One of the most common conversations I have with my personal training clients is about when working out will ever become a habit.
Pinterest and Instagram have their opinions, right? 21 days, 66 days, 100 days, just 7 days….
Secret: working out might never become a habit, and that’s perfectly fine.
We’re all wired differently.
However, I think you might relate: even though you know you s-forminghould brush your teeth, some days you just don’t feel like it. And maybe you even sneak into bed or rush out the door for the day without even a quick toothbrush swipe.
You know you should go to work because you like to have food/roof/plane tickets/whatever you use money for, but some days you just don’t feel like it. You might go anyway, but your heart’s just not in it that day.
Do habits even exist?
Do we even have any regular customs anymore? Does having a regular custom mean that your behavior is automatic and without effort? What I hear clients asking me when we talk about forming a fitness habit is usually more like:
- When will working out be more fun that sleeping an extra hour after a long day at the office?
- When will spinach taste better than cookies?
- When will I automatically spring into my fitness gear with enthusiasm every day?
And the answer might be never.
While I hope you find an enjoyable activity that involves moving your body, you might not! Or you might find one, and then get tired of it, and drift until you find another. Feelings change. Schedules change. Interests change. Goals change.
While I hope you learn to love and prioritize nourishing foods, you might not! Or you might fall in love with green smoothies for breakfast, ditch them a month later for acai bowls, and ditch those for oatmeal squares.
Give yourself the freedom to change.
The fastest way for most people to fail at a fitness goal is to over-schedule and over-plan. Life has twists and turns! Take things one or two weeks at a time, even if you’re training for a distance event like a half marathon, so that you can be realistic about the time and energy and interest that you have in your activities. Don’t force it. This isn’t a temporary sprint – this is a lifestyle change that will help you take the best care of yourself.
Effort is different than obligation.
It might take effort to make it to your workout, but your reason for working out can still be a positive one, and not a stifling cloud of obligation.
It might take effort to cook when you’re used to ordering takeout, but your reason for cooking can still be a positive one and not a steaming pile of guilt.
It might take effort to keep making time for your health each week, especially after a break, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a priority for you.
It’s all in your perspective.
Yes, feelings really do matter in fitness, because if you aren’t enjoying at least something about your activities, you will eventually quit. Same goes for eating in a way that will nourish your body – season your food and find things to cook that you enjoy, or you will soon hear the siren song of a drive-thru.
Healthy living isn’t a slow march to a labor camp; it’s about finding the tricks and tools that will genuinely help you feel your best every day. (Or most days, at least.)
It’s not about short-term, shoot-the-moon, go-for-broke, panicked efforts; it’s about taking simple and enjoyable steps, one at a time, to build yourself a sold basis of health.
And yes, that can include some killer abs.
But it will also include some setbacks, some unexpected successes, and a lot of very vanilla days.
Don’t chase perfection.
By the time you find the “perfect” routine (if you find one), life will move on and you will be back on the trail of the next “perfect” thing. Just enjoy the ride and start where you are!
Will you eventually find yourself craving movement? Probably, if you’ve found some enjoyable activities.
Will you eventually find yourself craving healthy food? Probably, if you’ve found some nourishing treats you enjoy.
Will your healthy living program ever be on autopilot? Maybe, maybe not…and you can be just as successful at reaching your goals either way.