The Pull of Habit

The statement, ‘we are creatures of habit’ is an understatement, and as much as I love newness and change, this is still true for me. And a huge part of my profession is teaching behavior change!

I ride a lot. Most of my friends probably figure if I’m not working, eating or interneting, I’m out riding or running. And this is true, sometimes. Only when I’ve created that habit.  It is as true for me, someone who aims to ride 800-1000 miles a month, as it is someone training for their first organized bike event. Same with running.  If you are not in the habit of running, training for a 5k is just as hard as training for a 50k. When I’m out of the habit, I can’t imagine devoting 2 hours or more a day to getting on my bike or strapping on my running shoes. And if you are reading my site, then I know you’ve had the same experience (if not, you are a special human being and I am envious!).

I’m writing about this now because failing at the Arizona Trail Race really knocked me out of the habit of riding. I just didn’t want to. In behavior change psychology we say that the new, healthier behavior must appear more rewarding than the old behavior. When you don’t feel like riding, sitting on the internet just feels better. Why go out and do something you don’t want to do? What’s the benefit to that?

But there is benefit. And I’m not talking about physical benefits, but mental and relational. So many great conversations with friends happen slightly out of breath on the bike saddle or while running up trails in the wilderness. Not to mention the ideas that come with the clarity of movement and being out in the world. This is what I have to convince myself of.

Over the previous week I did 7 rides in 7 days. Nothing spectacular. Nothing super long or super fast. Just riding in order to create the habit of riding. Everyone, no matter what crazy events they have done, need to start anew after not training or riding regularly.  My advice for anyone trying to ride or run more often or at all, which is partly professional, but mostly personal, is to first work to create the habit. Just go. No structure or plan beyond making the time for it. If you are one of those people who signs up for an event, prints out a training schedule and follows it exactly for 8 weeks, this does not pertain to you. But for the rest of us, just getting out there is huge. Our biggest critic is our own brain- we tell ourselves we aren’t running long enough or fast enough and it’s just not worth it. Ignore it! Just get out there.  After a week or two of just doing the activity you are into you are in a much better position to plan and focus. It’ll come, you have to trust that.

So for the first time in a month I’m thinking about what events to sign up for this summer. I’m obviously not racing the Tour Divide, but I know that is for the best. I may do an 8-hour mountain bike race, which will be a nice change from doing only 24-hour or 100-mile events recently. May also do a few double centuries, since I didn’t do any all of last year. And maybe some shorter runs like halfs and marathons? What are you doing this summer? No matter what it is, if you are changing your behavior and pushing yourself to do more than you’ve done in the past, it is awesome. I get as stoked on friends’ first 5k as I do for their 100-mile runs! Just get out there.

Lastly, thanks for all of the AWESOME feedback from the A Day in the Life videos (if you haven’t seem them you should! Part one and part two). We’ve already filmed episode two and should have it up within a few weeks. I’m super stoked on this project!

 

5 Comments

Filed under bike, run

5 responses to “The Pull of Habit

  1. BG

    Thanks for the article and your “confession”…

    Leo Babauta wrote a nice article on this topic:
    “How do you start on a task when you’re procrastinating because it’s too hard? You make it super easy. (…) If you’ve picked a task and it seems too hard to get started, make it even easier: just do one minute. If that’s too hard, just do 20 seconds. That’s so easy you can’t say no.
    (…) The key is to just get started. If you want to go beyond the 20 seconds, keep going. If not, do another 20 seconds after you’ve taken a break and wiped the hard-earned sweat off your brow.”

    http://zenhabits.net/begin/

    As for running he formed the habit of “putting the shoes on and getting out of the door”. You can’t fail at that, right? But once you’re out there it’s easier to actually do it…

    And yes, I am looking forward to the next “a day in the life” vid!

  2. Novelo

    SF to Vegas .. fixed… solo…. Leaving July 2 …..SF Marathon July 31st….. We must test our own limits ….Thanks for the inspiration brah! C-ya soon

  3. You didn’t fail at AZT: you re-assessed. Sometimes in cycling you need a paradigm shift for measuring success. If you say “I’m going to smash my head into the wall 10 times” but realize after 2 hits that your plan is flawed, then success is most likely knowing when to stop. Look up the SMART criteria for goal setting. That’s all the wisdom I can impart for now.

  4. Pingback: Alaska scumbag beats kid for bike; a call for reforming California bike theft laws « BikingInLA