Patience is the key to establishing a routine

Jan Heldstab 16. February 2024


They are simple, easy and barely noticeable, our routines. Routines are an im-portant factor when it comes to achieving our training goals. However, incor-porating them into everyday life often takes longer than we think.

How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? Now – almost two months into the new year – many of us have already given up on them. The gym membership. The new running shoes. The swimming goggles. All remain unused and we're left with a guilty conscience as we clear them away. Why is it so hard to uphold our good inten-tions? 

Three weeks to adapt

It has long been thought that it takes three weeks to become accustomed to a new rou-tine. This is how long it took for the patients of Maxwell Maltz (a plastic surgeon in the 1960s) to get used to their new appearance. Psychologists have dealt with this time frame for a while now, and research assumed that this “familiarisation effect” also ap-plied to other things or activities. After around three weeks, a person should have be-come accustomed to going for regular walks without having to force themselves to do so each morning or evening.

Up to 254 days for a complex activity

But it's not that simple. For one thing, life often gets in the way of us fulfilling certain resolutions. It also often takes longer than three weeks to get used to a new daily be-haviour. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology confirms what many people have long suspected: according to the author, it takes 66 days on average for a new behaviour to become automatic. However, this can take even longer - anywhere from 18 to 254 days! The more complex the new activity and the more difficult it is to implement on a daily basis, the longer it will take to become routine. Committing to a weekly run is also far easier for those who have signed up for an event than those who haven't set a goal. This is just one example of many.

7 ways to a routine

There are seven steps that can help you successfully achieve your goal and turn the ac-tivity into a routine. How to achieve your running goal through routines:

  1. Set yourself realistic goals: Start off with achievable goals that correspond to your current fitness level and schedule. Setting goals too high can lead to frustration.
  2. Be consistent: Try to do your (new) sport regularly and at the same time of day, if possible. Consistency is the key to developing new habits.
  3. Give yourself time: On average, it takes 66 days for your training routine to become a habit. Be patient and don't expect change overnight.
  4. Monitor your progress: Record your progress, whether it be with a training diary or an app. This can motivate and help you keep track of your achievements.
  5. Be flexible: It’s normal to have days where you can’t or don’t want to train. Stay flexible and adapt your routine if needed without being too harsh on yourself.
  6. Seek support: Having a community or friend to train with can provide extra motivation and encourage you to push yourself harder.
  7. Enjoy the process: Choose a sport you really enjoy. If you enjoy your activity, you'll be more likely to stick at it.