I've heard a lot of different rules of thumb about how long it takes to form a habit - estimates vary from as few as 18 to as many as 254 days, with the average being about 66 days. Apparently, there is a link between practice and progress (go figure). It seems that to actually form a new habit, though, you have to be ready to make a two-month commitment, at least.
As I was contemplating this information after my walk/jog this morning, I began to think of it differently. It may take two months to make a habit but, for me, it takes about one day to break it...maybe even one second/one decision that cascades into another decision and another. I am a champion at demotivating myself and, if I convince myself not to do something one day, it becomes that much easier to shrug it off the next.
So far, I have coaxed myself out of bed sixteen days in a row to work out - not including Sundays, which I've set aside for rest and recovery. Most days it hasn't been much of a struggle. In fact, I'm finding that morning exercise fits my motivation level and I enjoy the energy boost I feel from being active first thing. And, if I work out shortly after rolling out of bed, I don't have the whole day to talk myself out of doing it when I get home. An added benefit has been avoiding being outdoors in the heat of the day, which has been considerable for the past month and a half.
But, I have done this before. I haven't been a yo-yo dieter, with my weight bouncing up and down regularly, but I have been at this point before. I've gotten excited about exercise and healthy eating and even stuck with it for eight months or so two times in the past. Each time, some circumstance has given me a convenient reason to stop and I've climbed back up to the weight and down to the level of un-fitness I was before - a fact that can be incredibly discouraging to think about.
What I've realized, though, is that letting the baggage of the past weigh me down isn't going to help. I don't know how long it will take before I get to the point that I've truly formed a habit and it's harder NOT to exercise - maybe never. But, I'm committed to taking it one day at a time and not letting one bad day or one bad week or one bad decision derail my efforts permanently.
And I'm sure I can count on a little help from my friends if I do start slipping up.