You can define a habit as:
A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
When I read and try to understand this definition, I can’t help but think of examples that reflect this meaning. One example we can all connect with is wiping our butt. We have a regular practice of wiping our butt because the alternative provides an unfavorable feeling and outcome.
What if we could identify specific actions that could encourage automatic mechanisms that make exercise a habit in much the same way as wiping our butt? Think of the colossal societal benefits if everyone exercised regularly?
Charles Duhigg, in the book THE POWER OF HABIT, provides a clear understanding of what we need to change behavior and create a habit.
There are reflexive loops we must close psychologically to begin the process of building a practice. Mr. Duhigg refers to this loop as a habit loop. It is pretty simple, yet it is not understood and rarely executed purposefully in fitness. The habit loop begins with a CUE, resulting in a ROUTINE or RESPONSE, and then solidified with a REWARD.
There are many mechanisms we deliver within workouts to enhance the movement experience psychologically.
One specific action we integrate into every training session is the best way to make exercise habitual. Let’s go back to the example of wiping our butt. I would argue that regardless of what is happening around you, you’ll generally wipe your butt. This habit is hard to give up because not wiping your butt results in an unfavorable feeling.
What if we connect feeling inadequate or not ideal with not exercising? In essence, you’re saying: if I want to feel better, I exercise. If this is true, all we have to do is identify the elements of the habit loop.
The CUE is feeling bad, the ROUTINE is exercise, and the REWARD is feeling good.
There you have it! The Best Way To Make Exercise Habitual is to finish a workout in a victory pose (corpse pose).
You relax and connect with the euphoria that the training session delivered. Taking a moment to reflect and connect to the feeling of well-being and elation effectively closes the habit loop.
You’re well on your way to consistent exercise when you crave feeling good. When you feel bad, exercise to feel good, it is that simple.