Episode #47 – The Power of Habit Design

Episode #47 – The Power of Habit Design

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Habits are so ingrained into your cycling on and off the bike-it’s important to take create and modify habits that will lead to you being a better cyclist. Habit loops and keystone habits are two elements that will get you working better when your on automatic.


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This episode is based Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit.” and the work of BF Fogg. I mentioned The Power of Habit in Episode #17.

There are lots of ways that changing habits can applied to better your cycling. Habits are your behaviour, and if you’re not happy with some element of your cycling, big or small, then this is a great place to start.


  • Consistent training or sleep hours.
  • Eating poorly – If it’s in the house it will eventually get eaten.
  • Being competitive on recovery ride.

We create and maintain habits to conserve mental energy so we can think about more complex and difficult issues; these habits can be good or bad or neutral, but once established, they never really leave us, waiting to be rediscovered.

Habits can be due to deliberate design or because of routine. They are a pattern of behaviour that can unfold automatically because it is so ingrained.

Every habit has a habit loop consisting of:

  1. The Cue – A trigger that tells the brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.
  2. The Routine – Which can be physical, mental or emotional
  3. The Reward – Which helps your brain figure out this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.

Over time this becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become that intertwined that a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.

The best actionable advice to focus on is changing the one habit to rule them all. A “keystone” habit that has the power to reprogram other elements of your life.

How to identify habit loops and how to modify them.

Example: Drink 1 litre of water by 12pm.

The Cue

Ask yourself these questions if you want to change an old habit, or use them to set up a new habit.

  • What Time is It?
  • Where are you?
  • Who else is around?
  • What did you just do?
  • What emotion are you feeling?

For me, I had a head start and would automatically grab 500ml of water with breakfast, but would stall after that, sometimes not remembering until well into the afternoon.


The cue I set up was a reminder email sent to my inbox at 12pm everyday from askmeevery.com.


I am usually on my computer at 12pm or if not I will check my mail often. So it’s the perfect vehicle to get the message to me. There are ways to set up this for sms if that works better. Another option is finding a recipe for services you use over at IFTT.com

Tying the cue to another behaviour like checking email was able to put me in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the message.

The Routine

A new routine, otherwise known as behaviour, is the only way you are going to complete the habit. The behaviour I was trying to create was filling up my cup and drinking until i had a litre of water at 12.


Funny thing about the routine: For me: it was a little deeper than I first thought. All humans are lazy, so I had to create an environment design to help me succeed. In this case, in order to simplify the process, I stopped buying water from the supermarket and arranged a water cooler at home with weekly delivery. I have a 500ml cup I use exclusively for drinking water-it stays on my desk at all times, and the water cooler is very close to me.


The point here is you might have to think about how to set yourself a little more at the beginning of creating the environment for success. Gear next to bike to get out the door, not checking computer before riding-etc.

The Reward

What craving do you think your habit is satisfying? This part is tricky because the reward could be buried deeper than you think. If you are creating a reward, make it real and something you can relate to. Find a reward that is highly valuable to you.

I started taking fish oil-I couldn’t figure out the value after a bottle of pills, so I have stopped. Where if I could feel the difference, or research more on the difference and then look harder for the signs, maybe I would stick with them.

For me and water – the most obvious reward is quenching my thirst immediately. Then later it’s not feeling thirsty in the afternoon. I could’ve said hydration, but that’s not what got me to drink in the first place.


If you’re trying to change a bad habit, you will have to test the theory of what reward you find valuable, and is why you keep repeating the behaviour. I value cold water to quensh my thirst, I don’t value getting up and moving away from my computer as could’ve been the case.

Plan – When (cue), I (routine) because it provides me with (reward).

My plan – When I get a reminder email, I drink water until I have one litre in my system because it provides me with cool, refreshing thirst quenching goodness.

I am happy to report though that it has worked really well.

So well that I have begun to extend this to a new habit, drinking 500ml of water in the first half an hour of coming back from a ride.


Next I will work on drinking while on the bike. I am finding that I am not drinking enough while riding. So I will work with the cue to remind me to drink. I haven’t implemented it, but I think I’ll start with drinking every time my timer has a zero in the number, then move to 5 and 0 over time.


This is a keystone habit for me because when I drink water, it allows me to feel hydrated, it stops me from drinking sodas, fills me up and stops late night food cravings, and makes me feel like I doing something good for my body.

All of these then spin off into other areas of my life.

Tech, Hacks & Products

Where to look while climbing.

Where do you look while you’re climbing? As far forward as possible like when you’re descending? Or at your handlebars?

I believe the best place to look while climbing is just ahead of you. Sure if you look up every now and then it won’t hurt. But I definitely see a disadvantage to your mental well being if you keep looking too far up the road. Especially if you’re tired. By focussing on what is just in front of you, you’re going to be better off, it’s tackling one chunk at a time rather than getting overwhelmed at the whole thing.

So be aware of where you are on the mountain, but just concentrate on what’s in front of you – whether that’s a real wheel or just you versus the mountain.



Photo Credit: joiseyshowaa on Flickr


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Build fitness on a realistic schedule with this time-saving planner.

Get your free copy of The Weekly Workout Stack™

Build fitness on a realistic schedule with The Weekly Workout Stack™

Get your free copy of this time-saving planner.
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