(Blackpool Half-Marathon training, 2019)
Tuesday 30 October 2018
Part of returning from an injury is learning to get back into the habit of running again every day. It’s all too easy to get into the habit of not running because, after all, that’s what I have been doing: not running. So, after two months of not being able to run, it’s back to it, it’s back to the habit of running.
I’ve often reflected on the idea that the universe has an odd way of putting in your path just the very thing that you might need. It’s not always what you want. I didn’t want to be injured. (Although, let’s be honest, of all of the things that one can be afflicted with, a dodgy hamstring is pretty low down on the list compared to the sheer misery of illness and circumstance that so many people in that world have to contend with.) But maybe, on reflection, it’s what I needed. Maybe I really needed sometime off, some time away from it all to work out what I really want from myself each time I lace up my shoes. I’m still trying to work it out.
Sometimes these things that the universe seems to provide are a little more direct. This morning was no exception. For the last year I’ve made the conscious effort to break my twenty-odd year habit of listening to the Today programme on Radio 4. The coverage of the news, although thorough and comprehensive, left me feeling somewhat deflated. I frequently found myself responding to a news agenda rather than actively setting my own for the day ahead. With its insistence on global issues (many of which seem totally insurmountable, at least to me), I’d often feel the need to give myself a pep talk after listening. So I broke the habit. My new habit is to listen to podcasts. My tastes are wide and varied, but a particular favourite is The Rich Roll Podcast. Today’s episode was with habit expert James Clear. (As an aside, I highly recommend that you subscribe to Clear’s email list.) Of course, the topic of today’s podcast was habits. This was a lengthy episode and it seemed like each minute contained a lesson that could be taken away and applied. As I was busy doing other things I couldn’t really make notes – although I will definitely listen again to do so. But, still, a couple of points really stick in my mind:
- Start small. Do the smallest thing. For example: going to the gym for two minutes repeatedly sets the habit. If you do this each day, then the habit sticks. Yes, it’s only two minutes but momentum is everything. You build from there.
- This habit creates identity: I am someone who goes to the gym everyday. Habits are not really about what you do, but about who you are.
- It is the cumulative of these small actions which compound over time.
What is notable is the fact that there is nothing particularly new here. Many people have said similar things before; I know I have on my own podcast. What makes the observations so notable is the fact that we often need to convince ourselves of these basic truths when we are facing our own behaviour change.
Tonight, my own small training session was 30 minutes of weights, followed by a two mile jog at 12 minute miles. My hamstring felt great! Remember, it’s the small things completed repeatedly that add up to success over time.