The role of 'triggers' on your fitness goals

Each day, you go about performing different tasks, duties and jobs. Some of these are automatic, some are responsive and some are 'triggered'.

Triggers play an integral role in the formation of habits and how you go about your day-to-day life.

They're also really important to reach specific fitness goals!

First of all. What is a 'trigger'?

Triggers are a response from receiving a specific stimulus, or input. Basically, it means that once you see, hear, or associate a specific object, you perform a given action or task.

There are three main types of triggers. Those being;

  1. Visual (What you see)

  2. Verbal (What you hear)

  3. Environmental (What's around you)

I first learnt about the importance of triggers through reading the book, 'The Power Of Habit', by Charles Duhigg.

One of the big take-aways that I learnt from that book, is what's called 'The habit loop'. This is a series of steps that every single person goes through and are important to understand if you are hoping to make adjustments in your life -- whether it be fitness based, changing your diet, or just getting rid of time-wasting tasks.

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You go through this habit loop on a daily basis -- whether you know it or not -- with certain responses dictating specific actions.

I'd like to take you through the 3 main triggers so that you can become aware of them, use them to your advantage to enhance your fitness, improve your nutrition habits and make you more productive each day.

Visual triggers - what cause you to act upon seeing a certain item or object.

Let's say, you struggle to work out consistently. What do you do?

You try to make things as easy as possible to remind yourself that you need to exercise, or do a workout.

You can do this by placing all items that you associate with exercise, around you. A few ideas for you;

  • Pack your gym bag the night before and leave it near the front door. This reminds you to take it and go to the gym.

  • Leave your workout clothes hung on the back of a chair that is in a high traffic area (somewhere you pass by often).
  • Place a reminder in your calendar that gives you a notification at a specific time. See the notification=get ready to train.

Those are just a few examples.

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All you're looking to do is make things a little easier for yourself by determining what you struggle with (the example is working out consistently) and then trigger yourself to perform the necessary action.

VERBAL TRIGGERS- cause you to perform an action upon hearing or listening to something

"If you hear something often enough it becomes true". 

What you hear on a daily basis can certainly affect your thoughts. And thoughts lead to actions.

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Which begs the question, "What are you thinking about?"

There are many forms of verbal input, so let's take some time to see what you're getting exposed to on a daily basis.

Below are 7 common forms of verbal triggers;

  1. TV
  2. News
  3. Radio
  4. Movies
  5. Podcasts
  6. Friends
  7. Family

You have FULL CONTROL of all inputs from 1-5. But, some that you don't have control over are your friends and family.

A quick way to assess how this affects your fitness goals is by asking a few crucial questions.

Have you friends or family recently (within the last 2 weeks) said any of the following to you?

  • Do you want to go out for drinks?
  • One bite won't kill you!
  • Should we just get takeaway?
  • Are you not 'allowed' to eat/drink this?

What you need to understand is that when people ask you these questions, it is often a form of peer pressure!

The person has a clear idea of what they want to do and just want to get you on board with it -- regardless of your goals.

The first thing you can do to overcome this is simply tell your friends and family what your goals are. Tell them what you are trying to achieve and let them know that you are having to make a few small sacrifices here and there.

This may upset them. But, if they are true friends and want the best for you then I'm sure they'll jump on board and help you as best they can.

If not, you may need to sit down and have a conversation with them, or tell them a firm, but, graceful "No" when an offer gets presented to you that doesn't align with your goals.

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Environmental triggers- your set-up and Objects/items that you associate with regularly

So far, you have covered visual and verbal triggers -- how what you see and hear can influence and affect your actions.

This is important to understand because it will have an impact on your RESULTS.

Where you spend your time also dictates how you feel and how you act. These are your environmental triggers.

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There are a few questions that can help you understand your environment and whether it is set-up optimally for your day to day efforts.

1) Is your house setting you up to get closer, or further from your goals?

  • What is in your pantry, right now?
  • Do you have all the cooking utensils required to make healthy meals?
  • Are the foods/liquids in your fridge or freezer easy to cook/prepare?

2) What type of work environment do you have?

  • Is your desk neat, tidy and more importantly, organised?
  • Do you have a list of priorities for the day?
  • Are there pre-determined times blocked off for meetings, calls, emails and/or tasks?

3) Do you have a sanctuary or safe place to visit daily?

This component is what's known as the "3rd place" and is something I learned from a long-time mentor.

Essentially, the 3rd place is a space other than home or work that you go to regularly and enjoy spending time at.

This could include;

  • Gym
  • Study or office space
  • Library
  • Coffee Shop
  • Beach
  • Local park
  • Friends house

Once you identify this space, it's important to keep it available and readily accessible. Don't encroach on this safe space!

For example:

  • If your bedroom is a quiet place where you enjoy reading, DO NOT place a TV in there!
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Each of these situations, scenarios and environments impact what you do, how you feel and ultimately, create your daily habits.

This is why it's important to take stock and "notice and name" what is happening around you.

  • Q- How does this situation/environment make you 'feel'?

  • Q- What do you 'feel' like doing (action)?

  • Q- How do you feel after the 'action' has taken place?

  • Q- Is this a positive outcome for you, your life and your goals?

Once you stop to notice and name, you will start to see trends. These trends will allow you to identify what works, what doesn't and WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE.

What triggers (positive or negative) do you have in any of your 3 environments?

Take some time to reflect, make an honest assessment of your life and how this affects your daily actions.

To your success,



I send out my weekly newsletter, 'Fitness Advice That Works In the Real World',  every Tuesday to help people like you, lose fat, build strength and create results that last.

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