The genesis of FitAfter45.ca was the desire to exchange ideas and share knowledge that allows athletes over 45 to maximize the effectiveness of their workouts regardless of their current athletic level. I think we have shared a lot of good information but after speaking with a friend and FitAfter45 follower, I think I may have put the cart before the horse for many of our readers.
Having all the knowledge in the world won’t be impactful if you are unable to create the necessary motivation to get up and exercise. There is an army of people over 45 who want to work out, eat healthier and live a better lifestyle, but they’re unable to get things going. They just can’t seem to get on the right track, and something is always getting in the way.
This point really hit home when Carolyn Van Luit Lomas, a friend and FitAfter45 reader wrote:
“I read your posts and am inspired by them. Yet I still sit on my behind and do nothing in terms of fitness. In reality, I don’t even own a pair of running shoes. I lost mine including a number of shoes in a sewer back-up last year. I guess you can chalk it down to me procrastinating… I have been very busy. I am starting a brand new job next week and with that I have promised to buy new running shoes… today in fact. This is coming from a former elite gymnast back in the 80’s. I never really did too much after I had kids.”
Carolyn’s comment got me thinking about a book I read about a year ago by Harvard graduate and bestselling author Charles Duhigg entitled The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. The gist of Charles’ book is that behind every habit there is a habit loop consisting of three main components:
The Cue: Trigger that tells your brain which habit to perform in order to attain a reward.
The Routine: Physical or emotional action you take to obtain the reward.
The Reward: Satisfaction you seek upon performing the routine
I have been working out since I was 12 so the habit is already fully ingrained, but I used Charles principles to break many other bad habits and develop positive habits such as becoming an early riser, something I’ve always struggled with. I even shared Charles’ book with my son Beau, who is a gifted athlete but wanted to start working out to pack a little muscle on his 16 year old frame. In fact Beau even helped me with the writing of this article since it is a book that we both found very impactful.
So how can you use Charles principles to get your Fitness goals on track? What better example than the one he gave in the appendix of his book and this video.
In his example Charles describes a bad habit of his own, eating cookies. In his daily habit he would get up from his desk and go upstairs to the cafeteria then buy, and eat a cookie. It’s a habit that he was not happy about and one that he very much wanted to eliminate from his life. In this case he moved towards a cure by examining the reward he got from it. He considered 3 options, the food/sugar intake, the socialization aspect and the escape from his desk/office. He tried a version of each possible reward that didn’t involve the cookie and was able to find out that the socializing moments he got out of going upstairs to get the cookie was the reward. He then found a way to get that same reward without the cookie. Subsequently, Charles managed to lose 12 pounds.
Duhigg, provides an excellent flowchart on how to Create a New Habit on his website:
Small changes like putting your gym clothes next to your bed, can trigger your brain to take the necessary action.
The bottom line knowing the benefits of working out and how to effectively exercise is often not enough.
World Famous Motivational Speak Zig Ziglar sums it up much better than I ever could “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Greatness is a relative term and so is Fitness, but it all starts with action and utilizing Duhigg’s principals will increase the likelihood that you will take the action.