A Better You – One Step at a Time

Written by: Elsie Ross CPT at Prescription Fitness (CLE, OH)

A new year is upon us and with that comes setting goals for ourselves.  It is a given that if we set a goal, we also want to attain it.  Whether it is getting in better shape, losing weight, increasing strength and/or speed, eating more vegetables, or simply eating better overall, you’ve got to start somewhere.  It sounds relatively easy but for many of us, getting started is the hardest part.

We can all agree that it is not that difficult to eat more veggies or to eat better overall.  It is not that difficult to add a few more pounds to a bar or to slightly increase the speed on the treadmill in order to become stronger and/or faster.  It is not hard to cut out the soda and other sugary drinks and drink more water instead.  It is also not that overwhelmingly difficult to make it to the gym to lift weights several times a week, add some high intensity interval training at least once a week, and get more sleep. The reason none of these tasks seems to be too difficult is because they are not if you are accustomed to doing them.  However, if you are trying to make changes and trying to incorporate some of these into your lifestyle and you are not used to doing any of it, it may be extremely difficult especially if you try to do it all at once.

Tackle One Habit at a Time

In order to be successful in reaching your goals, you want to focus on one goal at a time.  By doing this, your chances of succeeding are about 80% versus 20% if you try to tackle too much too soon.  You want to give yourself the upper hand and changing too many things at once is a recipe for disaster.

When it comes to fitness, it is difficult to be patient.  We want it all at once…we get the gym membership, the new gym attire, the new shoes, get up super early, cut out all junk food, do hours of cardio, and eat broccoli and chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  After a few weeks…guess what?  It becomes too difficult to maintain and they are right back where they started.

Create Habits for Life

What you want to do is a create a plan that you can realistically adhere to.  Instead of counting It calories and trying to follow an extremely rigid meal plan, start by cutting out excess sugar.   Once that habit seems natural, you can add the next habit to incorporate.  Two weeks is a good amount of time to allow yourself before adding another habit.  However, if you feel you need an extra week or two give it to yourself.

To help you succeed in creating new habits to become a better you, here are a few principals to follow:

  • Start small. First, when it comes to making any kind of lifestyle change, it’s best to start small and build. Begin by choosing one practice to follow. It could be drinking 8 cups of water each day. Sleeping 8 hours each night. Or exercise 30 minutes each day. Just be sure to choose only one and follow it for 2 weeks before adding any new habits.
  • Make things clear and measurable. Next, make sure the practice is clear and measurable. “Eat more veggies” isn’t that useful. “Eat 1 fist-sized portion of vegetables with each meal” is much better. At the end of each day you can know for sure if you did it or not.
  • Gain confidence first. Finally, make the practice something you feel confident that you can do every day. Even if the habit sounds small, if it’s something that gives you confidence, it’s a good habit to form.