Every day I meet people who are looking for a way to improve their health and wellness. It bears repeating – they truly want to improve. However, they’re stuck because while eating healthy and exercising regularly are great conceptually, many struggle to turn these concepts into sustainable habits.
Today, we’re going to discuss 3 key steps you can follow to get on the path toward a healthier lifestyle and, perhaps more importantly, stay there!
Everyone who’s ever achieved their health and wellness goals started somewhere. While that starting point differs from person to person, everyone who tries possesses the same instinct to seek out improvement. Often, starting is hard because behavior change has a tremendous amount of inertia. The challenges that lie ahead can seem daunting, especially if we think about the broader task. However, I always encourage my clients to break down their goals into smaller, more digestible bits. For some that means incorporating a 20-minute walk three times per week, for others it’s increasing their training to prepare for their first half marathon. Regardless, it’s far easier to start if you worry about executing today’s goal versus the end result a year later.
I’ll often see well intentioned people approach their health and wellness goals as if they have a beginning and an end point. They might even use intense short-term strategies or look for short cuts. New Year’s resolutions are a perfect example of this. Every January, gyms across the country are packed to the rafters with new members who’ve committed to working out every day and eating nothing but kale and grilled chicken. By March, those same facilities have returned to their normal capacity, and kale is once again plentiful in the grocery store.
Now imagine if we started in October instead of January. And rather than forcing ourselves to do a workout that we struggle to execute consistently, we started small and made slow, steady improvements. How would things look in January? First, you’d have 3 months of practice and development under your belt. The likelihood that you fell off by March would be greatly reduced. Second, you’d have a sense of direction when you stepped into that crowded gym. Your ability to execute amongst all the chaos would be improved.
So what does that look like? Well, if you’ve not worked out in quite a while (or ever), committing to working out 2-3 times per week for 20-30 minutes is a great starting point. In fact, you can even break-up that total time into smaller periods like 10 or 15 minutes. Once you can execute that without a second thought, you add a new challenge, and as that is mastered another.
The same holds true for nutrition. Most diets fail, not because they’re poorly designed, but because they ask someone to do more than they’re ready to handle. They create too many rules that, when broken, lead to guilt and then some form of self-punishment. A person can only stay trapped in that cycle for so long before they have to walk away entirely. By starting with a small executable habit you make your short-term goal attainable, which leads to better adherence and long-term achievement.
Simply put, “if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse”. As you build good habits and skills, you must look for ways to increase the challenge. If you can easily execute a workout 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes, then adding a day or increasing the time spent in the workout might be the way to go. You can also make the actual workout harder by increasing the intensity (e.g. resistance) or volume (e.g. reps performed). I do exactly that within my workouts. Here’s what a conditioning day workout looked like 3 weeks ago:
Airdyne or Assault Bike Sprints – 15 calories every 2 minutes for 6 rounds
Here’s what it looks like today:
Airdyne or Assault Bike Sprints – 15 calories AND 20 push-ups every 2 minutes for 6 rounds
As the original workout got easier, I made a simple tweak. Adding 20 push-ups to each round made this workout one of the more brutal conditioning workouts I’ve done. I can also add more rounds to this, as another means of increasing the challenge.
With our nutrition habits, we create improvement by adding new skills. For example, in my coaching program the first goal is to eat slowly and mindfully at every meal. Once that is mastered we proceed to our second goal – to stop eating when satisfied (as opposed to FULL). Successfully executing the first habit allows our brain to properly receive fullness cues. Successfully executing the second goal teaches us to avoid stuffing ourselves. Combining these two habits helps to control calorie intake before we even get to more advanced strategies like nutrient timing or focusing on specific foods to eat.
In order to get on the path we have to start. There is no benefit to delaying – start now! Keep it simple, keep it small, but start. Once we’re on the path, it’s a life-long journey, so enjoy it! Avoid the desire to take one of those exit ramps by keeping your daily goals executable. Lastly, as your skills improve, find ways to keep getting better. It doesn’t have to be complicated – small tweaks can yield big results.
Vitalifit coaching is designed to guide you onto the health and wellness path and provide the tools to keep you there. If you’re looking to improve your health and wellness contact us today to join the Vitalifit Coaching Program that is right for you.