Stay the Course

New Year’s Resolutions:  How to stay the course with new habits.

It’s another year.  If you’re anything like me, I always have one new habit I want to start and stick to.  Some people go with the “New Year, New Me” philosophy.  But that doesn’t always work out in their favor.  I tried that once or twice and found that I always fall back into “New Year, Same Me” habits.  So, how do you plan to start a new habit and keep it?  In his book, “The Power of Habit”, author Charles Duhigg explains that there is a habit cycle.  To start a new habit, you must first have three things:  a cue, a routine, and a reward. 

First is your cue.  You need to find something that cues you to remember that you have a new routine or habit you want to do.  In 2010, I was deployed to Iraq with SEAL Team 5.  I had not ever worked out for fun.  I was more of the twice-a-year physical fitness-test kind of person.  If we had mandatory PT, I found ways out of it.  I figured I didn’t need to work out because I was thin.  Before that deployment, I thought that all I needed in life was to just be thin.  Being fit was something I thought went along with being thin.  Then, one day on that deployment, I decided to make a change.  

I decided I was going to start working out and become fit:  whatever that meant, I wasn’t sure yet, but what better time to get fit than with a bunch of Navy SEALs? 

On January 1, 2011, I started working out.  This would be my very first New Year’s Resolution and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I just knew I needed to go for a run because that’s what fit people did.  I strapped on my only pair of tennis shoes (go-fasters or Tennie-runners if you’re a Marine – YUT!), and I went for a run around the compound.  I was about 50 yards into my run when I realized I had made a terrible mistake and this is not what I wanted to do…however, there was a SEAL watching me and I couldn’t just die right then (how embarrassing) so I pushed past him.  As he said hello and waved and with all my might (and the only word I could get out), said “hey” back.  Later that day at dinner, I found out that my “hey” which I thought sounded cool and calm came off as snobby and rude, and angry sounding.  Who knew?  So, I approached another SEAL and quietly explained to him that I wanted to start a workout and asked him for help, advice, and a workout.  And that was how I found my cue.  I couldn’t go out of my way to ask someone for help and then back down.  That’s not my style.  So, my cue soon became as soon as I woke up, I would brush my teeth and head to the gym while no one else was there to make me uncomfortable and he would meet me with my workout for the day and pointers and tips on how to fix my form and posture. The cue would also lead to my routine.  I have to have a routine.  Without a routine, I cannot function and my whole day is ruined.  

Next came the reward.  For me, the reward was seeing myself get stronger and being able to do things I couldn’t do before.  I was doing upside-down sit-ups and real push-ups (not the sad ones you see people doing that really shouldn’t count).  The weights I was using were getting heavier.  My time resistance on the elliptical was getting higher.  I was getting stronger and that was the best reward.  While in Iraq, I had a cue, a routine, and a reward and I was happy, and I was keeping my New Year’s resolution.  

Then I went home, back to Beaufort, SC.  When I left 7 months previously, I was working with Marine Recruits, but when I got back, they moved me to the Naval Hospital to do Overseas screenings.  I was furious because I had picked Parris Island specifically to work with recruits.  My anger soon turned to happiness when I found out my hours were shorter, lunch was longer, and I had a whole gym one floor directly under me.  Now, I needed to find a new cue and routine to find my reward.  I signed myself up to be a command fitness leader so that I would have to be accountable to people.  I wrote group fitness classes for the 5:00 am crew Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the lunchtime crew on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during lunch, I left base and went to the local YMCA where I hired a personal trainer to teach me more about fitness.  She taught me how to run and how to do Tabata and I started taking more group fitness classes in the evenings (Zumba was HUGE at the time). 

I learned that in order to keep my routine, I needed to be accountable.  I hold myself accountable by paying for classes or training someone.  And now, it’s a new year.  Perhaps a new you, perhaps the same you with a new habit.  My advice?  Find something that makes you happy and hold yourself accountable.  Perhaps it’s paying for a class or a trainer.  Perhaps it is having a workout buddy.  Perhaps it’s having a daily list that you can put a big red check next to “work out”.  Perhaps your new habit is using less sugar or eating more salads.  Find your cue and your routine, and you will enjoy the rewards. 

UDC Wellness Expert, Jennifer Knuth-Tidball

2 thoughts on “Stay the Course

  1. This is a great article! I think it is helpful to start small, and work your way up. I know I can’t do everything on my list at once, but it’s good to have a goal to work towards.

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