Creatures of Habit
My morning routine:
Get out of bed.
Have a pee.
Drink a glass of water.
Put the kettle on.
Put porridge on to cook.
Wash my face.
Pack my kit for the day.
Have a stretch.
Brush my teeth.
Put on my ski kit.
Leave the house.
Walk to work. Etc.
Within that, I will always wash my face the same way, get dressed in the same way – this is my morning routine and my habits. It’s very simple. I only have myself to think about! It works and I do it without thinking. I do it because I don’t have to think. I can think about other things. That is why we have habits; to allow us to cope with day to day life, and be able to do other tasks and activities.
When it comes to sport, fitness and exercise, we have habits. Some are awesome, and some are not so awesome. Let me use skiing as an example.
Good habit: I love my edges. I love rolling on to them, and enjoy leaving train tracks around the mountain. It is one of my strengths when skiing, and something I do without too much thought.
Bad habit: Everyone LOVES to ride in the ‘back seat’. It is where we feel most comfortable in terms of our confidence. However, who likes the thigh burn, the skis that struggle to turn and that awkward inside ski that just KEEPS on catching in the snow? Good skiing technique goes against our natural instincts in so many ways, and this one in particular is a tough habit to kick.
These habits relate to skills rather than other habits we might have on the mountain. Are you aware of the fact you might always sit in the same spot on the chairlift? And, consequently, always turn to talk to your neighbour on the same side? Are you aware that you may carry your skis over the same shoulder every day, making that one side stronger? For a ski instructor, these small details over the course of the winter can result in some big imbalances. Can you think of habits that you do at work, or when you play a certain sport regularly that could potentially be balanced out in some way?
Let me use running as another example of unknown habits. Do you always run a certain route the same way? Always on the same side of the road or track, and in the same direction. What if there was a camber, a slight slope which meant that you were unintentionally using one leg more than the other? This could be the same with walking and maybe your commute to work.
We don’t have to become ambidextrous! We all naturally have a stronger side, and some things we are forced to always do on one side (driving and changing gears for example – I suppose here in Morzine, there may be a few who swap between driving a left hand drive car and a right hand, and may commute between the UK and France regularly…?), but it might be worth becoming a little more aware of how imbalanced these habits can make us. It is probably worth zoning into some daily habits, be it your morning routine or how you go about your workout in the gym, or spend your day on the ski slopes, to investigate if you’re potentially creating some imbalances within the build of your body.
OLD HABITS DIE HARD
True: It takes time to change habits and it will feel very odd to begin with.
Last winter, I persisted with encouraging my body to breathe on both sides when swimming. I spluttered, I got water in my ear and I was definitely slower, but little by little, and with some serious discipline (oh so stubborn!), I succeeded. I didn’t record a before and after photograph or measurements of my shoulders and neck, but I am sure it will have made my muscles more balanced in size.
CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
Wrong: You can change, you just have to want to and be open to change, especially for the better!
This winter I’m walking to work every day. I refuse to be crammed onto a bus when the 15-20 minutes walk warms me up and offers a bit of (more) exercise to start and end the day. I am right handed therefore I automatically want to carry my skis over my right shoulder. So, this winter I am teaching myself to carry my skis over my left shoulder, too. Some days I’ll walk all the way to the cable car with them on my left, some days I’ll split it half and half, I’ll change the swap over point and on which side I carry them on first, too. I’m constantly trying to change it up.
CONSISTENCY. CONSISTENCY. CONSISTENCY.
To create a new habit, whatever it may be, you have to keep doing it. I’ve read it can take 21 days, 28 days, 7 times, 66 days… who knows, to make a new habit. What is obvious is that it takes repetition and being consistent, and persistent, with your new habit to make it stick.
Be aware that when it comes to a new skill within your sport, we need to ensure that the practice is good practice: perfect practice makes perfect.
So I challenge you in your day to day movements, whatever you may be doing, to notice how you move, what you do the same everyday and whether it might be having a negative effect on your body. How can you balance your muscle strength? What can you do to counterbalance the way your muscles move on a daily basis?