Making training a hard habit to break

It's been a strange year to say the least....Many of us found that in trying to deal with the day to day stress of living in the year 2020 our motivation to train has suffered.

I did not train at all yesterday. Though that's not all that unusual. I often skip days and find that my dogs, based on their desire to train after a day (or more!) benefit from the break as well.

But go too long and it can be hard to get back on track and find the mojo that kept us motivated. It's easy to get a little sidetracked on your behavior goals when your normal day to day life is disrupted. 

Or when you just finished that awesome FDSA class! And now you don't have the daily motivation of checking in on forums or reading though the latest lecture. You are excited about the progress you made! And yet, It can be hard to keep that progress going between classes.

Which leads me to wonder if progress can sometimes be part of the reason we lose some motivation. Suddenly "getting there" doesn't seem so distant. After all, look what we've accomplished in just 6 weeks! We've worked hard toward the progress we've made! If I take some time off, it will be easy to get back on track.

What Does it Take to Build a Training Habit?

Ya, well, I've said that about diet changes (just one bite of cookie dough won't hurt...). I'm moving along, making progress on changing my habits, then Bam! I'm hit in the face with cookie dough! I give in to temptation and then the struggle is real to get back to my good eating habits.

Habits... that's what we are talking about. Habits take time to cement, but once they become "habits" they are very hard to break. In order for the habit of working on a particular skill or behavior to take hold, you need to find a way of jumping back on the wagon when the occasional break or bump in the road causes us to fall off.

Did you know it's estimated that on average it takes about 66 days to create a new habit? And it can be anywhere from 18 to 254 days! Yikes! the latter end of that time is disheartening! No worries! studies also show that if you mess up every now and then it's okay! You can get back on track!

The cool thing is that if we look at staying on track as part of our training goal and that it could take up to 254 days, our expectation of quick mastery of either the behavior or the habit of working on the behavior becomes more relaxed, settled in, take the time it takes attitude. And that can make the whole process less stressful and more reinforcing!

Using a Habit Tracker to Create a Training Habit

A "Habit Tracker" can help to keep you focused on continuing the progress you've made. It's an easy way to stay accountable in your training habits. A habit tracker can be part of your training journal or it can be your training journal.

"Habit trackers" are easy to make either digitally (an excel spread sheet works well), handwritten, or you can download pre-printed habit trackers. You can even download habit tracker apps.

Basically, you write a list of the things you want to create as habits down one side, and the date of the month along the top. You then place a simple check mark, star or even a sticker (Yay! you did it!) each time you complete the task.

So, if you want to create the habit of just looking at your training journal every day, even if you don't train every day, that would be listed in the left column. If you want to create a habit of working on a single criterion or behavior each day - or every other day put that in that column.

Below are a couple of links for pre-printed habit trackers. Or make your own, as part of your training journal or a separate document.

Here you can download a free habit tracker page or use it as a template to make your own:

Start by including something simple, something you know you are likely to do anyway... like play with or snuggling with your dog! Keeping track of those things you want to create habits of in your training can help keep you both motivated and accountable!

Happy Tracking and Happy Training!

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