Contributed by Dani Barbosa
Achieving your health and fitness goals may seem impossible. You are busy with work, life, family, relationships, school, and who knows what else you have piled on your plate. On top of that, you need to sleep 7-8 hours every night, prepare nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and find time to relax and unwind. Yeah, right. How are we supposed to fit all these things in our already jam-packed 24-hour days? We tell ourselves, when things slow down, we will make the time to improve our health and fitness. Well, guess what. Life will never “slow down”, there will ALWAYS be something. If not now, then when? Now is the time to focus on your health and fitness, not just for aesthetic reasons (although it’s a plus) but, so that we can continue to work hard, be with our friend and family, and keep ourselves moving forward to live our best lives.
Change is hard. I’d be lying if I said anything different. Change is messy, complicated, scary, and we, as humans, are not fond of it. We often go into change with an “all or nothing” mentality. If you’ve ever tried making changes like this and were not able to reach your goal or maintain your changes, you might feel like you have failed and maybe this whole health and fitness thing just isn’t for you. You didn’t fail because you aren’t capable of making changes, you just tried to run a marathon like it was a 50m sprint. Making lasting changes to improve your health and fitness is like running a marathon, you have to pace yourself, maybe slow down, grab some water, take in your environment around you but we’re always moving forward.
Taking a step by step, progressive approach to improving your health and fitness is a more realistic and attainable method. First, we need to set a goal; it needs to be specific, measurable, attainable, relative, and time oriented like, I want to lose 10lbs of fat over the next 10 weeks by making better nutritional choices and exercising regularly.Then, we need to figure out what skills or habits we must build upon to work towards our goal. For example, some skills we need to work to lose that 10lbs of fat might be slowing down while eating or adding in some exercise most days out of the week. Then, we will break these skills down even further to smaller practices like, taking a sip of water between bites and adding a lunch time walk into our daily routine. Even though these practices are small, they are building us up to the skills we need to acquire to reach our goal. These examples are just the beginning. Creating long lasting changes takes time and a ton of practice.
Along your journey, focus on improvement over perfection like, subbing your usual mid- afternoon soda for a water, adding 5 minutes of exercise/meditation to your morning wake up routine instead of laying in bed scrolling though social media, or only eating half of your night time chocolate bar instead of the whole thing; these are small victories that need to be addressed and celebrated. Are they perfect? No, but they are better choices and we can build on them to improve our daily habits. This approach takes much longer, it may take months or years to reach your goals, but if you can be patient, consistently try to make better choices, build on your small changes you may find that this whole healthy lifestyle thing people talk about isn’t as unachievable as it may have seemed.
Here are some major takeaways:
- Don’t wait for the perfect time to focus on yourself, it will never come. Start now.
- Set a goal – make it specific, measurable, attainable, relative, and time oriented.
- Identify skills needed to reach your goal.
- Break these skills down into smaller practices that are easy to do consistently.
- Challenge yourself to build on these practices.
- Strive to be better than yesterday, not perfect.
- Celebrate your small victories.
- Be patient, you’re making long lasting lifestyle changes.