How CrossFit is a keystone habit


CrossFit is my keystone habit.

I recently finished Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. It explains how some of our habits are more important than others. He calls them keystone habits.

Keystone habits aren’t more important because the actions themselves are weighted more heavily in their influence. Keystone habits are more important because they create a cascade effect of other habits.

By doing this one thing habitually, we often unknowingly can create other accompanying habits as a result. Obviously this can be a huge benefit, because creating new habits isn’t always easy. So, if we can strengthen just one keystone habit in our lives, the effects will multiply with the trickle down effects of the other habits.

For me, CrossFit has absolutely become my keystone habit. Not only does it get me to exercise multiple times a week, it also has created the following side effect habits:

Waking up earlier in the day.

I’ve always been more of an early bird than a night owl, but that usually meant easily getting up to my 7am alarm with energy and pep. By no means did it mean waking up naturally with the sunrise! But now, after regularly waking up for 6:30am classes I have no trouble get up earlier and earlier without the help of my alarm on days I’m not even going to class.

Going to bed earlier in the evening.

One obvious side effect of waking up earlier in the morning is feeling sleepier earlier in the evening. I like to try to get as close to 8 hours of sleep as possible, so since I know I’m waking up close to 6am daily, I’ve been a lot better about crawling into bed closer to 10pm. Granted, I’m by no means perfect and often find myself not actually turning off the light till closer to midnight, but going to bed earlier has become easier and is now more of the norm than the exception.

Drinking more water.

I always thought I drank enough water for optimal health. That is until I started actually tracking how much water I drank. I like using the Plant Nanny app on my phone to track how much I drink, and I use the equation of drinking half my body weight in ounces. So, since I weigh 125lbs, I need to be getting in 62.5oz of water a day. (What if you’re drinking 2-3 cups of caffeine or booze daily? Then up your water requirements by 2-3 cups too!)

Anyways, I always thought that I drank plenty of water, but once I started tracking it I realized I was way under watering my own body. By waking up earlier in the day for CrossFit, I find that I am easily getting in half my required amount by lunchtime. Between drinking a full glass when I wake up, taking sips during my workout, having my morning cup of decaf herbal faux-coffee, and enjoying a glass of herbal tea to start my day at the office, I take in over 30oz by 11am. This starts my day off way more hydrated, and helps me feel more energized and focused for the rest of the day.

Drinking less alcohol.

Now, I’m not much a drinker to begin with, but it used to be pretty common for me to have an evening drink or two at home or out at the bar at least two or three days a week. I never had a problem with that amount and I wasn’t trying to consciously reduce my alcohol intake, but as soon as I started waking up earlier with the intention to lift up some heavy shit, I stopped wanting to feel the slightly foggy feeling that always came along after a night at the bar.

Plus, like I mentioned above, each boozy beverage ups the amount of water I had to drink and I was sick of waking up in the middle of the night to pee!

Eating larger and healthier breakfasts.

I love food, but I’ve never been a huge breakfast person. Probably because as a kid growing up, my mom ate the same combination of Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, and Grape Nuts every morning before going to work. Big elaborate breakfasts weren’t on the menu as a working mother and that was always fine by me. But I stopped eating grain-based cereal a long time ago while I was healing from Crohn’s disease and skipping breakfast is no longer an option when I’m doing hugely strenuous workouts most mornings.

That means that getting in some healthy protein and carbs is a total necessity for me. And since I’m up with plenty of time before I have to be at work (perks of self-employment!), I take the time everyday to make myself a healthy and energy filled breakfast. I usually rotate between a couple different favorites, but lately my obsession has been making a batch of these simple four-ingredient protein-packed gluten-free pancakes.

Super simple paleo pancakes

Makes enough for 2 batches - or about 8 pancakes
2 large bananas
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp almond butter
4 Tbsp collagen powder
1-2 Tbsp chia seeds

Instructions: There really are no directions other than to mix together all the ingredients and then fry up the pancakes on a griddle using either coconut oil or grass fed butter (my preference). While you can absolutely mix together all the ingredients by hand, you’ll get a much smoother batter (and therefore more pancakes) if you use a blender, food processor, or handheld mixer. I personally use this immersion blender and blend the ingredients together in a wide-mouth quart-sized mason jar like this one. That way I can make a big batch of batter and then use it over 2-3 days, saving the rest in the fridge by just putting a lid on the jar! These pancakes are so naturally sweet that they don’t even need syrup. I just eat them with a pad of grass fed butter. Plus, between the eggs, collagen, and chia seeds, they contain about 20 grams of protein per serving!

What keystone habits do you have in your life?

According to Charles Duhigg, keystone habits aren’t just activities that you partake in on a daily basis, they’re “the soil from which other habits grow.” The structure that CrossFit brings to my life has absolutely created a platform for other healthy habits to grow and thrive.

Want to find out your keystone habit? Consider these questions. [TWEET THIS!]

  • What do you do that sets the tone for the day to come?
  • What is the one habit you have, that if it fell off the wagon, the rest of your routine would come crumbling down?
  • What do you do daily that gives you a small sense of accomplishment each and every time?
  • Where are you feeling lots of “small wins”? These are the habits that give you the confidence to continue to build even bigger and better habits.


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