Published 17/10/2020 at 12:00pm

Form Habits, Not Goals

There's a bunch or articles and books out there which give you ways of forming goals and/or habits. This article is not about theory or weighing up pros and cons, instead it's just me sharing a short story of how forming a habit has made life better for me. I hope it can help you.

I guess the story starts in October 2018 when I was on an evening run, less than 500 metres from home when I slipped down the edge of a curb leaving my right ankle and foot in a mess. Worse than that, about a fortnight later, my left knee became badly infected from the fall and involved a trip to A & E. This left me pretty much unable to walk and for those times where I had to, putting pressure on my delicate right ankle. This put a pause to my running for a while, while the ankle repaired and I gradually rehabilitated the foot gradually throught 2019 to get me back to a normal running pattern.

So, given the effect the injury had on my exercise routines and overall fitness and not feeling very confident about my body, at the start of 2020, I set the rather ambitious goal (for me) of running 750 miles. Given I had only recorded 750 miles on Strava since 2013 it was certainly going be a challenge to double it in just one year. However, I love running and the maths worked out, 25KM a week on the face of it, is achievable. 5 x 5km or 4 just over 6km. It was certainly a different schedule to what I'd done before but I can run 5km and I can run it every day if I had to.

Through January, February and March I tried my best to keep focused on the goal and followed it fairly closely, but always chasing. Then, as we all know, the world changed and we all had to go in to lockdown in our fight against COVID-19. I have to admit, it took a while to readjust in to a routine and unfortunately my running ambitions took a hit. My motivation was defintely affected, partly because of the physiological impact of COVID, but also, I was not improving at the rate I wanted to with running; I wasnt running any quicker or longer.

Eventually, with the support of my wonderful wife, I made the decision to do something about it. In comes Les Mills, which is an online fitness platform. This allowed me to do some HIIT based workouts. So, I converted the garage in to a gym; painted the floor, put a TV on the wall and purchased a big fan. Exercise was easy for me to do, walk out to the garage, turn the TV on and start moving. So I started this and loved it and still do. It's very easy to motivate myself and there are very few excuses which mean I can't walk downstairs, walk a few metres to the garage and move about for 30 minutes.

Wanting to keep a bit of variety in my exercise routine I added a few running sessions to my schedule. What do you know, my running got much better because the full body workout was toning and strengthing my muscles. I'd found a recipe which was fun to do, had variety and was giving me the results I wanted meaning that rather than needing to motivate myself to exercise, it felt strange not to exercise. I'd formed a habit.

Of course, by involving HIIT and running in my exercise routine, my inital goal at the start of the year has taken a big hit but actually the habit I have formed is far more beneficial than an arbitary distance and was the change I actually wanted. I haven't felt fitter since playing rugby at university and this fitness is here to stay!

I titled this article Form Habits, Not Goals but actually I still value setting goals, it's just I know I need to form a habit for something to really stick. I've learnt that it can be helpful to set goals to get you going on the right path, as sometimes it can be really hard to know where to start. But, don't be afraid to re-evalute the goal and question why it was that you set the goal in the first place as you will find more satisfication in the thing that you are doing. So, my adjusted goal is to average a minimum of 4 - 30 minute exercise sessions a week because I know that just exercising 4 times a week gives me the result I want.

Given I have had success forming a habit with my exercise, I'm really looking forward to doing this with more parts of my life such as diet and wellbeing.

Thanks for reading.

© Louis Rickman 2021