The Science Of Never Missing A Workout
First off, you’ve probably been using the word ‘habit’ wrong. Many peoples think of a habit as something you do repeatedly. That’s actually not true.
Habits are “actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance: for example, automatically washing hands (action) after using the toilet (contextual cue), or putting on a seatbelt (action) after getting into the car (contextual cue).” From → Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice
A lot of research shows that doing a specific task repeatedly in a certain context will eventually cause the task to be activated within said context.
- Participants in one study chose a healthy behavior (eating fruit, going for a walk). The researchers then tied that behavior to a contextual cue (after breakfast, after lunch). The researchers found that habit strength increased rapidly for 66 days, and then reached a plateau. Also, the researchers found that habit strength was not severely impaired when missing one day.
- Another study compared dieting among people who were given a leaflet on improving consistency and people who weren’t. The researchers found that the people who were given the leaflet lost way more weight.
- Another study found that “ strong habits – although perceived to be purposive and goal-dependent – are actually influenced by recurring triggers in the performance context.”
Now, we know the action that we want to create, which is going to the gym every day (yes you can go to the gym every day).
But what about the contextual cue? What context could we tie the action of going to the gym to?
Well, you’ve got options. Tons of options. Maybe millions of options. From the available research, it doesn’t seem to matter what the context is, so long as you use it consistently.
The only limits are your own creativity.
Here are some of the contextual cues that I came up with while sitting at a Starbucks.
- Go immediately after waking up.
- Go immediately after breakfast.
- Go immediately after lunch.
- Go immediately after dinner.
- Go immediately after work.
- Go immediately after your last class
- Go before class.
- Go after writing your workout down (this is what I do).
- Go after watching a motivational video.
Once again, it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you do the task of going to the gym every day within the context you set. Eventually, it’ll be weird when you don’t go to the gym.