How to Become Better Than Before -Interview with Gretchen Rubin

photo credit: Elk Studios

photo credit: Elk Studios

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In this episode we talk with Gretchen Rubin, author of the book Better Than Before -Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

Angie and I read this book in January to help ourselves get focused on goals and personal growth. It’s a great read and has many applications to marathon training.

All of us would like to run, exercise, and eat heathy without even thinking twice. Thus the power of habit is preferred to the strength of willpower. But making new habits is easier for some people than it is for others. Here’s the secret,

How to Become Better Than Before

1009909_10156399404850282_7600064414191683887_nWe’ve talked about the importance of habits on past podcast episodes so you can understand our excitement when happiness guru Gretchen Rubin came out with a new book last year all about habit formation.

A lot has been written on the science of habits but what Gretchen has done, I believe, is find what may be the Rosetta Stone of habit creation. It is the idea of knowing yourself first.

There is no one-sized-fits-all approach to forming habits (why didn’t this occur to anyone?). The strategies are only as good as the aptitude, personality, and strengths of the person trying to make the habit stick.

Habit formation therefore is driven by what Gretchen has called The Four Tendancies.

“We can build our habits only on the foundation of our own nature”.

One must start with understanding their tendency -Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel. These categories relate to how each person manages expectations.


Upholders are people who meet both inner and outer expectations. They have a high aptitude for forming habits and can start running regularly simply by scheduling time for it. Upholders tend to love a schedule. They like a to-do list and get feelings of gratification from checking things off. They also tend to like monitoring progress so tracking apps and websites are a big hit with them.

Boxes are marked!  This picture was uploaded to our Academy FB group by one of our members.

Boxes are marked! This picture was uploaded to our Academy FB group by one of our members.

Upholder humor

Upholder humor


Questioners are very focused on efficiency, reasons, and justifications. They need to read tons of research, interviews, or scientific journals about the value of running and then make a well informed decision. The more they believe that their actions are founded with justification the easier it will be to execute.

They love to individualize and customize. They’re the kind of people who might download 5 training plans and tweak, tweak, tweak because they need to do it their way. They have to know that what they’re doing makes sense.

Angie knows which of her coaching clients are questioners because every week they email her with detailed questions about the training plan she gives them.


Obligers meet external expectations but not internal exceptions. They are not going to get up and run in the morning when their whole family is asleep, but they would do it if a running partner is waiting.

Obligers thrive in an environment of accountability. They would do well with hiring a running coach or joining a group that requires regular reporting. They can also be motivated simply by knowing that others are watching and learning from their example.

"Does the second biggest winter storm in NYC history stop my early morning workout group from meeting? Nope. We had fun doing burpees and high-knees in the snow."

“Does the second biggest winter storm in NYC history stop my early morning workout group from meeting? Nope. We had fun doing burpees and high-knees in the snow.”


For rebels it’s all about what THEY want when THEY want it. They tend not to do well with a schedule (I know because I’m a rebel!). They love the idea of freedom and like to run whenever it suits them for the reason that suits them. Maybe to explore a new trail or to listen to podcasts.

They are very tied to the idea of their identity. They want to be authentic to themselves. “This is who I am, if I want to show the world who I am, this is how I behave. I am a runner! What does a runner do? A runner consistency runs”.

I’ve used this identity and freedom trick to get myself through 10 marathons. Here’s a photo I shared on FB three days ago. Notice how it matches my rebel tendency.

"I just ran 15 miles on the road less travelled."

“I just ran 15 miles on the road less travelled.”

Here’s a great TED talk that will take you deeper into the Four Tendencies. Also, you can take Gretchen’s quiz here.

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Links for Gretchen Rubin, Twitter, Facebook

Kimera Koffee – high altitude premium coffee from the Dominican Republic infused with Nootropics (brain enhancers). Use the promo code “MTA” for 10% off.

Jabra Sport Pulse -high quality bluetooth earbuds that monitor heart rate. Sign up to their newsletter for a chance to win a free pair.

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