FORMING NEW HABITS: DON’T WAIT. EMBRACE AND TRUST THE JOURNEY
Ever feel like things happen that wake you up from a deep sleep? The past few weeks that Coach Alejandro Canas has been here in Miami, has reminded me of the athlete in me that has been in a hibernation of sorts. Training alongside him has re-sparked that fighter within me and I dare to say-- the fighter in a few others he's met along the way.
How do we channel that inspiration though so that it doesn't wear away, get lost in the day to day shuffle, or get mis-filed under "I'll get back to this when I have more time"?
We channel it by:
FORMING NEW HABITS!
In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally (a health psychology researcher) and her team decided to research how long it actually takes to form a habit. The study examined 96 people for a 12 week period, tracking each person on their chosen new habit. Every day the subjects would report whether or not they followed the new behavior and how automatic the behavior felt.
Their results showed that Instagram is lying to us (shocker!). You may have heard or seen Instagram posts that talk about how it takes 21 days to form a new habit. According to the study previously mentioned, “On average it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic”.
What does this research tell us?
Well…it is quite simple really. It says:
1) Don’t wait to start,
2) Embrace failure, and
3) Stay patient while trusting the journey.
Forming new habits that will make us better athletes and more importantly better people, should not be left to a calendar date or a time of year. ‘Today’, the present moment, should be the most appropriate time to begin making these important changes. The here and now is the only time we have to act and effect change, because we can’t change the past and thinking about the future won’t change its outcome either. And speaking of waiting...don't wait to get injured before to form new habits related to strength training. Don't wait to get "heavy" or "weak" to form new habits related to nutrition. And most definitely don't wait until you feel like "giving up" to make adjustments that your training and lifestyle needs.
When trying to form a new habit, it is to be expected that we will forget, we will revert to an old habit (thanks to our lizard brain), or that we will have ‘off’ days, AND it is ok. We should not get down on ourselves--as I write this, I know that it is easier said than done. An interesting note that researchers made during the study mentioned above was that:
“…missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process”. In other words, messing up every now and again did not have an adverse impact on the end results of the study. The conclusion being that building better habits is not an all or nothing process. HOW GREAT IS THAT TO HEAR?
Stay Patient & Trust the Journey
Change takes time. Unfortunately we live in a society where time is money and everything is perceived as instant. We want results right away. IE: I went to the gym last week and I looked to see if I was already toned this week, #truestory. That said, just because we live in the fast lane doesn’t mean that the results we want to see will take place in the timely manner we would like. Our sport reminds us that sometimes we need to hurt in order to grow; that we must lose in order to gain and that, sometimes, certain lessons are learned only through pain.
Working on your running form, being more consciously grateful for our blessings, stretching before or after workouts, taking time to center yourself by meditating 5 minutes a day are just a few examples of habits that we can incorporate into our daily lives.
And if you ask Coach Canas, he would add that there are a few more to include PLANNING & REST.
1) MAKE A PLAN. When you fail to plan, you inevitably plan to fail...so, organize a training plan to help you prepare for a SPECIFIC goal. This plan can keep you accountable--helping you track those habits you want to improve on.
2) REST. Rest when your body needs it. Sleep is one of the the most undervalued and overlooked aspects of training that affects all aspects of your life, NOT just your performance as an athlete.
We have to be aware that embarking on the journey towards making changes is half the battle. Stay patient & trust the journey. Whether it takes you two months or eight months to implement a new habit in your life to enable you to enjoy a better quality of life, do it! Stick with it because a river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but due to its persistence.
Happy habit forming journey!
Original Article was published in RunSouthFloridaMagazine's November 2015 Issue
Updated Version Posted 7/19/2021