The Habit Experiment Series
In my health coaching work, I encourage looking at habit formation as an experiment.
Basically, you try inserting and deleting habits and see if your life improves. The other creative part of the experiment is designing how the specific practice is going to be most realistic in the context of your life. If you keep “failing” to make the habit stick, it isn’t some moral failure, just data that can be used to iterate on to build a better design. You identify the obstacles and tweak the habit until you find the version of it that actually works in your lifestyle.
In this series, I’m going to offer an inside look at how I work with the behavior change process, by letting you into the current habit experiments I’m running in my own life. My hope is that by letting you in on my completely imperfect and ever-changing habit design process, it will inspire you to think about running some experiments in your lifestyle as well.
Regular exercise is a habit that’s been a bit tricky for me. I’d formally walk a lot and then aim to do a more formal workout 2-3 times a week. For awhile, I tried making this more concrete by scheduling this weekly and putting my workouts on my google calendar.
My barriers: I found that more often than not, I would just ignore my calendar reminders. I would often still workout a few times a week but it was unclear how often it was happening and didn’t feel super consistent.
Daily habits are often easier to stick to than occasional habits. Daily habit commitments are nice because it is crystal clear if you skip it and you don’t have to question whether today is the day -- it always is! I realized I was resistant to forming a daily workout habit as I didn’t feel like I needed to “workout” everyday. I decided to capitalize on my belief that super small workouts and habits have value (see BJ Fogg’s tiny habit philosophy and all the research on HIIT workouts), to create a daily workout habit that I could actually get behind. I needed a daily workout, that felt realistic, not too strenuous, and adaptable for my varied daily energy levels and time commitments.
Insert: The pre-breakfast waiting for my coffee to brew micro workout routine.
I aim for 3-10 minutes and rotate between HIIT workouts, bodyweight strength training routines, yoga, or a quick walk/jog. I’ll opt for gentle yoga or the walk option if I feel like I need a rest day. This gives me options each day so I don’t get bored or burned out, but ensures I’m doing something intense at least a few times a week.
So far, I’ve noticed that on the days where I do something more high intensity, I have a marked mood increase and a sense of emotional resiliency that stays with me for the entire day. As I’ve mentioned in many blog posts, I mainly workout for the cognitive and psychological benefits, so this was particularly compelling for me.
Specific resources I utilize:
I usually use a short, full-body, HIIT workout from fitness blender (filtering for no equipment and 10 minutes or less), the Nerd Fitness Beginner’s Bodyweight Routine, or a variety of yoga videos I find online for free (or I do my own thing). Click here for my detailed article on “How To Workout For Free, Anytime, Anywhere”.
For now, it’s working for me. I love knowing that I’ve already worked out before breakfast and am enjoying the psychological benefits that stick with me for the rest of my day.
What habit experiments are you currently running?