Everyone loves the clean slate of a new year. The clock chimes midnight, Janus closes one pair of eyes and opens another, the spine is cracked on a fresh diary. It’s our chance to discard the skin of last year and slither into something that feels a bit more “me as I should be”.
But at that time of the year, everything is cold and hard, and will be for weeks. April may be the cruellest month, but in the northern hemisphere February and March are an endurance sport. The only promises you should be making to yourself at the frost-bitten start of the year are ones that will make you warmer, fuller, louder, happier. Set aside more time for reading, take up singing lessons or knitting, learn to make an insane lemon meringue pie and invite all your friends over to demolish it. Buy a new wine each week. Go to those Queen Bey dance classes you keep meaning to try or that trapeze lesson. January is not the time to form new, difficult habits, or indulge in Type 2 Fun.
However, now is. Mid-autumn is the perfect time to go outside and start doing something a little bit difficult. Summer is over; the heat and weddings have dissipated. The air is cooling, but we’re still blessed with the ruddy autumn sun. It’s cross-country season! What’s more inspiring than the sight of pimpled-legged runners haring around a muddy field in suburban Surrey?
No? How about a hike or run through the russet trails of the New Forest? The last bracing dip of the year off the South Coast, a salty swim followed by the vinegar tang of fish and chips? I’m going to start swimming again in the mornings, mainly for the low-key reward of a coffee and pastry after an early session in the (indoor) pool.
If what you want to do is to form a habit, and make it through to Christmas ready and raring to keep at it through the new year, just remember, achieving anything worthwhile is always, always, about consistency. Little and often is better than lots, all the time, then crashing and burning.
Hundreds of thousands of words have been written on how to form habits and stick to them, but when thinking about your intentions, it’s worth knowing that commitment and motivation are not the same. Absolutely no one feels motivated all the time. Former American footballer Inky Johnson has pointed out:
“People think commitment is saying ‘Yes, I’ll do it on the days when it feels good.’ Commitment is staying true to what you said you were going to do long after the mood that you said it in has left.”
Just, you know, help that mood along by not starting your brand new training plan in the bleak midwinter.