SANDY — What motivates people to kick old unhealthy habits and adopt new ones? And what happens when they get off track?
For Nat Harward, it starts with a productive morning. His alarm goes off at 4:15 a.m. and by 5:30, he’s teaching an indoor cycling class and training for a triathlon.
But he hasn't always been this way.
“I was not a creature of habit at all and really had almost no habits,” Harward said.
Late nights was the one consistent habit Harward did have, and he said it was eroding his quality of life.
“Being up until three in the morning all the time and realizing this is not going to work, and I’m so tired,” said Harward as he described how he knew he needed a change.
He observed a common thread among successful, high performing people.
“I couldn’t find anyone who did really well in multiple areas of life where it seemed like they weren’t succeeding on the foundation of habits,” Harward explained. “They were training regularly and had set work schedules and set morning routines.”
Harward was determined to follow suit. For him, it started by preparing his nutrition and the clothes he wants to wear the night before.
“I wake up and even when I'm like, 'ahh, I don't want to.’ It's like, ‘Yeah, but I already mixed the drinks and laid out the clothes and packed everything up,’” he said.
Harward exercises for two or three hours and makes a healthy breakfast before jumping into work. He also realized a structured morning routine increased his confidence and sense of control.
“Regardless of what happened the rest of the day, I knew that I could start the next day on my terms and doing things that I knew were good for my body and for my heart and my mind,” Harward elaborated. “And, so if I took care of myself, then over time, I would get stronger and be a better person and to be successful with bigger things that I wanted to do.”
Waking up early is not a hard choice for someone who has done it every day, said Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Ky Dorsey, who is the McKay Dee Behavioral Health Clinic medical director.
"They've got the conditioning and they feel much better than before when they didn't,” Dorsey explained.
But for someone who is just starting the new habit of waking up early, the choice is harder.
“Every morning, the choice is that fight between staying in bed and getting up and working out and that's where that difficulty lies,” said Dorsey. “But once you get momentum going, momentum is your ally in changing behaviors.”
Harward said he started to feel stronger. He slept more and had more energy. Over time, he started accomplishing his goals like competing in his first Ironman Triathlon in 2014.
“And then when I did finish the race, that sense of accomplishment was really incredible,” he said. “My life is so much better having done this. I want to keep doing it.”
Today, Harward is the president of the Intermountain Healthcare Tri-team. And this later this summer, he will represent Team USA at the World Triathlon Championships in Switzerland.
“Yeah, it was just the evidence of like, it was totally worth it," he said. "All this work has paid off.”
Harward says there are still some days where getting out of bed isn’t exactly automatic. But the reward he gets from exercise always outweighs any thought of sleeping in.