30 Days to Pavlov: The Exercise Version

Sammy wants a greenie 017
sammy dog would like the complete the ritual of being let out to pee…

Every morning we have this ritual. The alarm clock goes off with a little electronic tune, and Sammy dog immediately hops out of his bed, prancing around waiting to be picked up and put on OUR bed for a while. I wake up the girls, who come in for a cuddle. At 6:59 I read a prayer from a little devotional that Catie insists upon. The INSTANT I say “Amen,” the dog LEAPS off the bed, looking eagerly up at Eden, who then takes him outside.

If you snooze the alarm and it goes off again later…Sam scampers.
If you say “Amen” at any time during the day…Sam runs to the door.
Sam is completely Pavlov-ed.

I ‘ve been thinking lately,  I need to be Pavlov-ed. 

Serendipty is at hand, because The Bliss Chick has been writing about how she accidentally Pavlov-ed herself into a wonderful writing habit.  Then she extrapolated from there to write about how she wants to Pavlov herself into ballet/yoga everyday.  In the second post she talks about Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life and how in that book Twyla says that the ritual of her 2 hour daily workout isn’t getting her gear on, or stepping onto the treadmill. It starts the moment she hails the cab.

I’m starting my gym ritual too late. I don’t put on my workout clothes until 2 hours into my days. And by that time my monkey-mind has thought of approximately 57,000 OTHER things for me to do. I’ve got to start it first thing. FIRST THING.

I’m gonna  Pavlov myself into exercise.

Further more, I’m gonna Twyla Tharp it.

For 30 days, every morning when I wake up I will immediately put on my workout clothes. This means my ritual has already begun.  In fact, I’m going to say that to myself when I pull on the clothes I need to go to the gym. THEN I’m going to follow the advice in  The Power of Less’s  and connect my new ritual to an already established ritual which looks like this: 

Twyla Tharp It: the ritual has begun.
Morning Cuddle: (connect to an established ritual) connection time with the girls
The Military Precision Hour: breakfast for the kids, pack lunches, fill water bottles, send kids off.
Nap Time: an extra hour of sleep for this insomniac living in the deep Winter north.
Kitchen Ritual: fill my water bottle, make a carafe of green tea tea, take my vitamins. (This was last month’s habit.) 
Breakfast with Vincent: (connect to an established ritual)  I read about VanGogh while I eat breakfast.
Exercise! the ritual gets completed.

Also, I’ve already established what  exercise I do on what day, provided I make it to that point. Which, now I will, because the ritual will have already begun. And I am waaaaay too witch-y to interrupt a ritual already in progress. In case life gets in the way, with an appointment or something, my Emergency Back-Up Workout Plan is a quick 25 minutes of pilates or 45 minutes of yoga on DVD.

Do you want to join me? 30 Days to Pavlov: The Exercise Version. Here’s what to do:

1. Find your Linchpin. What will connect your new habit to an already established habit.
2. Twyla Tharp It: What will be the thing that signals your ritual has already started.
3. Back Up Plan: What will your back up plan be if you can’t get to your gym/class/yoga studio?

I think if you’ve got that down, you’re ready to go. Sign-up (you know I love a good sign-up) and let us know what the answers are to these questions in the comments. I’ll see you in 30 days (0r sooner for a mid-month check in if I can get organized enough). Oh, and by the way, feel free to start your 30 days anytime. You probably need a day to think this through. It’s okay. I’ll still cheer you on.

Love to you bubs!


Christine (Blisschick) Reed February 5, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Very cool, Rachel. :)

My Pavloving/Tharping is going excellently. Allowing the mundane to be the beginning of the ritual seems to work wonders for many of us. :)

another Rachelle February 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Wow, this is timely! I realized the other day that what might be keeping me back from taking care of my health is my devalueing of body and “feminine” nurturing. My life seems to be all about “masculine” achieving and striving. Figuring that out helped me to take a baby step towards the yoga practice I want. Every day this week I’ve taken just 5 minutes for some simple stretches and it has improved my day and helped with my daily headaches! Your post gave me some more insight into why this is working – I’ve sandwiched the stretches between my other morning rituals. Now that I know this I’ll definitely make use of it again! Thanks Rachelle.

Leslie February 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm

This is SOOOO what I need. I started an exercise plan towards the middle of November ’09 but got way off by the end of December with all the holiday stuff. I so want to get back on track and make it part of my life instead of something I try to do on the side. This is just what I needed–a little push and some encouragement. I already have a plan of starting again on Sunday. I will spend today and tomorrow writing my plan out and making a ritual of it. I just read another blog about morning rituals (I love how everything is coming together in my life!). I’ll link back once I make a post on my blog. Thanks Rachelle!!! Cheering you on as well. XO!

Sunrise Sister February 5, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I’m not going to join you in the 30 days as I’m not yearning for a new discipline at the moment. I am a bit “Pavloved” already though, in that I own more workout clothes than what one might call “regular” clothes. I’m in them a lot and that means I’m always ready for a walk, a gym visit. Regularly yoga 2 times a week, along with 2 stability ball classes. I’m a nut without being totally tethered and frantic if I have to miss but I found the routine of the clothes, the shoes, etc. gets my mind set in the right direction for success in completing a good workout! The “Pavlov-Tharp” methods of real winners!

Rachelle February 8, 2010 at 10:38 am

I’m day 4 into this project and so far it’s working quite well for me. I had already knocked down a lot of my resistence towards exercise, not in small part because my chronic pain issues made doing a little something each day absolutely essential. But now the remain resistence is just melting away. The key for me, has been seeing my entire morning routine — all the way through exercise and to my shower (after which I finally start work) as a set or rites within a larger ritual. My religious nature is very reluctant to interrupt a ritual already in progress. So “the ritual has begun” mantra is really working for me.

How are you doing with it?

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