I was talking with a family member Thanksgiving weekend and she mentioned that she’d fallen into some bad habits recently. Or more specifically, that she’d fallen out of her good habits. For a while, she’d been in a great exercise routine: first thing in the morning, every day. Then she stopped, due to some change of routine that threw her off her rhythm. She can’t even remember what it was, but it’s why she’s not exercising anymore.
When she said this, I immediately did a quick inventory of my fitness habits. I hadn’t been running for a few days, even though I’d been in the habit of running nearly every morning for months now. (I doubt this is best for me fitness-wise, but I’ve found it’s much easier for me to run two miles every day than four miles three times a week, so I go with it.)
I took a break because I was sick: that’s a terrific reason not to work out. I’m still not running because I’m not feeling all the way better yet. That’s smart.
But my family member’s comment made me realize I’m in a vulnerable spot right now. There have been so many times in the past where I’ve had terrific, well-established habits in place: for exercising or eating, writing or reading, waking up early or going to bed at a decent hour. And I’ve lost them not because of anything cataclysmic, but because of a simple change in routine. Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s clear in hindsight.
A minor illness, a weekend away, a flurry of unusual appointments—these are all enough to tip me off the wagon.
None of these things are a huge deal: it’s not like my leg’s in a cast, or I’m lying in the hospital. But they still get the best of me because I don’t pay attention. It never occurs to me that I—or rather, my good habits—might be vulnerable, so it never occurs to me to protect them. And without even realizing I’m doing it, I form a new routine—post-illness, post-vacation, post-whenever—that doesn’t include the habit I worked so hard to cultivate. I don’t even realize I’m doing it.
In this instance, it’s just exercise. But that simple habit is important to me, especially this time of year. (The comment section on this week’s post about winter coping strategies was like a broken record: daylight and exercise, daylight and exercise. I’m not alone in needing them, badly.) This is a bad time to break my good habit.
I’m not running today. I don’t even feel ready to go for a walk yet. But I’m resolving to pay attention to this habit, to protect it.
I set myself a calendar reminder. I laid a fresh stack of workout clothes on my dresser.
Most importantly, I’m simply paying attention—so this stupid illness doesn’t get the best of me, again.
Do small things cause you to backtrack, or have they in the past? I’d love to hear examples—for exercise or anything else—in comments. Please share your tips for keeping your focus and getting through those vulnerable spots.