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  • Writer's pictureAshley Besecker, RDN, CD

Creating an Atomic Habit can make you a better Athlete

Updated: Jan 4

I'm in the middle of listening to an audiobook - I'm obsessed with audiobooks - called Atomic Habits by James Clear.

I actually got the recommendation from a colleague of mine, Malcolm Lemmons, who another colleague of mine, Jed Collins, had referred me over to. Don't you love networking?

Malcolm has a great free list of the "15 books All Athletes Need to Read" and I am currently on my third, Atomic Habits.

The idea of an Atomic Habit is creating a very small change that can create a very large result. Which is exactly what I do in practice with my professional athletes. Changing the multivitamin they take daily can result in repleting a functional nutrient deficiency within 3 months. Adding 1 handful of spinach to their eggs each morning can correct an iron deficiency within that season (without taking the horrible iron pills that cause constipation).

In applying this concept to my own life, I've started 2 Atomic Habits.


1) Post-it Notes.

Each morning, I've started writing 3 post-it notes. One to my husband Tyler. One to my daughter Grace (6 yo). One to my daughter Gianna (4 yo). I place them on their bathroom mirrors before they wake up. I've put the post-it note pad and sharpie into my closet right where I go first thing in the morning to change my clothes. I write a very small sentence for Tyler and Grace, such as, "I love your fire" or "I choose you every day". For Gianna, who has only just turned 4 and can't read yet, I draw a little picture. The first was a mermaid.

The long term goals for me here are to wake up earlier, have a more structured morning routine, and put more love and effort into the relationships with my husband and kids. But in order to write those notes, and stick them on their bathroom mirrors before they get there, I have to wake up before them. See where this is going? My small Atomic Habit is writing a small note each morning to my family members. If I make that my focus, soon, I'll be waking up earlier, more consistently. My family will become excited to see these each morning, and slowly, I will be able to structure a better routine in the morning, and my family will get a small hit of love at the beginning of each day.

But all I am doing is writing a few words on 3 post-it notes each morning.

2) Dog Food.

Each time I walk by my dog Laila's food and water bowl, I stop, check if they are full, and if so, fill up the food and water. If there are any little pebbles of food on the ground that have fallen out, I pick the few up and put them back in the bowl.

Overall, I do not keep a tidy house. I am one of those people that would panic if you called and said you were swinging by. My house is a constant disaster of kids toys, dishes in the sink, and laundry that made it out of the dryer, but never got folded.

Most embarrassing is the pile of dog food pebbles that spills out of Laila's bowl when she eats. Pretty soon we have 20-40 pebbles of food scattered around her bowls near the kitchen that everyone just walks over each day.

The long term goal here is to turn a small habit of picking up those pebbles, into other small tasks, that over time will support me keeping a more tidy home.

But all I am doing is stopping to pick up the pebbles each time I walk past her bowl.


As an athlete, what is an area you feel you aren't fully pressing on? Is it your diet? Your strength training? Your sleep? Think about one of those big "goals", and then I want you to go back, back, back, back, until there is something incredibly small that you can do each day to create an Atomic Habit towards that goal.

For example. If you know you are chronically dehydrated and need to drink more water. You don't start with a goal of 100 oz of water per day. It's a big jump from what you are currently doing, and it's not specific enough. When are you going to drink that water? Out of what cup? How much at a time?

An Atomic Habit for this would be to place a glass of water next to your sink each night. Choose a normal drinking glass. Every night, fill up that glass with fresh water and leave it next to your bathroom sink. Before brushing your teeth, drink the glass of water.

The small habit is to fill the glass with fresh water and place it next to your bathroom sink every night. It's easy enough, it's quick, and it makes it visible to you the next morning, reminding you to drink it before brushing your teeth. This avoids the "I can't drink a bunch before bedtime or I'll wake up to pee all night!" argument.

My challenge to you is to think through something you'd like to improve in your life and create an Atomic Habit that over time will help get you there. Tell me what it is! Comment or tag me @ashleyabesecker on Instagram or Twitter and tell me what your Atomic Habit is!

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