The power of habit – how it all began

Recently more and more people were asking me how I got into triathlon. That’s why I decided to write a few words about it. I was quite sporty as a kid and a teenager. Volleyball, table tennis, track and field – I did basically every sport I had access to. Then, in October 2012 I broke my ankle and tore my ligament. That meant – no sports for many weeks. And when I was fit again – there were just so many other things to do: high school graduation, the beginning of my studies, move to Brussels and then to Berlin, job and so on, and so on… It took me more than 10 years to get back to a regular training routine.

The power of habit

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - cover
The Power of Habit

There are no spectacular before and after pictures of me. I’m one of the lucky ones in the genetic lottery, so even with no sports and not always healthy eating habits, I have never been overweight. But it doesn’t mean, that I was feeling well in my body. But somehow I was never able to bring up enough motivation to work out regularly. But then I read this book. And it was not a book about sports. Six years ago, around Christmas I read “The Power of Habit. Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. This book explains the role habits play in our lives, why they exist and how they can be changed.

Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. 

Baby steps

I didn’t have big plans when it comes to sport back then. I didn’t dream of an IronMan or even a marathon or half-marathon. I decided to create an easy to follow workout routine. I signed up for an EMS-Studio. There were a few reasons for choosing this activity

  • It was directly on the way from home to the office. I would see it twice a day on my way and would have immediately felt bad if I missed the training. It also minimized the spectrum of excuses 😉
  • The training takes only 20 minutes and my package allowed me to do it up to 3 times a week. It was a manageable effort for the start: 3 times a week 20 minutes. Everyone can fit this into the schedule, no matter how busy. Also no excuses here
  • As the workout was always with a personal trainer, you had to make an appointment, and they would call you if you missed it. So the idea here was to externalize the discipline and have someone to kick my ass 😉
  • It was relatively pricey in comparison to the regular fitness studio, so I’d really feel bad if I didn’t go there…

The key to building a habit is to minimise the amount of thinking you need to excercise. That’s why I decided to have my training every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:00 am. It didn’t take long until it became a routine.

Good habits follow good habits

I saw the results of my small workout routine quite quickly and this motivated me not to stop there. As a next step I decided to stop eating simple carbs (wheat, rice, sweets – I still ate fruits and veggies) Monday till Friday. I decided to make Saturday and Sunday my cheat-days. I kept this routine (more or less rigid) since then, with the exception of intense training periods, when I need a higher carbs intake. As a next step I ordered a Fitbit to measure my daily activity and decided to make at least 10000 steps every day. Within three months I have lost 7 kilograms and two clothing sizes. And, which is way more important, I felt fit and motivated to do the next step. I downloaded the Runtastic app and started the 10k running program. But that’s a topic for a whole new blog post

Ideas for easy workout habits

  • Right now I’m doing 3×30 kettlebell swings every day, to strengthen my core and get stronger in general. But this excercise can as well be done by a total beginner. The good thing about it – it takes a total of 5 minutes (including breaks) – barely longer then brushing your teeth. I also have a backup routine for traveling when a kettlebell is not available: 3×40 sit-ups
  • An easy habit to implement is to walk or cycle to work. If it’s too far you can also decide to walk or cycle only part of the way, for example not taking the bus at the nearest bus stop but at one that’s a little farther away
  • Runtastic offers training plans for beginners (for example: running effortlessly for 30 minutes after 6 training weeks) that require just 20-30 minutes of workout 3 times a week.
  • If you’re someone that prefers working out with other people, make a regular gym, run, swimming appointment with someone who is maybe a little more disciplined than you, someone you don’t want to disappoint by cancelling your appointment. With apps like RunLive you can even do it remotely if your friend is out of town (although it only works for running)
  • If running is not your thing you could also sign up for an asana rebel account and decide to do the 5 minutes fat burn workout everyday

These are just a few examples of easy to start working routines – but there are many more! The most important thing is to start with something small and manageable. While the first steps might be difficult, every next step is much easier, and getting from couch potato to ironman is really much easier than it sounds 😉

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