Habits

Habit Loops and Morning Routines

I’m in the middle of establishing a new habit loop that is embarrassingly easy at the moment.  I set my alarm for 5:45 AM in case my internal alarm clock doesn’t work.  When I get up I immediately get dressed in workout clothes, go downstairs and turn on the coffee maker.  I pour myself 16 ounces of cold water and finish it, then head down to the basement for a workout.

My workout is the embarrassing part, at least for someone who’s done a lot more over the years.  I set the erg for 500 meters, slide up and down on the seat a few times to stretch out my calves, take off my wedding ring and row the 500 as a warmup piece.  When I finish it, I slip the by now cold ring back on my finger, feel it warm up as my body heat conducts onto it, and then stand up.  I take a breath and then do 10 burpees with emphasis on full range of motion on the pushup and big air on the jump.  After 10 burpees I sit back down on the erg and repeat the routine I did with the 500 meters and the ring.

This workout is more of a warmup than a real workout.  I know that.  But I’m establishing a routine following the advice of James Clear in Atomic Habits.  I’m going to eventually built up to 5000 meters, add weights to the workout, pullups and pushups, and all that.  But for now when I wake up and I’m reluctant to get out of bed my mind is wrapped around this quick routine, and I’m not going to rush the process as I build the habit.

To complete my habit loop, I walk back upstairs after the workout, have another 16 ounces of cold water, make a cup of coffee, grab my ipad and sit down to read a page of The Daily Stoic and several pages of whatever book I’m reading.  At the moment I’m re-reading Walden.  Once the coffee is done and I’ve read several pages, I begin my regular day.

Habit loops are funny things.  I’ve established, slipped out of, and re-established habits over the years.  But I always default to simple.  And I’m keeping things simple this time around.  I was doing 50 burpees every day last summer and fall, until I injured myself pushing through when my body was telling me to take a break.  That was a good lesson that I hope I’ll remember.  Instead of making myself do 50 burpees I’m doing 10 with the 500 meter warmup before and a 500 meter cool down afterwards.  Adding more to the routine is fine, but this will be my minimum activity when I’m at home.

When I travel I won’t have access to an erg.  So I’m going to have to change the routine up for those days.  The easiest thing to do is walk, and so I’ll walk for a warmup, do the burpees, and walk some more.  Travel exercise will be the real test for this habit loop.  But for now I’m going to just keep on doing what I’m doing, gradually adding more meters and exercises into the habit loop.  Simple, right?

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