How To Build A Fitness Habit That Survives

Fitness momentum must be protected.

For months, my daughter Grace, was building a daily chain of reaching 10,000 steps a day. Even with three little children, including a newborn, Grace was committed to her goal. She told me it was the competitive part of her that provided the motivation to hit 10,000 even on days when she didn’t feel well, was tired, or still needed a couple thousand steps after the kids went to bed.

In addition to her regular mom-life stuff, Grace and her family moved from Maryland to Florida. The day they left she was walking around our kitchen to hit 10,000 steps because she knew once they got in the car she was facing a long drive with no opportunity to reach her goal.

I was impressed by her commitment. 

I was also surprised when I talked to her eight months later and learned she was no longer reaching 10,000 steps a day. I was even more surprised by the reason. It reinforced that…

…fitness momentum must be protected.

The first priority of any new fitness journey is establishing a fitness habit. If you made a New Year’s exercise goal, you should be laser focused right now on creating that habit. Don’t worry about results. Those happen slowly which can be discouraging. Instead, your goal right now is establishing that habit.

Conventional wisdom is that it takes 30 days for a new habit to form. Research, though, indicates it actually takes most of us double that. Some of us even need EIGHT TIMES as long!

That habit eventually becomes momentum. But, even then it’s still tender thing. Which is why…

…fitness momentum must be protected.

My daughter, Grace, learned this the hard way. Her fitness momentum was slowed considerably when her growing chain of reaching 10,000 steps a day was broken.

This is why fitness momentum must be protected. Exercise is hard work with slow results. Often the only motivation we have is the momentum we’ve built. Some days the only thing that pushes us toward our goal is that we don’t want to break the chain.

That’s why Grace would walk around her house holding a newborn to reach 10,000 steps. She didn’t want to break her daily chain of fitness wins. 

And, then one day she forgot to charge her Fitbit. By the time she realized what had happened it was too late. Her chain was broke and she lost the motivation to keep going. She says it’s a silly thing and she even called herself lazy for letting it derail her. But, I get it. 

Sometimes it is the silly things that derail us, like forgetting to charge the Fitbit. Or maybe, forgetting to wear it one day. I even know someone who couldn’t remember where they put their Fitbit after they took it off.

Each of those “silly” things can derail you after you’ve worked hard to build a fitness chain of weeks and even months. That momentum is what motivates you to keep going and once it’s broke it’s hard to restart.

That’s why fitness momentum MUST BE PROTECTED.

If you started a new fitness daily step goal you’re actually building multiple habits. It’s not just the habit getting your steps. You’re also creating habits to keep your Fitbit charged and with you. Sometimes these habits are the hardest to build.

Improved battery life in my Fitbit has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I don’t have to think about it every day. That’s also why it’s a curse. It’s much harder to build a habit when it feels random.

CHECK IN WITH YOUR FITBIT EVERY DAY

Even though my Fitbit doesn’t need to be charged every day, I still check the battery every day. I do that each morning after my first sync with the Fitbit app on my phone. I check my sleep score, resting heart rate, and battery life. I often do this within the first hour of waking up.

Experts tell us one of the best ways to create new habits is by stacking them on existing habits. They call this habit stacking. It also helps if the existing habit is one you enjoy. Because I also love competing with myself, I look forward to checking my sleep score every day. I was thrilled when just two days ago I tied my personal record with a score of 92.

Since I look forward to doing this each morning it makes it easier to build the habit of checking my Fitbit battery which is not nearly as fun. If the battery has less than 30% I will recharge it that day.

The real key here is to sync and check your Fitbit at least once per day, if not more often. Most Fitbit models also let you know when the battery needs recharging. But, it can’t help you build a habit of keeping it charged if you’re not checking it often enough.

My recommendation is to use a daily habit that is well established to stack on this new habit. For example, when you brush your teeth you check your Fitbit. When you walk the dog you check the Fitbit. Create a habit stack that works for you to make certain your Fitbit is always well charged.

ALWAYS WEAR YOUR FITBIT

I got a half mile from home when it suddenly hit me. I forgot to put my Fitbit on. I was heading to the store, which is always good for a couple thousand steps. Not sure what made me remember I didn’t have my Fitbit on, but I did. I turned around and headed home.

Earlier that morning I had taken it off while I showered. That’s something I always do, but this time I set my Fitbit down in a different place. That slight change in routine was enough for me to forget to put it back on. Since then I make certain to put my Fitbit in the same place each time I shower. This too is habit stacking.

A year earlier I forgot to wear my Fitbit to work because I had taken it off to charge the battery. Just like the shower episode, I had changed my routine. Normally, I charged it at the end of the day. I had established a habit of when and where I charged my Fitbit, That helped me remember to put it back on before bed. 

This time though, I wanted it charged before I left for work. Since I wasn’t “in the habit” of remembering to put my Fitbit on as part of my morning leave for work routine I forgot it and didn’t get it until after I got home from work. Since I didn’t want to break my chain and lose that momentum I did some extra walking to make up for the steps I “lost” while not wearing it.

PICK A PLACE TO KEEP YOUR FITBIT

I used to lose my keys all the time until I finally put a little hook on the side of my desk for my keys. I created the habit of arriving home and going to that hook before I did anything else. I rarely lost my keys again. And, when I did it was because I didn’t go to the hook first thing.

If you don’t want to wear your Fitbit all the time it needs a place. Preferably, that place is in plain view as a reminder to wear the Fitbit. The only time I remove my Fitbit is to shower and charge the battery so I always know where it is.

SECONDARY HABITS

These secondary fitness habits are crucial to keeping your fitness momentum moving forward. The longer your fitness chain grows these habits become even more critical to not break the chain and lose momentum.

My daughter, Grace, is considering restarting her 10,000 step a day fitness habit, but it’s been several months since she stopped. This might sound like an easy thing to do, but it’s not.

There’s great power in a growing fitness chain and the momentum and motivation it provides to keep going. Sadly, the longer it goes the harder it is to restart once its broken. That’s because you know how hard it was to get it wherein was and you don’t feel like going through that again.

If you like competing with yourself you understand this. If you aren’t motivated by self competition ten this probably feels silly. What difference does it make if you miss a day? On one level it really doesn’t matter. But, if you struggle with motivation and self competition works for you then these secondary habits are important.

START TODAY

Even though New Year’s Day is in the rear view mirror, it’s never too late to start a new fitness journey. I recommend The 30 Day New Year Fitness Challenge. It’s a free guide that’ll help you set the right daily step goal for you. It also includes a daily win tracker. This is a sheet you can print out and write down each day’s step total. I call it a Win Tracker because when you reach your daily step goal it’s a win and those wins need to be celebrated. There’s also a third part of the 30 Day New Year Fitness Challenge that I’ll let you discover. It’s a powerful thing that just might be the difference maker in establishing a new fitness habit.

If you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

2 thoughts on “How To Build A Fitness Habit That Survives

  • Hi Dave. I received as a Christmas gift the Inspire HR fitbit. I understood it’s waterproof to a certain extent and have been wearing it even when I shower (I’m an in and out of the shower quickly type of person). Do you believe I should take it off before showering?

    • Hi Julie. I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to my tech and water. I always take my Fitbit off before I shower or go swimming. I’m not even comfortable wearing it out in the rain. But, again…that’s me, not what Fitbit recommends.

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