Why is it So Hard to Get Up Off Your Butt?!

by Ali Piazza

Despite the fact that I know all the benefits of working out and I know how much better I feel when I work out regularly,  I am still finding it very difficult to get back into the habit of  working out first thing in the morning. I’ve been out for so long (due to whiplash) that’s it’s no longer a part of my routine.

Why does it require so much effort to get back into it? Why is it so hard to create a good habit and just as difficult to break  a bad one?

I decided to investigate…this is what I found:

How Habits Work:

To get a greater understanding of how habits work, I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – It’s a great, easy read that I recommend to anyone who wants to get a greater insight. But for now, I’ll give you the low down:

Habits are formed in a loop.  For example, see the picture to the right (taken from the book). The mouse hears a click – cue, the mouse runs through a maze – routine, and the mouse gets some chocolate at the end – reward.
So now everytime the mouse hears a click, it will run through the maze in antcipation that it will be rewarded with food.

In order to create a habit, you need to create a habit loop.

But why is it sooo hard??

Because change requires the rewiring of the brain. Totally possible, but not easy.

A true habit is a behaviour that you don’t even think about. That’s because the neurons in the brain are connected in a way that allows the brain to use less energy.  Therefore, it requires energy to make new neural connections. And it takes time for those connections to settle into place.

“Habits aren’t destiny — they can be ignored, changed or replaced. But it’s also true that once the loop is established and a habit emerges, your brain stops fully participating in decision-making. So unless you deliberately fight a habit — unless you find new cues and rewards — the old pattern will unfold automatically.” ~ Charles Duhigg

Working Out in the Morning – an awesome habit!

I first established this habit years ago. At that point, I was working 2 jobs and I left my house at 7:30 am and got back at 6:30 pm. I was always way too tired to workout when I got home. So one day I told myself that I was going to wake up and exercise. I got a 12 week plan from Muscle and Fitness Hers and the gym was across the street from my condo, so I had no excuse to not do it.

The first 2 weeks were tough, as I was really tired and sore. But after a few weeks, my neurons settled into place and I got used to it.

Getting Back Into It

To get back into this habit I know I need to re-create a cue.

For me the cue starts the night before. Part of my mental preparation is making sure everything ready so when I wake up it’s ready to go and I can’t make any excuses. I also know that I need to hit snooze several times, so I set my alarm even earlier. I want to work out at 5:30 am but my alarm is set for 4:45 am so I can hit snooze (crazy, I know).

The hardest part is leaving the bed, because sleep is luscious and my bed is so comfy. I know I have to be comfortbly uncomfortable and just do it! I have a little mental pep talk prepared because I know I will try to talk myself out of it.

Action time!

It all starts in your head. You have to make the decision to change and follow through with the necessary actions. You’re basically fighting against your own brain chemistry which is why it’s hard. So just start with a cue and take it from there.

“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real.  This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you chose them to be.  Once that choice occurs – and becomes automatic – it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable, the thing…that bears us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.” ~ Charles Duhigg

What habits do you want to create? What cue are you going to start with? Share your ideas in the comments below :)

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/NIxVVf

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy September 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Great post. Thanks for the information. I really need to get off my butt and deal with lots of things—my weight is only one of them. If I could get into the habit of cheering myself on, it might help. Thanks again.


Ali Piazza September 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Thanks Kathy! Cheering yourself on should be your first habit…negative self talk isn’t going to get you anywhere. Don’t let your inner bitch rule. You have more control than you think :) Just change one thing at a time.


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