Everyone knows about habits, good and bad. We always hear about breaking habits and forming new ones that include exercise. But actually changing and creating habits can be very challenging and frustrating, but there is hope. We see the posters, we hear the stories, and we know the people who have done it.
First let’s quickly review some of the ways that people perform routines and habits:
- Our brain always tries to “chunk” patterns of repeated behaviour; this allows the brain to conserve effort. Think of the first time you reversed your car and the mental effort required compared to an experienced driver reversing a car.
- Basically there are three stages to how the brain “chunks”; Cue, Routine and Reward. The more the brain performs this loop, the more automatic it becomes and the more difficult to change. The rewards can be noticeable (a cookie’s sugar rush) to extremely subtle (satisfaction from successfully reversing the car).
- It is very difficult for people to completely change these “chunked” behaviour patterns; that’s why people often start a new exercise routine, but eventually fall off. Our brain wants to do what we have always done. Once a chunk is created, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. That’s why we eat that cookie; miss a workout even when we know we shouldn’t.
Research has shown that the easiest way to change / create a new habit is to focus on the cue and reward stages. If you don’t create both cues and rewards, old habits will generally win.
What we suggest is to create your own cue and reward process. Some tactics that have worked for members include:
- Put your running shoes by your bed or desk
- Change into your exercise gear when you first wake up during the weekend
- Put your MP3 on your arm when you are thinking about the gym
- Put your gym bag on your desk / nightstand or at the door
- Write down your success; track your mile, classes attended. Use the GoodLife workout tracker to potentially win $$ while rewarding yourself for working out
- A healthy snack food after each workout
- Text one of your supporters each time you finish a Group EXercise class
- Give a GoodLife CSR a high five when you finish a workout
- Treat yourself to a massage chair after each workout
Take a moment and create a cue and reward plan for yourself. If it doesn’t work as well as you want, create another one. Don’t stop trying. We all know that it is important to get to the GoodLife, now just cue and reward yourself so you will.
A graduate of UWO and an instructor in the Continuing Education Marketing program, Jason has a full time role in the marketing department at GoodLife. When he is not working he can be found playing basketball, trying new fitness activities at GoodLife and looking for someone to laugh at his jokes. Jason wants to enjoy life, have fun and be fit; while that is a tall order for him, he is confident that it can all be achieved.