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3 Common Errors Derailing Your Fitness Habit 3/3

Building Fitness Habits | Mistake 3: Not focusing enough on enjoyment.

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Enjoyment is the cement of new habits. 

Trying to build a new habit that you do not enjoy is like pushing a boulder up a hill. It’s a struggle that can be overcome via sheer strength of will. But the process is hard and failure likely as soon as fatigue sets in. 

A better way is to focus on lightening the load by making enjoyment a part of the process. When you enjoy a behaviour, or at least the outcome, you will be far more likely to repeat it. There are two ways this can take shape. Via intrinsic enjoyment of the thing you are doing, and by some form of extrinsic reward for the desired behaviour. 

By far the most effective is intrinsic enjoyment. But extrinsic regards can be an effective tool to get you going. 

Intrinsic enjoyment: When the action or behaviour is itself enjoyable. 

I love basketball. When I was a kid I would run 20 minutes to the local court and play for hours. No-one had to bribe me or motivate me to do this. It wasn’t work and didn’t take discipline. I did it because I loved it. There is likely a number of things in your life that are the same for you. Imagine if those activities kept you healthy, lean, fit and strong! 

This is the holy grail of forming a habit. In fact, forming a habit is too easy when intrinsic reward is a component. Just ask anyone “addicted” to porn, video games or instagram. When trying to build a fitness habit, leveraging this fact of human nature is key. 

If you can find an active hobby or activity that you really enjoy you will be off to the races. Concern yourself with what is most effective for your goals later on. Once you’ve built the habit, it will be easy to layer on more specific stuff. But getting traction requires a little healthy hedonism. 

Extrinsic rewards: A reward linked to, but separate from an action behaviour. 

Another tool that can be helpful is tactical rewards for desired behaviour. It works with kids and will work with your own mind as well. I’ll share a personal example. 

Every now and then I have a workout planned that I want no part of. Maybe its involving some horrible MetCon or I’m tired and not feeling heavy squats. I can use outright discipline to grind through. But a gentler way is to pick a reward and thank myself afterwards with that reward. “Do this workout and I’ll take you for a coffee and brownie after”. It works. 

This method is slightly inferior to intrinsic enjoyment, as it is less sustainable and is linear rather than self perpetuating. Nonetheless, it can be an effective tool in the box for dark cold mornings, (figuratively and literally). 

Find something that is it’s own reward

So experiment. Find something you enjoy doping for its own sake, rather than as a means to an end. Not only will this help you build momentum and finally establish a fitness habit. But it will also give you motivation to do things that are a means to an end later. 

For example: I love playing basketball but hat running. However, I’ll be motivated to run if its to make me better at basketball. 

If getting traction with a fitness habit is your goal, leveraging enjoyment will get you started and keep you going. Dont be afraid to experiment. It make take a few false starts before you find something that works. And be varied. You just need one intrinsically enjoyable activity to make a big difference, even if other aspects of your fitness routine are less so. 

Options:

Climbing Running Swimming Cycling
Yoga  Pilates Weight lifting  Gyms
PT at home Nordic walking Calisthenics  Gymnastic strength 
Primal fitness  Tennis  Hiking  Dance (various)
Powerlifting  Peloton  Thai Chi  Martial Arts 

Social hack | Get a buddy to join you. This increases intrinsic enjoyment and adds an element of accountability and social support. 

Focus on enjoyment until being active is an established habit. | Worry about the most effective things to do later. | Experiment. | Bribe yourself if needed. 

How healthy is your way of life? Take the Thriving Health Scorecard to find out

How to build a fitness habit: enjoyment

How to build a fitness habit: external reward

A Dose Of Motivation

  • In youth, health chases wealth, yet in old age, wealth chases lost health - Dhali Lama

  • To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our minds strong and clear - Buddha

  • It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop - Confucius

  • The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence - Confucius

  • The key is to keep company with those who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best - Epictetus

  • When something is important enough, you do it - Elon Musk

  • Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask, ACT. Action will delineate you an define you - Thomas Jefferson