestyle no longer becomes something that you aspire to, or even that you really think about. It just happens by default.
My experience with health tracking….
I used to track my weight every day. This was incredibly useful when I had a specific weight loss goal in mind that I was striving towards. However, over time the information I’ve gained has become less and less useful.
So long as my weight doesn’t tick over a certain amount, I have no need to worry. I know that my weight will gradually fall over the course of a normal working week, and will spike at the weekend. I know this because I’ve been tracking it for years.
In contrast, I’ve just started tracking my resting heart rate. I’ve only been looking at it for a little while, so I’m learning. I’m learning what types of things impact my resting heart rate, how if fluctuates over a week, and what I can do to impact it.
This is what I’ve learnt so far. When I go out and have a few beers, my resting heart rate goes up. When I exercise hard for a few days in a row it falls.
This isn’t new science I’m sure, I’m just pointing out what I’m seeing in my personal experience.
Sometimes it helps to hear real world examples, rather than science reports.
The advice varies on how long it takes to build a habit, some people day three weeks, some say six. Personally I like to work to the 30 day challenge as outlined in Stephen Covey’s excellent book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.
Essentially, pick something that you think would make a difference to your life if you did it on a more regular basis, ideally daily. Start with something small, don’t try to boil the ocean.
Then, make sure you do this one thing for 30 days in a row. Keep a track of it. Make a note in your calendar, or put a reminder on your phone to make sure that you don’t forget.
If you keep track and you start to build up a run of a few days in a row it feels really good. You’ll feel like you’re making real progress. And this also makes you less likely to quit.
If you’ve made it to two weeks in, you’ve got 14 nice big green ticks on your chart, you won’t want to break the run. It’ll give you that extra piece of pressure that’ll keep you motivated through moments of doubt.
It’s important to start small. If you can’t do you 30 days, don’t pretend that you will. Maybe start with 15, or even five if that’ll all you think you can do. If you don’t stick to it, this generates feelings of failure, which are very demotivating, and make it harder to get back into it.
Don’t be put off by failure
One thing to keep in mind is that nothing is perfect. Don’t worry about achieving perfection. It is often an unattainable goal and you’ll disappoint yourself when you don’t meet it. So be realistic.
If your 5 day goal is to run for ten minutes each day and one day you only run for 9 minutes and 30 seconds, don’t beat yourself up about it. This is OK, you still ran.
It doesn’t mean that you need to drop everything and start again.
Obviously, this only works within reason, if you’re target is 10 minutes, 2 minutes is not OK. But the beauty is that ultimately you decide what is OK.
Once you start to understand what you are capable of your standards will improve. You’ll start to notice that 9 minutes is easy, and then you can make a commitment to step it up.
You’ll notice when your performance slips, and you can check yourself and do something about it.
If you do slip. If you break routine. This is not the end of the world. Ignore the negative feelings, readjust your goals and start again.
Be patient and enjoy the ride…
Excellence is a journey. Be patient about seeing results, don’t expect miracles overnight. Say to yourself, “I’m going to do this for 30 days, whatever happens.” If you don’t see results immediately, it doesn’t matter, you said you’d do it for 30 days.
So start today, build a routine and track your progress.
Stick it out and you might be surprised at the differences you start to see in 30 days’ time.