Habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
When I was a young girl, school came easily to me. I remember the first thing my mother would ask when I got in the car was if I had homework. I didn’t, because I had done it in between periods or after school, while waiting in the 15 minutes I had for her to come. She said to me, “Susan, you need to go over it when you get home, because you are forming a habit for when you get older, and when you actually do have a lot of homework”. I didn’t really understand it then, but of course like everything else, I understand it now.
When I was 3/4 into my weight loss journey, I remember I reached a point where I had come so far, losing 25 lbs, and yet those last 10 were so hard! I started to get discouraged, thinking maybe I couldn’t do it, and maybe I should just give in. But instead, I decided to go the opposite way, and become even more intense, more focused. I started adding heavy lifting with a personal trainer into my weekly workouts. I remember some said to me, why are you doing this? You already do Bootcamp 5-6 days a week, isn't that enough? And I said no - I need something that will make me more accountable to myself. I need a new habit, which will amp up everything else. I was still vigilant about my nutrition, but by adding this element in, it became a part of my “new normal”. I loved the weights I was doing in class, and this gave me a chance to delve even deeper, and pursue a passion, and most importantly, develop a new habit.
Any parent can tell you the importance of habits in child rearing. As someone who wistfully believes she should have gone to law school, I spent the first 4 years of my twins’ lives by “setting precedents”. Everything, I believe, harkens back to what you did when you were younger. Of course we have chances every day to start again and form new habits, but In the early stages of your life, what you accept from your children, and the behavior you set as their standard, will set them on a course for how they develop into young adulthood.
The other day my boys and a couple of their friends participated in a Kids fitness camp at PHlex R(x) Club, the athletic conditioning and recovery center I work with. They spent 90 minutes doing agility drills, strength training, core exercises, speed work, coordination exercises and so on. They all play tons of sports at school and outside of it, but being in an environment where they see their parents happy and coming alive was to them, very special. Habits are formed at a young age, be they nutrition, exercise, manners, bedtime routine. Our children are very active, and we try and guide them towards what they love and enjoy, which will increase their chances of keeping those sports up as adults.
It’s an interesting thing, when examining my own life at this age, and what I have done in terms of habits. I look at the ones I have formed recently, as well as ones I may have broken recently. I notice there is a consistent theme in habits. We tend to pursue what is good for us, out of conscious effort. It may take work, discipline, and reminding, but we can get there. On the other hand, sometimes we don't even realize we are stuck in a rut. Bad habits tend to be the result of laziness, being unaware, and apathy. Good habits require a bit more planning, thought, and fortitude. I literally can’t go more than a couple of days without working up a sweat. It’s something I have conditioned my body to do daily, even if just for 15-20 minutes. The good news for anyone out there who is looking to form a habit, or to break one, is that the strength inside you to “do what is right” is greater than the inertia of staying stuck where you are. You just need to put your mind behind the energy.
Like anything else, when something becomes difficult to do, try to step outside it, and look at it a different way. Habits are merely actions we repeat. We may repeat them because they are pleasurable, or maybe because they are easy. When we refer to good habits, such as doing homework, exercising regularly, and eating healthy, in the beginning at least, "pleasurable" and "easy" aren't exactly the first two words to come to mind. But what is it you wish to achieve with this new habit? A stronger body, a sharper mind, a healthier attitude? If you want something badly enough, you need to focus your energy on that end goal, and start by filling in the blanks to get you there, even if it may not be "easy" at first.
It is now 4 years later, since I started forming those new healthy, fitness & nutrition life-changing habits. I have fallen a few times, made a few mistakes, and learned from them. But the habits are stronger than ever. I will never go back to the old lifestyle I had. And I will keep sweating as long as I still can. Old habits die hard.