We all want to be healthy, live happier and more fulfilled lives, but it’s our habits that will define whether or not we achieve these goals. Habits, rather than conscious decision-making, can shape as many as 45 percent of the choices we make every day.
Will Durant defines it perfectly in his book The Story of Philosophy when he says: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
With the summer well on its way, many of us get the urge to head out, exercise, and of course, get in shape.
This initial motivation can lead us to get out for a couple of runs and buy some new gear. For many though, purchasing a new pair of running shoes doesn’t ever lead to a positive habit or change of routine, and after a while good intentions can easily fall to the wayside.
So, how can we make running a habit? Let’s take a look.
7 most desired habits
The 7 most desired habits are: Exercise more, read, floss, be asleep by midnight, eat breakfast each day, save more money, and eat more fruit and vegetables. What’s your most desired habit? Let us know in the comments!
Hacking habits for a better you
Whether you’re already an active runner or just looking to start running, a huge part of is the initial motivation for most is that we want to become healthier and we have a set of goals that we want to achieve (maybe a set time or distance).
To achieve these goals, we need to make running a part of our habits, and unfortunately, creating a new habit isn’t as simple as popping out to the local store and buying a some new running gear or setting a new goal.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) discovered a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit. This loop consists of cue, routine, and reward. As Charles Duhigg states in The Power of Habit:
“First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.”
Here’s a cue, routine, reward breakdown for running in the morning…
- Leave your running equipment out the night before (Cue): As soon as you wake up you will see your running equipment and your mind will focus on going for a run
- Going for a run (Routine): This is the behavior. When you see your running equipment, you go out for a run
- Feeling good (Reward): The reward is the benefit gained from doing the behavior. After a run you feel pleased with yourself and will feel good throughout the day
If the reward from your routine is positive, you’ll want to repeat it the next time to cue happens. With this example, you may not go for a run every day (rest days are important), but you’ll know that each time you see your running equipment in the morning and go out for a run, the experience will be rewarding.
Setting the right cue
Selecting a good cue is the first step to making changes. Your cue shouldn’t be something that you have to remember or need a reminder to do.
A good way to come up with a cue is to think of activities you do on a daily basis and use those as the trigger for your new behaviors. For example: “After I shower in the evening, I put out my running gear”.
It might take more than 21 days
One of the big myths around habit formation is that if you do something for 21 days it will become a habit. Research shows this to be untrue. How long it takes to form a habit depends on the individual, the habit being formed and a number of environmental factors.
Set the bar low
Getting in the habit of running is one thing, but making sure you set yourself realistic goals is also key to making your habit stick. Maybe you want to run a half marathon, lose some weight or you’d like to be able to run further. Whatever you want to achieve, you need to get the balance between dreaming big and your daily activities correct. A study on motivation found that ‘dreaming big’ and aiming for high goals can be an effective way to stay motivated. However, many of us can also find it daunting to chase a lofty goal and if something doesn’t feel achievable we can lose interest and fail to achieve it.
That’s why we should set micro goals to help us achieve our overall goals. Let’s say you want to lose some weight:
- Your overall goal might be to lose 10 pounds and you could achieve this by running 20k per week for a month
- Your micro goal could be get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning and go for a short run (gradually building up to your desired 20k per week)
By making the changes smaller and gradually build up to your overall goal, you can continue to reward yourself and feel good about your achievements each day. Instead of looking at your 20k per week goal and being a long way off it, you will look at small improvements you’ve made and feel better for your efforts.
As another example, take Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg, and his experience with starting his flossing habit:
“For me, cracking the code on flossing was to put the floss right by the toothbrush, and to commit to myself that I would floss one tooth — only one tooth — every time after I brushed. I could floss them all if i wanted to, but the commitment was just one tooth. [This works] because I was training the behavior. Maybe once every few weeks, I’d only actually floss one tooth, but a majority of the time I’d end up flossing them all.”
The next steps
Habits don’t form overnight and it may take some time before running becomes a part of your routine. However, if you stick at it the rewards can be amazing.
It may take some time to experiment and find the right cues for you to make running a habit. It may also take some time for you to find the right micro goals as you achieve your overall goal. It’s all a process of self-discovery, and even when experimenting, you’ll learn new things about what motivates you, how your body works and how to improve your wellbeing.
The good news? We’re here to help. If you have any questions about starting a new habit, feel free to leave a comment below or send us a tweet at @Adappio.
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