Developing Habits

Pronunciation: /ˈhabɪt/
Definition of habit in English:
1A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up
1.2Psychology An automatic reaction to a specific situation.

(Source: Oxford Dictionary)

My life is full of habits - things that simply do not change, work the same all the time, same order, same place, same whatever. As I am going through a "difficult" personal phase right now (more on this in one of the next posts), these habits are more important than ever to keep me going. What's more, it is time to develop new habits in my life.

Habits do safe a lot of time and make sure that you do not have to think about what you are doing -I think I even grew up with developing lots of habits: how to clean my apartment, how to have my breakfast ready, how I work with horses.
As I think of it now, I guess I have a habit for everything (almost): how to groom Hafl, how to tack him up, how to pack the trailer, kind of warm up routine, even the days that are horsey free are always the same (not right now, but normally). This is why it drives me crazy when our Equipment Manager or whoever else does things differently. Sometimes it even feels like that I seem to have found the only way how to solve problems - at least, by making it a habit, I made it a bit more efficient.

It does not seem to me to be very difficult to stick to my habits, and most of the time, I did not even realize that I developed a habit. But what if you want to develop a habit on purpose? A grooming routine should be easy to realize but what if we are talking about daily workout routines?

I am in the same boat! I should have plenty of time now and hell yeah, I am motivated. I can see the bigger picture of me getting fitter and thus find it easier to ride. With a more stable core, I could absorb Hafl's movements better, with more flexible hip (flexors) I could be more precise in my leg aids. All that, I am aware of. That I sometimes look like a Gummibear, I am aware of. So the knowledge about the advantages is there, the motivation is there, but still, I am not able to get up every morning and do some quick workout (honestly, there are tons of apps offering workouts that only last minutes, and I cannot count the number of times I died in "7 minutes" just because I could not stick to the daily plan.

So what do you have to do to develop a habit? To me, you need a bigger goal. When I developed my grooming routine, it was just because I wanted to save time in order to have more time to do more important things in the barn - sure, there is days when I groom him more thoroughly and for sure, grooming is important but normally, afterworks, we have to decide grooming or riding time and most of us would opt for the riding time. So the grooming routine is just there to have more riding time.

The habit of packing my trailer is there such that I can tell WHOEVER on the showgrounds to get me WHATEVER from the trailer or tack locker when I am in the warm up ring already and realize that I forgot something - it is not only that I do want them to find things easily as I can exactly tell them which door or drawer to open, no, it saves me a lot of stress not having to worry whether XY would find whatever I urgently need. The bigger goal behind this habit is, thus, stress reduction and better focus on a show day.

Horses are creatures of habits - there you go! So, they will stay more relaxed and more engaged as long as you stick to THEIR routines! Hafl knows exactly how a show day routine looks like and as I am sticking to it ALL the time, I have a super relaxed horse at the shows.
Finding the bigger goal behind the "oh my god I need to do more workout" habit is to improve our performance - that was easy. Next, let's talk about how much is needed to do more workout. As I am doing nearly none, more than once is already an improvement. For me, there should be a mixture of strengthening and stretching. So we know why I have to do it and what I have to do. The details do not matter, as long as you start the routine.

And then there comes the tricky part: you need endless repetitions in order to make it a habit - but, we are dressage riders, doing things over and over again is kind of part of our daily business! I realized when I started regular training at home last year, that I had a bad conscience when I went to bed without it! That is when you are SOOO close to making it a habit. Honestly, I could have developed it already, but then there was the mistake of allowing exceptions: I would never allow a grooming routine exception but skipping stretching after a long work day seemed legit. With that, I lost because it is super easy to find an excuse. I had no time seemed to be the cheapest one but the others were no better.

What I will do differently this time with my new attempt to start a workout routine, I will not force myself to do it daily or from Monday to Friday, but to do it at least three days a week - and more often, when I feel like. And of course, I will (again) feel the impact, feel the difference. And for sure, it will improve my posture.

One mean of keeping to your newly developed habit is to treat yourself for every achieved repetition - you could save a bit of money that you can spend on horsey stuff at the end of the month. Or a piece of chocolate. Unless you want to develop the habit of not eating too much chocolate anymore.

Let's rock it, training mat! We can do it!

It would be for sure easier to say that it did not work out last time and it will not either this time, but I am willing to start over again - because I can see the bigger goal now better than before.

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