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  • Writer's pictureMary Brooking

Be consistent: Make it a (tiny) habit

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

A key training principle to follow to effectively build fitness and reduce injury risk is to be consistent with exercise. Our bodies adapt to the stress of training, and that adaptation is more effective when we are consistent, which means building exercise volume slowly and gradually, but also aiming to maintain a level without too many "yo-yo"ing up and down fluctuations in volume or intensity. That’s not to say you should just repeat the same thing over and over again – there’s lots of evidence that monotony is a big predictor of overtraining and injury however while variety is great yo-yoing is not.

So how do we start on the path of making exercise consistent; making it a habit if its not already part of our lives, but we want it to be? One view is found in Tiny Habits: Why starting small makes lasting change easy by BJ Fogg who says "The essence of Tiny Habits is this: take a behaviour you want, make it tiny, find where it fits naturally into your life and nurture its growth. If you want to create a long term change, it’s best to start small”. And why? It’s fast (start with small actions you can do in 30seconds), it’s less risky, it doesn’t rely on motivation or willpower as its so easy to do, but it can grow to be transformative. BJ’s model is that behaviours (such as exercise) are actions, something done at a point in time when motivation, ability and a prompt converge. But motivation rises and falls, that’s natural. Don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself for not being motivated enough to make behaviour changes, it’s not a personal flaw it’s a flawed logic that willpower can ever be sufficient. Instead design behaviours that don’t rely on motivation because they are so tiny and easy and try to embrace the mindset that mistakes are opportunities for learning and help us move forward. Try this process: - Clarify your aspiration: what do YOU REALLY want? Not what anybody else wants, or what you think you should want, because the goal is to help yourself do what you already want to do. - Explore behaviour options which will get you closer to your goal/aspiration and select one or two that will be effective and are possible to do - Make the behaviour tiny, so its easier to do. Perhaps start with an initial step such as putting your trainers on, or getting out your yoga mat as your new habit. Don’t rush to make the behaviour bigger, by keeping the bar low you keep the habit alive. Ensure you are always capable of doing the behaviour no matter how your motivation fluctuates. - Find a good prompt, something to anchor your habit to that fits with when you are able to do the behaviour. Ideally this is something that is already a part of your daily routine. It could be: I will unroll my yoga mat immediately after I turn the kettle on for my morning cup of tea. - Celebrate immediately after doing the new tiny behaviour, do something to create positive emotions; help yourself feel successful because we create change most effectively by feeling good about ourselves, not by feeling bad about ourselves.This could be a fist pump, a “Yay!’, a song, a dance, find what works for you. - Keep refining the habit, update it, expand it, or change it so it grows and continues to match your aspiration So, if you want a habit to grow big: start small and simple. It might feel insignificant at first but allows you to gain the momentum needed to ramp up to more. Give it a go, and remember to celebrate! Reference: Tiny Habits: Why starting small makes lasting change easy BJ Fogg, PhD

Paperback – 29 Dec. 2020

I thoroughly recommend it: really readable and packed with practical ideas and examples






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