The Golf Fit Blog

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A Counterintuitive Look at Habit Formation 

Most habit formation advice centres around the Cue, Routine, Reward Mantra. This is commonly referred to as ‘the habit loop’. 

  • The ‘Cue’ in the habit loop is the trigger for the routine. An example of this could be receiving an email from me about a new workout that I have put together for you. 
  • The ‘Routine’ is the key part. It is the action itself, the ‘doing it'. This links the 'Cue' to the 'Reward'. 
  • The ‘Reward’ is the bit that reinforces the loop and keeps us coming back for more. It is this reward which is the problem with exercise.  


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Over time and many repetitions, 'the habit loop' becomes automatic. It sounds simple, so why do many people fail to create a habit with an almost universally accepted life enhancing activity, such as exercise? 


One of the main reasons is because they set a goal. That goal initiates the interest in the exercise process. “Wait Alex,” I hear you say, “Goals are good, right?” No, goals are overrated. Let me use an example to explain why:


You signed up to one of our programs because you wanted to get better at golf, or feel better when you played. Maybe you formed an image in your head of how good you imagined being or feeling. Even though you had a good intention, your goal is a habit forming disaster. This is because you have looked at the process in overly simplistic terms, "If I do ‘X’, I will get ‘Y’." This process requires an intense amount of effort and discipline. Eventually your effort and discipline will wane and you will go back to the place you were in previously, probably feeling rubbish about yourself on top of it, because you failed. 


Rather than accept our mind's desire to form a sexy goal in the moment - some future self you imagine, which makes you feel excited - challenge it. Ask yourself, will I ever really get there? Is there even a "there"?


It took me too long to realise that I can only inspire people to exercise by motivating them for a short period of time. Over time I have learnt to inspire them to exercise by asking them to focus on creating a boring, repetitive, unsexy habit. One with a goal that never ends or is achieved. A habit takes an average of 66 days to become automatic (please don’t make 66 days a goal). Once the habit becomes automatic it is actually harder for our brain not to do it.


Where to Invest your Energy


Fortunately for me and my business, creating an exercise habit is one of the key behaviours which can actually make it easier to amalgamate other positive habits on top of. Examples of other key habits which elicit this amalgamating response are reading or socialising, but I know my place so I’ll focus on exercise. 


Three key tips to help with exercise habit formation are:


  1. When you receive a workout from me, imagine that the time you plan to do the workout is an actual meeting with me. One that you would hopefully turn up on time for. That means listening to what I am saying and watching what I am doing. Try each exercise to the best of your ability;
  1. Try to do something everyday. Golf can be one activity, walking another. You could try few repetitions of a hip mobility exercise that you liked in one of the workouts. You dont need long structured workouts every day;
  1. It doesn’t need to be perfect, only good enough. In exercise, approximately 80% of the benefit is caused by 20% of the work. Don’t try to do too much - 30 minutes of mobility, three times per week is enough. Or 10 minutes everyday of short, intense power and speed workouts. 


In summary, if you want to get better at golf or fitness, focus your attention on creating habits.  

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