As many of you know, for the past month 2FNs members have been taking part in a Frequency Challenge.  The goal is to have everyone participating in the challenge complete a minimum of three days of workouts for two consecutive weeks. The type of workout doesn’t matter, nor does the duration as long as it is around thirty minutes or more. The goal is to get people on a consistent schedule and to form good habits.

I can honestly say that I expected it to be a pretty difficult challenge. Creating a consistent routine is tough and, more important, breaking bad habits is even more difficult. Your body is extremely well versed in remembering behavior, making them routine and more efficient. If your routine is to plop on the couch when you get home from work, no matter how good you feel that day or how badly you wanted to go workout all day, as soon as you walk in the door your brain will fire off signals saying, “Wait, wait, wait, it is couch time. Lay your ass down!”

There is a special area of the brain known as the Basal ganglia that is thought to heavily influence motor skills and behavior. In addition, it is thought to influence a person’s motivation and will. It is thought that the Basal ganglia is capable of remembering habits as well as the triggers that cause these habits. When it recognizes a familiar trigger, it will send signals saying that this is what you are supposed to do next, which can perpetuate the bad habit you’ve been trying to break. Then again, this can work in your favor. If you finally train your body to form a strong, new, positive habit, such as consistently working out, your body will crave it. Instead of walking in the door when you get home and sending signals to plop on the couch, it will say “Hey, grab your shoes and let’s head out!” This takes time and, more important, consistency. Looking at our top weekly performers, Amy and Mark, it is clear that they have established their routines. Rain or shine, heatwave or holiday, they are out doing what their bodies want them to do.

Really, the habit cycle can be broken down into a three-step process, and if we are going to succeed in this Frequency Challenge, we will need to retrain our bodies.

The Habit Loop

  1. Trigger : The event or indicator that tells the brain to kick into automatic mode.
  2. Behavior: The actual behavior, such as plopping on the couch, taking a nap, or going for a run.
  3. Reward: The reward the body is seeking, such as vegging out, feeling rested, or feeling awesome after a run.

This is a pretty powerful feedback loop that is tough to get out of. I think it is possible though, and here is how I think you can do it.

Forming New Habits

  1. Identify Old Triggers: Figure out what is stopping you from working out. Is it the commute home? Taking a nap after work? I want everyone to post a comment identifying their negative triggers!
  2. Change your Routine: Once you’ve identified what is stopping you, change it. Instead of going right home, go to the gym. Change your routine to break out of the bad-habit loop.
  3. Reward: This part is tough because a consciously chosen reward may not really be enough to set the habit. You are looking for more of an automatic-feedback response, like feeling great after a run or noticing the first few pounds fall off. At first this is the hardest part, and it’s why many new habits fail. Give it time, and let your body find its own reward.

I really hope we as a team can beat this challenge and be more consistent as a whole. I myself have taken the past two weeks pretty lightly, resting up and avoiding the heatwave. At the end of the day though, I know it is time to get moving again in order to reinforce the good habits that I’ve gotten myself into. I really want to see this next week be a success. Post the comments; I’m really curious to know what people are trying to break out of.