Beginning Your Fitness Journey: Which Habit Do I Work on First?

Anybody who reads my blog regularly will know that my coaching strategy revolves around building sustainable habits to create healthy, lifelong behaviors. And if you don’t regularly read my blog, then now you know.

For a primer, I’ll refer you here and here. If you would like a more articulate, well written piece, you can email me at jmorton138@gmail.com  and I’ll gladly link you to a bunch of wonderful articles on why habits reign supreme. Seriously, email me, I’ll email you back.

A quick summary of the habit building strategy

  1. Pick a habit you want to work on
  2. Find a trigger for that habit–something that will prompt you to perform said habit
  3. Write down the following sentence and fill in the blanks: I am 90-100% sure that I will (habit) when I (trigger) for the next 7 days.
  4. Go through steps 1-3 every 7 to 14 days or whenever you feel ready to build on your new habits. Keep in mind, there’s no rush. The best speed to move forward is the speed you are ready for.

Anyways, getting started is always the hardest part and many people get stuck on what their first habit should be. And honestly, it doesn’t really matter as long as the habit is scalable in difficulty and you will actually do the thing consistently. Building some momentum is what is important at this point. However, if you tend to overthink things like myself, or just don’t know what habit to begin with I believe I can help. Here are some tried and true habits that have helped many a person get started on their fitness journey.

Drink more Water

Many of us should be drinking more water, and this habit seems to be a really good starting point for a lot of folks. It works because it is easy and people usually feel better fairly quickly after drinking more water. This habit is also what we call scalable; we can make this habit as hard or as easy as we want. We always want to start off on the easier end of things, but the fact that we can scale this habit means we can adjust depending on where we are at. If I overshoot and the habit is too difficult to do consistently at the moment, I can make it easier. And when I have mastered the habit, I can scale it to a more advanced variation.

Here are some examples of what scaling looks like:

I am 90-100% sure that I will drink a glass of water(habit) immediately after I wake up(trigger) everyday for the next 7 days.

I attempt to do this and end up doing the habit for 3 days instead of 7. This means I will want to scale it back. 3 days a week is still better than nothing so this is still awesome progress. However(and I stole this from Josh Hillis) we want to set ourselves up for a game we can win. To scale the habit in a way that makes it easier, there are literally an infinite number of options, but these come to mind:
     

  1. Shooting for 3 days a week rather than 7 days
  2. Changing it from a “glass of water” to “a sip” everyday
  3. “A sip of water when I wake up 3 days a week”

Once I am successful in doing that habit 90-100% of the time and feel ready for the next step, I can simply make the habit more advanced: 2 glasses in the morning, adding a glass at lunch, doing the habit more days out of the week etc.

Drive a different route to work

All of our behaviors are linked together through the environment we exist in, for better or for worse. That means doing something that seems unrelated to nutrition can surprisingly impact our dietary habits. Ever noticed how you tend to eat differently when you are outside of your routine? Or how when you can’t find your keys in the morning, the rest of your day is a bit off? Same thing.

The metaphor is that we are all fish swimming in a river, and we don’t realize how much the direction of the current was pulling us until we are taken out of the water.

sardines-vs-anchovies-1314903jpg-e6baaaadd71adeea

I stole this habit from  Dave Dellanave at the recent Motivate SLC Summit(if you are a coach these summits are a must). The commute to work is THE biggest drain of willpower that we experience daily. Driving a different way to work gives us a completely different context from which we act throughout the day. Throwing a wrench in our routine, especially such a stressful part of the routine, shifts the context of our behaviors for the entire day. Essentially we have put ourselves into a different current within which to swim.

This habit is scalable as well. We can go as far out of the way, or as little out of the way as we like.

Add more colorful veggies

This is one of my favorites. We all need more vegetables. This one’s fairly simply. Eat one colorful veggie a day, or a week etc. Make sure you’re eating veggies you like. I don’t care if your yoga teacher says kale is the best thing since downward dog, if you don’t like kale, you’re less likely to eat it. Find something you like like and start adding them in.

Order something different for lunch

It doesn’t even have to be anything more healthy necessarily. The idea here overlaps a lot with the reasoning behind the “drive to work” habit by shifting your current.

Furthermore, our behaviors are ridiculously complex. We do things for many different reasons. This habit simplifies and scales something we all ultimately want to do: make different, better choices. We are now just working on getting used to ordering something different. We can work on the “better choices” part later; all in good time. Examples of scaling this habit are: order something different once a week, eat at a different lunch spot, a different meal everyday for 7 days, etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Ultimately the habit that you will do consistently is going to be the most effective. If you would like more ideas and information on scaling habits. Josh Hillis and Dan John have a wonderful book on the topic called Fat Loss Happens on Monday.

Full Disclosure: I don’t get a penny when you buy the book. I’ve only met Josh once and have never met Dan John. The book is an amazing resource. I recommend it simply because I think it will help people.

I’m currently accepting online coaching clients and I would love to help you lose weight and feel better. Online coaching offers the same accountability, support, and motivation as in person coaching, except you don’t have to be in the same city as me.

Curious about how it works? All you need to do to get started is fill out a short application.

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