New Year – New Fitness Goals For You and Your Dog
Did you remember to pick an area of your life that you wanted to change this New Year? I’d imagine for most people fitness goals would be high on the list:
“I will start running”
“I will run regularly”
“I will find a running buddy to keep me accountable!”
New goals are fun to set but extremely difficult to maintain. It’s hard to keep up the motivation months after you first made that list – but it’s not impossible. This year, I want to help you pick out one particularly worthy fitness resolution, and go the course with it.
Research shows that to stick to an exercise regime, you have to create a new routine. You will need a trigger to get you started, and a veritable mountain of repetitions to get you used to this new routine.
It doesn’t matter what your trigger is – a pop-up notification reminder, a special song that lifts your mood, or a pair of puppy eyes waiting for you to get going. The trigger should simply do its job – jolt your mind into preparing for a run.
Being a dog owner, my trigger is the early walk that is actually our morning run. My dog knows I’m ready to wake up before I do! My running gear is always right next to my bed. The whole process has been repeated often, and has been simplified and optimized to make it as effortless and smooth as possible. I don’t need to think about it anymore. I just go.
‘Routine’ means something that has been repeated over and over, so that it has become a background action. For example, when you go to brush your teeth in the morning, you don’t single out the event of brushing your teeth. It simply features as part of your whole morning routine, whereby you hardly think about the order in which you do things – they just always come in the same order. Toothbrush, toothpaste, brushing, rinsing…it comes naturally to you every morning.
To establish a routine, you will need to repeat it hundreds of times. Our psychology is set up so that we get hooked more quickly on things that we do frequently. So, running twice a week may not be enough to start – you may need to get out every day to develop the habit. Once you get used to the idea of being out there and it becomes the new ‘normal’ – then you have the habit.
Habit is a much stronger stimulus to run than motivation. Motivation will only get you so far. We crunch on great-tasting popcorn because it is a part of our movie experience. We don’t need extra motivation to get the popcorn – it is just a habit. The same applies to running: if you take it on as a part of your morning routine, if you set it up to conveniently slot in and be part of your experience, like the popcorn in the cinema, you are on your way to success. Going for a run must be easier than thinking about it!
If you have a dog, make one of your walks a run. Set an easy goal. For example, sweat for 20 min. Put your gear next to your dog’s leash and learn to dress for a run without even thinking. Learn more about running by reading guides. If you are new to running with dogs, my book, Running for Dogs, is a great place to start.