If there is one thing to take away from this article, it is to start SMALL when taking steps towards achieving a goal.
Over the years as a health and fitness coach, I have taken notice of self-imposed well intended goals that too often end in failure. When I look at the “why” for why people seem to struggle so hard to stay on track in reaching a goal, I’ve noted a common theme for most detours. My advice based on this theme is to Stay away from making too many changes all at once!
For example, two of the biggest goals people set are to 1) Lose weight and 2) Eat healthier. While I wholeheartedly agree that those are admirable goals, what I typically see at the beginning of this endeavor are pantries wiped clean of processed foods, a diet plan (insert latest diet fad here) is introduced, any pleasurable foods marked as ‘unhealthy’ are eliminated, and a cheat day is brought in to provide some reprieve from the torture. In other words, everything familiar and routine is completely stripped away and replaced with an alien world of rigidity, leaving a wake of chaos, unfamiliarity, and constant cravings.
In the fitness & training environment, this fault in logic plagues both coaches and athletes alike. Coaches often over-stimulate their client athletes with too many cues trying to fix every observed fault in a single session. In this situation, chaos and confusion is created by mental noise without enough time for an athlete to develop some degree of mastery before moving to the next problem. The opposite is true when a deconditioned or inexperienced gym goer takes on training with volume, load, and or movements that they are simply not ready to do.
Which brings us back to “WHY” are we all guilty of this behavior. We’re living in a culture that seeks instantaneous results. Time is seemingly always against us in this society conditioned to traverse the fastest path imaginable to get what we want. In goal setting this approach is often detrimental to the success of our efforts.
So what can we do? The solution is simple, but it requires discipline and patience. Begin by laying out a list of manageable steps, tasks, or challenges that lead you up to your goal. Start chipping away at your list one item at a time, and celebrate the small victories along the way. Each step should be building on the previous as you move towards your ultimate goal. Okay, sounds simple, but really, how do you apply this?
To answer that question let’s share a story about a recent interaction with a new client. We’ll call her Francesca for the sake of anonymity. A few weeks back, Francesca dropped into the gym where I work and train. I had just finished a session with some of my Sunday regulars when I was motioned over to meet Francesca at the front office. We made introductions and discussed membership plans and the process of onboarding new clients. Shortly after securing interest in trying us out, the conversation turned to nutrition. Francesca was curious to know if nutritional guidance or meal plans were part of the membership. This where I dropped in some honest to goodness street knowledge. I explained to Francesca that while nutrition is the most important foundation of good health and fitness. The first step in her journey was to surround herself in a support group of like minded people with the same fitness goals. When the change of getting into a gym-going routine sets we can go bigger but for now let’s start small. I went on to ask what her daily breakfast consisted of. Nothing out of ordinary: Eggs, coffee, bacon, and pancakes. I applauded her for having the habit of eating breakfast considering that many people skip this meal. I then asked Francesca if she’d be willing to eliminate the pancakes and replace them with a different kind of complex carbohydrate such as sauteed squash or sweet potato. Further explaining that if she could be successful at that, we could then look at midday and evening meals. The idea here is make small changes and sticking to them until new habits form. The last thing we want to do is turn her world upside down. Feeling as though she understood the pattern and approach, I let her know that the next level would be to tune in portioning, timing, etc. Again emphasizing, not to worry about those things, but that they were on the horizon and something we’d be working towards.
The takeaway one more time is to break a big goal down into smaller manageable pieces. As a Marine veteran, I can tell you, nobody makes it through bootcamp thinking about graduation. It’s a process of getting from one evolution, or in this scenario, one meal at a time. Think big picture about what you ultimately want, figure out the steps along the way, and then plan. If you’re moving in a direction that is foreign to you, seek out the guidance of a well trained expert in the area you want to move.
Don’t know where to start small first? You could start by tracking your performance with Kilomodo.