How do you make a new habit?


You may have seen my recent post about walking a hundred miles and wondered…ok, you might have wondered a lot of things, such as “why?”, but here I’m simply going to talk about what it takes to create change. Me, I like change. As far as your body is concerned, change is how you open up your body to new ways of moving and reap the benefits associated with new movement patterns. As creatures who evolved, we have all of these genius adaptations to keep us going under a variety of conditions. That means our bodies get used to exercise, they become habituated to the demands and stresses of a type of exercise, and then the benefits are no longer so huge or noticeable as they were when that regimen was new. Our bodies are amazing at making us more efficient at the things we do the most, so if you’re a good walker (like me), you’ll get less benefit from a metabolic perspective over time. This is how I have been able to walk 10 miles a day on vacation without losing weight – for me, that represents only a mild increase over my total activity level – there’s nothing wrong. That’s the problem with the exercise-as-caloric-burn concept most people are into, it makes exercise only good for burning calories. The magic of exercise is in the stress relief and cardiovascular conditioning you get, NOT in pounds lost.

The problem becomes a matter of how you still want to do a thing you can’t see tangible results from, something that will take a while to show in your blood sugar level, or cholesterol, or resting heart rate. Part of that is actively working on developing healthy habits. To do that, you need to peek inside your brain’s reward/learning system, and find a way to associate exercise with pleasure, a type of reward that causes you to seek out exercise (in a healthy way) because you WANT to do it, not because you have some calories, some guilt, to burn off.

Now that I’m back from Colorado and my daily 10-mile walk, my body is constantly asking for exercise if I’m not doing anything, and I’m enjoying it. The difference this time was HOW I took those walks – I used them as sensory experiences, I stopped when I was tired, I went really early or late in the day to experience the sunrise or sunset. In short, I didn’t make it about the number of steps. It was about the number of sensory experiences. in that way, I turned it into a reward. Rewards build habits very efficiently, and once they’re built, they are much more likely to be adhered to. So if you can stop treating exercise like a chore, there’s a very good chance you’ll want to do it way more often. Focus on the fact that you and your body are polishing and improving how every system inside you works. Focus on the joy of feeling the stiffness from sitting resolve into warmed-up, supple muscular movement. Focus on the intangible benefits you’re giving your brain just by being out in nature.

Back in NJ for 2 weeks now, and I just got back from a 6.5 mile walk with a very good friend and her doggo pal, Cooper. We splashed in the creek, saw all kinds of new plants, and felt the cool air that rolls out from Lockwood Gorge, even on a hot and humid day like today. I won’t get on the bathroom scale at all today. I walk for myself. I eat for myself. Whatever size I am today is not going to change because of that walk, and that’s not a problem. That’s my body working perfectly at maintaining me in the things I love to do. So, for me…it took about 10 days/2 weeks to fall even more in love with walking/exercise – give it a try. Somewhere in your future, you can set aside time for 10 days or so, to do something to dhow your body that you love it. You have nothing to lose!

If you need help getting motivated, text me – 908-442-8368 and I will help you find your mojo. 😉