While we’ve been under lockdown due to Covid-19, my normal routine hasn’t changed too much. I am still working on the farm and getting stuck into my winter training plan of base bike fitness. However, I have noticed that there are things I would like to change. Even with all this ‘time’ I am still struggling to get the housework done, that I claim to be ‘too busy’ to do under normal circumstances. Its time to refine the recipe and make some changes that will see me through to make things easier and a little less stressful.
So yeh, this all seems VERY boring and if you want to skip this post I don’t mind. But for those of you who are interested in how I’ve managed to reduce my stress and improve my recovery time, all while maximising my training… read on… yes, we are talking marginal gains here.
I’m not a fan of housework and the thought of tackling all the jobs at once often has me in a frozen panic, which is not helpful or productive. So first things first, I made a list. I listed all the household jobs I could think of; from making the bed to putting the bins out to scrubbing the shower and washing the windows. It was a bit overwhelming and I almost ran out of space, but the next bit was the fun part… colour co-ordinating the tasks into categories. I highlighted which tasks were daily, weekly or monthly. Then I tried to make the list shorter by coupling up tasks such as; sweep the bathroom and sweep the kitchen are now one job. Sounds simple enough.
From here things get a bit more nerdy. I timed myself completing each task and made a note in the spreadsheet. Yes, we have moved from paper scribbles to spreadsheet and data! Exciting times we live in! My thought is this: How can you seem to spend 3-4 hours a day on your phone, when you only look at it for like 5 minutes at a time? So, if I can break all the housework tasks into little chunks that only take 5 mins or less, I will be more likely to do them and over the day it will accumulate a larger amount of time spent keeping things tidy.
To make this approach more successful I have to break some habits and make some habits. I need to stop aimlessly scrolling my phone when I’m bored and do something productive instead. And I also need to attach a task to an existing habit, e.g. brushing my teeth or making coffee. Now we need to get a bit science-y as to how this can actually work and be successful. I turned to ‘The Brave Athlete’ (Marshall & Paterson) to delve into the psychology of habits and figure out how I can make this work. They focus on athlete related habits, such as uploading data, keeping a training journal, or stretching and rolling (all of which I could also improve on) but the basic principles can be applied to housework.
Habits are made up of a trigger, ritual and reward. The trigger initiates the activity or ritual and you need a reward to make it stick. The easiest way to build a new habit is to piggy-back off an existing one. For example; We now have a cat, I have to regularly clean his litter box. I do this when I come home after each milking, as I already smell of cow poo, (trigger). Cleaning Ralph’s littler box has then lead to me sweeping the bathroom and kitchen floor (ritual). My reward is that it smells better and looks cleaner, granting me a moment of inner peace.
I managed to a similar thing with my morning physio/core routine. I put coffee on and start cooking my porridge. While it is cooking I have a few minutes to do my exercises, often giving the porridge a stir between sets. My reward is that I am up early enough to afford a read of my book while I eat breakfast before work.
A harder task to put into a habit is vacuuming. This is my least favourite thing to do, but when done my reward is that I can stretch and roll on clean floor, not get covered in cat hair and not be worried about what Ralph might find to eat. If the reward is strong enough it makes forming the habit easier, as long as the reward is serving you for the better, not like eating a tub of ice cream binge watching Netflix. Thats ok though, just maybe not every night!
I am trying to add a new task every few days, so I don’t get too overwhelmed at once, and I feel like its really working. The house looks much more orderly, I don’t feel like its a drag to get it all clean and I feel way more calm and relaxed in a clean space. Which brings me to my main incentive. If I can keep working on my mental health, calming my anxiety and reducing my ‘life’ stress, I will be able to handle more training stress and recover better, therefore serving me better as an athlete, and not spend a precious rest day cleaning!
I mean, I’m not Dave Brailsford, but you could say that I have been chasing some marginal gains… With our bike shop and service centre, Dad’s Garage, getting off now we are down to Level 3, my workload is increasing and I need to make the most of my productive time and the less time I can spend stressing over a messy house, the more time I can dedicate to growing the business, riding my bike, meditation, cooking proper food and hanging out with Ryan and Ralph.