Thursday, October 23, 2008

It Takes How Long to Form a Habit?

Oprah has a feature in O Magazine where she expounds on things she knows for sure.

One thing I know for sure is the conventional wisdom on habit formation is crap.

Many years ago, I learned that it takes 21 days of consistent activity to form a habit.

More recently, I've heard that it's 14 days.

I'm here to tell you that it's neither. I really don't know how long it takes to form a habit but I do know it takes a lifetime to keep one.

In my case, I've been working out pretty faithfully since June. I was up to a solid 5 or 6 times a week by August and feeling pretty good about myself. So why am I struggling now to work out at all?

A few missed days, a few days of less than eager workouts, a few days of abbreviated workouts and it feels like I'm back where I started. Talking myself out of bed every morning. Talking myself into my workout gear. Talking myself into turning on the DVD. Talking myself into actually moving as opposed to laying across the bed and reading a few pages from a book.

Worst of all is that, even with my struggles, I'm still working out at least three times a week, not including the 4-7 hours of walking I'm doing every weekend to knock on doors in support of Sen. Obama's campaign. I feel as sluggish and almost as out of shape as I did nearly six months ago. (I can still lift my legs pretty high, though.)

I'm in an exercise rut.

My good friend Chicki suggested I needed to up my intensity. Yup, I do, and I realized it weeks ago. Except the last thing I want first thing in the AM is a super intense workout. Honestly. Even if that is exactly what I need.

I don't want to exercise that hard in part because it means a daily hair disaster. Not being vain. Just being honest.

But as I watch The Biggest Loser, a show which completely captivates me--I'm rooting for Heba--I realize that the reason these folks lose so much weight is exactly that. They work out intensely. Every day. Imagine the heartbreak of having exercise as your full-time job and still only losing two lbs for the week? Or none?

I figure if I want to lose five lbs for the month, I need to work out at least half as hard at the show participants (and waaaay harder than I've been doing).

Still, the habit of exercise is very difficult to form and very easy to lose.

So, I don't know much about the science or psychology of habit formation but I do know I've just got to keep giving this exercise and weight loss thing my best shot.

I hope you stick with whatever your personal challenge might be too.

Peace & Blessings,

1 comment:

Chicki said...

I'm feeling you, Patricia. A while back I heard Oprah say something about having a sedentary nature and how hard it was for her to keep up her exercise regimen. She said everything she loves to do -- reading, watching movies, having long discussions with friends -- takes no physical exertion at all. I could so relate to that. Exercising is so hard for me because I've ALWAYS hated it. Even in grammar school I did everything I could to get out of certain tasks in phys. ed., like tumbling, rope climbing, 500-yeard dash. It's just my nature, and no matter how hard I've tried to change it, I will never like jumping, running and sweating.

So I found something I thought would work for me - my treaddesk, and my knee started acting up. Now that I'm healed, (I'm going to blog about it next week) I'm going back to walking. At this point in my life, it's the most I'll do.