The #1 New York Times Best Seller “Atomic Habits” by James Clear has been on many reading lists this year. This book offers great insight into ways to create or lose habits. In his book, he describes his 4 laws for building better habits: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy and make it satisfying.
My number one goal as a personal trainer and coach is to help clients create a habit of good nutrition and physical activity. It is so much more important to me than weight loss or changes in our physical bodies. I want to leave clients with the desire, motivation and skills to eat healthy and be active on a daily basis. If consistency is a challenge for you, I recommend this book.
Here are 5 of my favorite quotes from the book and my personal thoughts on each one.
“The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone.”
Amen. Please don’t set a size focused fitness goal. Instead, consider a goal such as “I want to become a physically active person” or “I want to strengthen my heart so I can engage in physical activity with my children without discomfort'' or “I want to be a person whose eating fuels a healthy body or decreases my risk of diabetes.” When you do that, each step counts and you’ll find joy in the process not just the result.
“The amount of time you have been performing a habit is not as important as the number of times you have performed it.”
Five - 20 minute workouts/walks per week done over and over again is better than hitting an hour long spin class once in a while if you want to build a habit of fitness. When we think about the long game of gaining a healthy lifestyle repetition counts. So if you have 20 minutes, do 20 minutes and don’t let the all or none mentality convince you to skip it.
“When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
In my opinion, this is why our healthy resolutions fail and we struggle to be consistent with workouts. We try to go too big right away because we want immediate results. It’s a great practice to step back from a goal and think about how it breaks down into 2-minute habits and then build a timeline or plan from there. Mr. Clear goes on in more detail about gateway habits and the idea that a habit must be established before it can be improved. (I know, brilliant AND obvious yet so easy to forget).
“The end of any experience is vital because we tend to remember it more than other phases. You want the ending of your habit to be satisfying.”
End your workouts on a high point. Don’t push it to injury, discomfort or exhaustion. Stop when you have that “I feel good and I’ve worked hard” feeling. If you are a runner and feel good at the 5 mile mark and terrible at the 6 mile mark, stop at 5. You’ll have more positive memories about your last run and thus more positive feelings about the next run.
Don’t forget that as women our body goes through its own cycle and so what is working hard can be different for each phase of your cycle. Accept it and honor it because it isn’t a permanent set back.
The same goes for feeling rushed. If you feel rushed to do an hour workout. Do 30-45 minutes. The double positive feelings (I worked out and have plenty of time) will make you more likely to do your next workout.
“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.”
It is easy to get sucked into the newest diet, workout trend, or health fad. That is our desire for novelty kicking in. The author suggests and I concur, that adding a new but doable challenge can help keep things interesting. More reps, faster speed, heavier weight, trying a new type of workout or even finding a workout partner or trainer to push you are ways to solidify your healthy habit.
If you are interested in establishing a new fitness habit but need help with accountability, knowledge, or encouragement - please reach out at email@example.com